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Cashew nuts are a native to Brazil and they have been viewed as a delicacy since generations. In recent times, cashews have become well-known throughout the world for their very delicate taste and significant health benefits. However, manufacturers always sell cashews in a shelled state and a part of the shell contains a resin which is harmful for consumption. It is possible to buy raw and roasted cashews and even cashews that have been seasoned with multiple flavourings. They can be consumed as a snack, an addition to salads, smoothies, and other sustenance.  With each serving, you can attain numerous health benefits that differentiate them from other nuts.

It is a popular element that found its way to the Indian cuisine. The cashew tree grows to extraordinary heights having an irregular trunk. Large juicy apples hang from the branches and at the bottom of the fruit lies an attached cashew nut. It is available all around the year and due to its great shelf life, it is stored and protected properly. Both the nut and the fruit have various uses. The nut was known as the poor man’s plantation though it is sold for high prices now. Back when nomads had no idea on how to consume the fruit, the nut was thrown away and the fruit was eaten.

Some basic facts about Cashew nuts

  • Scientific name: Anacardium Occidentale
  • Family: Anacardiaceae
  • Common name: cashew kernel, kaju (hindi)
  • Sanskrit name: bhallātaka भल्लातक
  • Parts used: Almost all parts of the cashew tree have medicinal properties. The kernel, the cashew apple and the leaves are edible.
  • Native region and geographical distribution: Cashew nuts originated in north-eastern Brazil and spread into South and Central America. The Portuguese brought it to India and East Africa which then spread to Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Malaysia. In the 17th century, The Spanish took it to the Philippines. At present cashew is cultivated in many tropical countries; the main producers are Brazil, India, Vietnam, Mozambique and Tanzania.
  • Interesting facts: The cashew resin is used in industrial products such as paints. It is also found in the car as it is used in brake liners
  1. Cashew nuts nutrition facts
  2. Cashew nuts health benefits
  3. Cashew nuts side effects
  4. Takeaway

Cashews are a type of nut with a soft consistency and a pleasant flavour. Recently, they are being used to make dairy alternatives such as cashew milk, cashew-based cheese, cashew-based cream sauces, and sour cream. Cashew milk is healthy and can be used in place of milk for vegans.

Cashews contain vitamin C, vitamin B and 7 micrograms of DFE Folate. They are high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and a good source of protein.

An ounce serving of cashews consists of about 18 whole cashews and 100 grams of cashew contains 553 calories.

As per the USDA Nutrient Database, 100 grams of cashew nuts contains the following values:

Nutrient Value per 100 g
Water 5.2 g
Energy 553 kCal
Protein 18.22 g
Fats 43.85 g
Carbohydrate 30.19 g
Fibre 3.3 g
Sugars 5.91 g

 

Minerals Value per 100 g
Calcium 37 mg
Iron 6.68 mg
Magnesium 292mg
Phosphorus 593 mg
Potassium 660 mg
Sodium 12mg
Zinc 5.78 g

 

Vitamin Value per 100 g
Vitamin B1 0.423 mg
Vitamin B2 0.058 mg
Vitamin B3 1.062 mg
Vitamin B6 0.417 mg
Vitamin B9 25 µg
Vitamin C 0.5 mg
Vitamin E 0.90 µg
Vitamin K 34.1 µg

 

Fats/ Fatty acids Value per 100 g
Saturated 7.783 g
Monounsaturated 23.797g
Polyunsaturated 7.845 g

Cashew nuts for weight loss

When compared to the diets where nuts are not included, people consuming nuts on a regular basis tend to lose weight faster. Although excess consumption of nuts is considered to increase weight,  evidence from epidemiological and controlled clinical studies states that the nut consumption is not associated with heavier body weight.

According to epidemiological evidence published in The Journal of Nutrition, people who consume nuts have a lower BMI rate than those who do not. Nuts like cashews are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids that play a role in boosting the metabolic process leading to the burning of excess fat.

So, nuts are a delightful snack for those looking to shed weight as they are nutritious and filling.  For best results, it is better to consume them raw, without any added flavours.

(Read more: Diet chart for weight loss)

Cashew nuts for circulatory system

Regular consumption of cashews and in limited proportions may aid in shielding off blood diseases. Cashews are rich in copper which plays an important part in iron absorption from the food. Copper deficiencies may reduce the iron intake in the blood, leading to anemia. Therefore, our diet should contain the required quantity of copper and cashew nuts act as a good source of this mineral.   

Cashews are a good source of antioxidants like vitamin E and Vitamin K. Antioxidants are the compounds that contradict the oxidative damage in the cells. They sweep through the cells, neutralizing free radicals that cause damage to the blood cells. Antioxidants reduce the fat oxidation in the arteries thereby reducing the risk of atherosclerosis and high blood pressure.

Cashew nut for athletes

Cashew nuts are not only rich in proteins and calcium but also contain phytochemicals and antioxidants in abundance. A diet high in antioxidants and phytochemicals may reduce exercise-induced oxidative stress in athletes leading to a better health. Protein-rich diet benefits immunity, muscle soreness and overall health of the athletes and a healthy athlete can definitely perform better. Adequate micronutrient intake (notably folate, carotenoids, B6, B12, C, E, zinc, copper, iron, and selenium) by athletes has been suggested to improve the immune function.

(Read more: Antioxidant-rich foods)

Cashews for immune system

In addition to the high amounts of copper content, cashews are also a great source of zinc. Decreased zinc content in the body compromises the immune system functioning as the mineral plays an important role in the development of immune system cells, production of antioxidant enzymes and the activity of immune system regulators. One ounce serving of cashews provides 1.6 mg of zinc helping which is 14.5% of the daily recommended zinc intake for men and about 20% of the daily zinc recommendation for women. Adequate zinc intake has been associated with a healthier immune system which means that cashews can significantly help in fending off your next cold!

(Read more: Immunity boosting food)

Cashews for heart health

The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) performed certain case studies which point out that nuts are highly beneficial for health. The study kept a check on various ailments such as heart diseases. Studies suggest that cashews can reduce the cholesterol levels in the body. They help decrease LDL (bad cholesterol) and increase the carrying capacity for HDL (good cholesterol) . HDL is responsible for the absorption of cholesterol from the heart and taking it to the liver when it can be broken down. Thus an increase in HDL levels would decrease the blood cholesterol levels while a decreased LDL level would reduce the risk of heart disease. There is also some evidence of the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of cashew nuts. Together these properties would avoid the formation of fat deposits (plaques) in the arteries and help maintain blood pressure. Interestingly, a study suggests that roasting increases the antioxidant capacity of cashew nuts.

According to the Food and Drug Administration stated that a handful of nuts every day as a part of a low-fat diet leads to a reduction of the risk of heart diseases. The FDA recommends four servings of unsalted and unoiled nuts in a week and also apprises against consuming too many since they are dense in calories.

Another similar study which has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) established an association between the consumption of nuts and the decreased number of deaths due to heart diseases, cancer, and respiratory diseases. Studies state that the nutrients in nuts such as unsaturated fatty acids, protein, fibre, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants may have anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory and heart-protective attributes.

(Read more: Heart disease causes)

Cashew nuts for eyes

The excessive pollution in most modern cities has made our eyes prone to various ailments. Cashews contain a substantial pigment called Zeaxanthin. This pigment is readily and directly absorbed by the retina of the eyes where it forms a protective layer over the retina. This shield protects the eye from harmful UV rays. Research states that proportional quantities of Zeaxanthin can also help to fend off age-related macular degeneration in the elderly apart from maintaining good eye health.

(Read more: Macular degeneration symptoms)

Cashew nuts for skin

It is said that the cashew oil does wonders for the skin. Cashew nut oil is rich in selenium, zinc, magnesium, iron and phosphorous. The high level of selenium present in cashews are beneficial for the skin health and also help in preventing skin cancer. Cashews are also wonderful sources of phytochemicals, proteins, and antioxidants. All these nutrients nourish the skin and help in reducing the premature signs of ageing leading to a younger and vibrant looking skin.

Cashew nuts for hair

Research states that the consumption of cashews or the application of cashew oil on the scalp ensures healthier hair. The copper content present in the cashew oil helps in the biosynthesis of a skin and hair pigment called melanin which responsible for maintaining the hair colour.  Additionally, cashews also contain linoleic and oleic acid. Both these fatty acids improve the hair texture and impart a silky and smooth texture to the hair.

  • Cashew allergy is quickly becoming a common problem, especially in children. An article published in the journal “Archives of Diseases in Childhood” states that anaphylaxis was found more common in the people suffering from cashew allergies than in the people suffering from peanut allergies.
  • Eating cashew nuts is good for health because of the high number of nutrients present in them. However, they do not make a complete food. Our body needs other important nutrients which we get from other food sources like fruits, vegetables, and grains. So, it is better to eat cashew nuts in a limited proportion. According to The U.S Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate guidelines, it is better to keep the intake of high protein food like nuts, beans, tofu, and fish to 5.5 ounces per day. Eating cashew nuts in a limited manner ensures that there is enough place for other important food groups in our body. In short, eat cashews for the good of your health but don’t let any food item dominate your diet.
  • It isn’t common to find raw or in-shell cashews at the store these days. If you do, it is best to stay away from them and prefer commercially prepared cashew nuts. This is because raw cashews have a risk of being associated with poison ivy and poison sumac and the oil present in the cashew shells can cause itching and unpleasant reactions on the skin. Commercially prepared cashew nuts are are de-shelled and roasted at a high temperature which destroys any lingering toxic oils, making them safe for eating.
  •  Because of the high calorie content of cashew nuts, excess consumption may increase the risk of weight gain. So, It is advisable to eat cashews in limited proportions
  • While the sodium levels in unsalted cashews are not very high (12 mg of sodium in 100 grams of cashew nuts), they are often served salted, Salted cashew nuts may have 181 mg of sodium per ounce. The high levels of sodium in salted cashews are dangerous to health as it may lead to an increase in blood pressure levels and may rise to other cardiovascular problems.

Cashew nuts are very beneficial to health because of the number of healthy nutrients like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, flavonoids and such. However, just like everything else, there are risks and adverse side effects of eating cashews. It is always recommended to limit your intake of cashew nuts to considerable proportions.

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References

  1. United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. Basic Report: 12087, Nuts, cashew nuts, raw. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release [Internet]
  2. United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. Go Nuts!. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release [Internet]
  3. Jintanaporn Wattanathorn et al. Preventive Effect of Cashew-Derived Protein Hydrolysate with High Fiber on Cerebral Ischemia . Biomed Res Int. 2017; 2017: 6135023. PMID: 29457029
  4. Christopher P. Mattison et al. Heat-induced alterations in cashew allergen solubility and IgE binding . Toxicol Rep. 2016; 3: 244–251. PMID: 28959544
  5. National Health Service [Internet]. UK; Three reasons to eat cashew nuts.
  6. Spurthi Chitta et al. Cashew nut allergy in Singaporean children . Asia Pac Allergy. 2018 Jul; 8(3): e29. PMID: 30079307
  7. Mah E et al. Cashew consumption reduces total and LDL cholesterol: a randomized, crossover, controlled-feeding trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2017 May;105(5):1070-1078. PMID: 28356271
  8. Mohan V et al. Cashew Nut Consumption Increases HDL Cholesterol and Reduces Systolic Blood Pressure in Asian Indians with Type 2 Diabetes: A 12-Week Randomized Controlled Trial. J Nutr. 2018 Jan 1;148(1):63-69. PMID: 29378038
  9. Marilen Queiroz de Souza et al. Molecular evaluation of anti-inflammatory activity of phenolic lipid extracted from cashew nut shell liquid (CNSL) . BMC Complement Altern Med. 2018; 18: 181. PMID: 29890972
  10. Chandrasekara N, Shahidi F. Effect of roasting on phenolic content and antioxidant activities of whole cashew nuts, kernels, and testa. J Agric Food Chem. 2011 May 11;59(9):5006-14. PMID: 21438525