Cashews are a versatile snack that is both healthy and delicious. Whether you eat them raw, roasted, seasoned or perhaps added to a meal or as a vegan alternative in a classic recipe, cashews offer us a variety of nutritional and health benefits.
What are Cashews?
While most cashews today come from Africa or India, the cashew is native to northern Brazil. Cashews themselves are not a traditional nut as they are technically a drupe seed. A drupe seed is the pit of a piece of fruit, so the cashew is equivalent to a pit of a peach. Cashews grow from a cashew tree at the bottom of a fleshy-looking fruit called a cashew fruit.
While the large pear-shaped portion looks like it should be the fruit of the tree, it isn’t. The kidney-shaped portion growing at the bottom of the cashew apple is the actual fruit with the cashew seed inside. The cashew seed shell is considered quite toxic so they are removed before cashews are placed on grocery shelves which is why you never see cashews in their shells like you would say, pistachios.
Benefits of Cashews
Like other nuts and seeds, cashews hold a variety of nutritional benefits.
- Cashews are particularly rich in unsaturated fats, which is good for our heart health, as well as being a good source of fibre and contain very little sugar.
- Cashews also very high in protein and can contain the equivalent amount of protein as a serving of cooked meat.
- Further cashews are rich with minerals. Cashews are a good source of copper, which is an important mineral that is essential to our brain development, immune system, as well as energy production. Cashews are also rich in manganese and magnesium which are important nutrients for our bone health.
- Cashews are also a good source of two different types of antioxidants, polyphenols and carotenoids. Antioxidants are compounds that help protect our body and cells from free radicals that can cause health issues. Antioxidants, like the ones found in cashews, can help reduce inflammation and oxidative damage as well as help your body fight off disease.
- Some research even suggests that roasted cashews may contain higher levels of antioxidants than raw cashews. However, roasted and salted cashews do contain a lot more added oils making dry roasted or raw cashews a better option if you’re limiting excess salts and added-oils. You can also try roasting your own at home.
- Cashews could also assist in weight loss. Since cashews are high in fibre and protein, they can help reduce hunger by increasing the feeling of being full. Cashews also may not be as calorie-dense and initially thought.
- Cashews could also help protect against type -2 diabetes and help reduce blood sugar levels since they are so low in sugar and high in fibre, protein and other nutrients.
Interesting Facts about Cashews
- The Portuguese name for cashews is caju which is where its name comes from.
- The cashew tree came to India by Portuguese sailors between 1560 and 1565.
- You can make and eat cashew butter in a similar fashion as you would peanut butter.
- Cashews contain oxalates which can make gout, kidney or gallbladder issues worse.
- Cashews are often used as a dairy-free alternative in vegan recipes such as cheese sauces, cheeses and more.
- India and the US are the two top cashew consuming countries.
- Cashews are ready to be harvested when the cashew apple is bright red.
- While the shell of the cashew nut is toxic to eat, it is often used in industrial lubricants, waterproofing, paints, varnishes, surface coatings, production of polymers, and arms production.