The delicately flavoured cashew nut is a favourite nut for most people. Cashews have a mild flavour with a very creamy texture, also known as ‘mouth feel’ when eaten which makes them ideal for blended foods like dips, smoothies, and soups.
It also makes wonderful nut butter and a special addition to salads and stir-fry dishes. They can easily be found in grocery stores and markets year round which is great for anyone who’s addicted to them like I am; I have no problem budgeting a little extra so I can enjoy them, soooooo worth the money.
Cashew nuts are actually the kidney-shaped seeds that adhere to the bottom of the cashew apple, the fruit of the cashew tree, which is native to the coastal areas of northeastern Brazil. While cashew apples are not appreciated in most places around the world, they are regarded as delicacies in Brazil and the Caribbean.
Cashews are always sold shelled because the interior of the shells contains a caustic resin, known as cashew balm, which must be carefully removed before the nuts are fit for consumption.
9 amazing health benefits of cashews
Cashews have several nutrients that support overall good health including copper, phosphorus, manganese, magnesium, zinc, protein, fats, potassium, selenium, lutein & zeaxanthin and vitamin B3 or niacin – wow!
Heart-loving: heart health is so much more than narrowly focusing on blood LDL (‘cholesterol’) concentrations, or at least it should be, it is after all the 21st century. Cardiovascular disease, including blood vessel diseases of the heart, is an inflammation disorder and any dietary intervention should take that approach. Foods that lower inflammation and prevent oxidation of the blood vessels will go a long way to improving health and the heart is no exception.
Cashews have nutrients such as vitamin E, lutein & zeaxanthin and other other phytonutrients that do just this; they squash inflammation and help to ‘rust proof’ the vessels of the heart which helps to reduce the risk for heart disease, as well as, help to protect the heart even after damage has occurred; it’s never too late to protect your heart and cashews can be a part of that.
Anemia-preventing: when talking anemia, most people think of iron, vitamins B12 and folate and with good reason, these are important nutrients needed for the production of red blood cells that are both structurally and functionally capable of carrying adequate amounts of oxygen throughout the body, but copper?
Likely a new one for most where anemia is concerned but copper is needed for the transportation of iron to where it needs to go in order to make red blood cells. In fact, one of the most common clinical signs of copper deficiency is an anemia that is unresponsive to iron therapy/supplementation but corrected by copper supplementation. Be sure to keep your copper tank topped up, and what could easier or tastier than doing that will cashews ?!
High blood pressure prevention: how do these tasty gems help to prevent and/or manage high blood pressure? Two words: potassium and magnesium. These two minerals are crucial if anyone is serious about leveraging food and nutrition to keep their blood pressure optimal; so much more important that myopically focusing on sodium intake. The modern diet is sparse in potassium and magnesium for the usual reasons; we eat a crap load of refined foods. Get more potassium and magnesium by eating more cashews today!
Cashews as they grown on trees
Eye protector: an unlikely source of lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids better known to be found in foods like eggs, corn, avocados and dark green veggies like spinach, kale, Swiss chard, broccoli, and green peas but it’s true, cashews have a decent amount. The eyes love, and need, lutein and zeaxanthin to protect themselves from the blue light found in the visible light from the sun.
The eyes concentrate lutein in the macula and the carotenoid acts like internal sunglasses, helping to prevent the most common form of blindness in those over 55 years of age. The more ways there are to get more lutein in your diet, the easier it can be done so it’s great to know it’s not only about green veggies – having choices is always great.
Weight management: nuts for weight loss? But they’re so fatty! Yes, circa the 80s and 90s with the low fat message was king. It’s true that fat has twice as many calories as protein and carbohydrate do but higher fat foods like nuts and seeds have been shown to help with weight loss and weight management because they are more satisfying that low fat foods, or refined foods like so-called ‘diet foods’ such as rice cakes, crackers, Melba toast, pretzels, baked chips or salads with fat free dressing. Portions still county but including more nuts like cashew can help to keep hunger at bay and they make a great snack.
Brain buddy: the brain needs a lot of TLC and good quality nutrition and cashews are no slouch when it comes to this task. Several nutrients in cashews are needed for the production and proper function of several neurotransmitters, helping to support balanced moods. The fat in cashews are use to help repair and maintain the myelin, the outer coating of the brain cells, or ‘neurons’.
Fat makes up about 60% of the total weight of the brain and the qualify of the fat in our diet influences the quality of fats that make their way into the brain – this is not the place where you want be cheap; be sure to get good quality fats. Lutein is also found in large amounts in the brain which it uses to help keep the it acting youthfully; staving off cognitive decline and dementia.
Rust-proofing: oxidation is just part of being alive and the ‘price’ we pay to use food energy like glucose and oxygen to fuel this magnificent body of ours BUT the body has sophisticated mechanisms to protect us from prematurely rusting ourselves from the inside out which, includes things like key minerals antioxidants. Cashews have several nutrients, such as copper, manganese and selenium, that are used by the body to make its own antioxidants but they also have compounds like phytonutrients and lutein use directly to provide us with protection.
Bone-boosting: bones need more than just calcium to be their best. They need a steady supply of protein, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc if they’re going to have all the building blocks needed for proper bone formation, repair and maintenance and cashews deliver on all fronts.
Diabetes-busting: if any health profession advises you to reduce your fat intake, be sure they qualify what it is they’re saying. Fat use to be shunned in the early days of diabetes because heart disease was, and still is, a leading complication of having diabetes but the anti-fat message for those with diabetes wasn’t based on evidence but rather based on the now outdated theory that the total amount of fat in one’s diet increased the risk for heart disease.
Fat forward to today and we know that’s not true. Increasing more fat in your diet is one way to cut down on the amount of carbohydrate you eat which will help with diabetes management and eating more nuts like cashews is a great way to do just that, plus they have the added bonus of having magnesium, a mineral that is needed to help your body use insulin for glucose (blood sugar) metabolism.