Cashew nuts are a delicately flavored snack that you can enjoy between meals or add to salads and stir-fry dishes. They also make a delicious ingredient for a nut butter. They are certainly delicious but are they good for your health? Let us take a detailed look at the nutritional value and potential health benefits of these delicious nuts.
What are Cashew Nuts?
Cashew nuts are in fact seeds shaped like a kidney which adhere to the fruits that grow on the cashew tree known as cashew apples. Cashew trees are native to Brazil, specifically the coastal parts of the northeast. Cashew nuts are extremely popular in many parts of the world and are regarded as a delicacy in South America and the Caribbean.
The nuts are sold shelled since the insides of the shells contain a dangerous caustic resin called cashew balm. This resin is used to produce industrial insecticides and varnishes and must be removed carefully before the cashew nuts are considered fit for human consumption.
Nutritional Value of Cashew Nuts
Like most nuts, cashews are fairly high in calories with a quarter cup or 40 grams providing you with 221 calories. However some 82% of their fat content of cashews is in the form of unsaturated fatty acids. They are very high in certain minerals and cashews can take you a long way towards your recommended daily value of several essential minerals.
The Health Benefits of Cashew Nuts
1) Heart Health
Cashew nuts are lower in overall fat content than many other nuts but not only that, the vast majority the fat is in the shape of healthy unsaturated fatty acid. Over 60% of these unsaturated fats are actually monunsaturated fats which are similar to the fats found in heart healthy olive oil.
Studies have demonstrated that when monunsaturated fat is added to a diet low in fat, it can help reduce blood triglyceride levels. High levels of triglycerides are linked to an increased heart disease risk consuming mononusaturated fats from sources like cashew nuts could protect your heart from disease. (1)
The high antioxidant value of cashew nuts can also help protect the heart from disease. A study published in 2016 investigated the antioxidant potential of several types of nut. Although walnuts and pecan nuts had a higher level of antioxidants than the others tested, the researchers concluded that the very high level of antioxidants found in nuts could be key to protecting the heart from disease. (2)
Another study published in 2016 demonstrated just how beneficial nuts could be for your heart. The researchers analyzed the results of four epidemiological studies to determine the link between nut consumption and heart disease. They found that people who consumed nuts 4 times each week or more had a 37% lower risk of heart disease compared with those that rarely or never ate nuts. (3)
While this study did not specifically look at the heath effects of cashew nuts, cashews are among the healthiest and most nutritious and it is logical to assume that cashew nuts would have an equally beneficial effect.
2) Weight Control
When it comes to weight control, nuts have a bad rap because of their high fat content. Cashew nuts are around 46% total fat but they are also nutrient dense and give you plenty of important fatty acids and minerals which can actually support weight control.
Snacking on cashew nuts can help satiate the appetite and curb your cravings for less healthy snacks between meals. The fats found in cashews can also help boost nutrient absorption of vitamins such as vitamins A and D.
Around 25% of cashew nuts are made up of healthy amino acids making them a good source of protein. One of these amino acids – L-angine is actually a precursor to nitric oxide which helps improve circulation and blood flow. Improved flow of blood around the body can actually help draw toxins from your digestive system, boost metabolism and provide you with the energy needed to exercise.
3) Bone Health
When we think of strong, healthy bones we usually think of calcium but magnesium also plays a vital role in keeping your bones strong. Cashew nuts are a great source of magnesium which plays a number of important roles in our bodies. Some two thirds of the mineral in your body is found in the bones. It helps to give the bones their structure while some of the magnesium gets stored on the bone’s surface to be used by the body when needed.
Magnesium helps to balance calcium which can help to regulate both muscle and nerve tone, Within the nerve cells, magnesium helps to regulate calcium blocking it from rushing into the cell and activating the nerves. This helps to keep your nerves and muscles relaxed.
4) Cancer Prevention
Eating regular servings of nuts has been linked to a reduced risk of cancer especially cancer which occurs in the digestive system like colon cancer and liver cancer.
Cashew nuts contain a good supply of antioxidant in the form of phenolic compounds and tocopherols. These antioxidants can help protect your body from the damahing effects of free radicals and oxidative stress. Free radicals can contribute to cell mutation, DNA damage and the formation of cancer cells so getting plenty of antioxidants into your system is essential to protect our bodies from oxidative stress and disease.
Cashew nuts have a low glycemic index and are suitable for people with diabetes or people at risk of developing the condition. As we have already mentioned, cashew nuts are an excellent source of monounsaturated fats which can slow down the rate in which blood gets released into your bloodstream.
Cashew nuts contain anacardic acid that stimulates the transport of glucose and helps to control it. Cashew nuts can also help people with diabetes by reducing inflammation levels. Studies indicate that eating a diet high in nuts can lead to reduced circulation of certain inflammatory markers which are known to contribute to diabetes and insulin resistance.
Research indicates that eating nuts on a regular basis can reduce your risk of developing gallstones. One of the risk factors for gallstones is high cholesterol – they are actually caused by then hardening of cholesterol which can occur when there is an excess of cholesterol in the bile which circulate in the digestive system. (4) Eating cashew nuts can reduce cholesterol levels and may also reduce your risk of getting gallstones in the future.
7) To Prevent Migraines
Because cashew nuts help to improve the circulation of blood and lower blod pressure, they may also help relieve the frequency of migraine headaches. Cashew nuts can also help to control rapid fluctuations in blood sugar and protect against hypoglycemia which is a well-known trigger for migraine headaches.
8) Skin Health
The nutritional benefits of cashew nuts extend to the skin. The healthy fatty acids found in cashews help to keep you skin well hydrated while the antioxidants found in these nuts can help protect against premature signs of aging.
Cashews are a great source of minerals like copper which help the skin produce melanin and form collagen. Collagen helps keep your skin looking healthy and feeling strong and elastic even as we begin to age.
Cashew nuts are an excellent source of nutrition and eating them on a regular basis can benefit your health in a variety of impressive ways.
You can eat them as a snack between meals or add them to your stir fries and salads for some extra crunch. They are however high in calories so try not to overdo them. Enjoy but make sure you eat them in moderation.