What are cashew nuts?

Cashews are often referred to as a nut, but botanically they are classed as a seed, as they come from the cashew fruit (which is also known as a drupe). Drupes are fruits that are fleshy on the outside, but contain a shell with a seed on the inside. Cashew plants belong to a group of plants known as anacardiaceae, which includes mango, sumac and poison ivy.

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Cashew trees grow in warmer climates, such as India and Vietnam, who are some of the world’s biggest producers of cashew nuts. You can buy cashew nuts all year round in the UK as, depending on what part of the world they are grown, they are harvested at different times of the year.

Cashews are small and kidney shaped, pale yellow in colour, and have a rich, nutty and slightly sweeter taste than peanuts. They can be eaten raw, roasted, as a nut butter or cooked in curries, stir-fries and bakes.

Cashew fruits growing on a tree

Nutritional profile of cashew nuts

30g of raw cashew nuts contains:

  • 166Kcal/695KJ
  • 5.5g protein
  • 13g fat
  • 9g carbohydrate
  • 1g fibre
  • 2mg iron
  • 88mg magnesium
  • 1.7mg zinc

Nutritionally, cashew nuts are a good source of protein and unsaturated fat. A 30g serving contains about 160 calories, but because they are rich in protein and unsaturated fat, they provide a greater satiety level. This serving size also provides about 20% of your daily magnesium intake which is important for hormone health, as well as containing manganese, selenium, iron and zinc.

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Health benefits of cashews

  1. They help protect against narrowed arteries
  2. They help you to live longer
  3. They contain antioxidants, to help protect against certain diseases
  4. They reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke
  5. They may reduce osteoarthritis symptoms
  6. They may help manage colitis symptoms
  7. They may help healthy weight loss
  8. They may help manage blood sugar levels
  9. They may help reduce the risk of stroke
  10. They may help prevent memory loss

Are cashew nuts good for you?

1. They help protect against atherosclerosis and may lower cholesterol levels

Cashew nuts contain folate and vitamin E which help to protect against blocked or narrowed arteries (atherosclerosis). A 2019 study also found that daily consumption of cashew nuts may help improve cholesterol levels in those with type 2 diabetes.

2. They help you to live longer

Research has found that diets higher in unsaturated fats, as found in cashew nuts, reduce the risk of both total and cause-specific mortality.

3. They help protect the body against oxidative stress

Oxidative stress can, over time, cause damage to organs, tissues and even cells which may result in various diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis. Antioxidants help to ‘mop up’ oxidative stress and cashew nuts are an excellent source of antioxidants, specifically polyphenols and carotenoids.

4. They help to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke

Homocysteine is an amino acid, but if levels get too high in the body it increases inflammation and therefore the risk of heart disease or a stroke. Consuming cashew nuts has been linked with reducing homocysteine levels in the body.

5. They may help reduce osteoarthritis degeneration

A 2020 study demonstrated that the combined antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits of consuming cashew nuts helps against the negative effects of osteoarthritis.

6. They may help in the management of colitis

Colitis is an inflammatory bowel condition and research suggests that cashew nuts may help reduce inflammation and help in the management of colitis.

7. They may help with healthy weight loss

Research indicates that diets that include a higher intake of nuts, like cashew nuts, are associated with reduced weight gain and a lower risk of obesity.

8. They may help in managing blood sugar levels

A 2019 study found that daily consumption of cashew nuts helped to improve insulin sensitivity, and therefore blood sugar management in those with diabetes. This is probably due to the high protein and unsaturated fat content that helps promote healthy blood sugar regulation.

9. They may help reduce the risk of a stroke

Cashew nuts are a good source of magnesium, and research has found that higher blood levels of magnesium have been linked with a reduced risk of a stroke.

10. They may help protect against memory loss

The good nutritional profile of cashews – protein, essential fats, vitamins and minerals – work together to help offer possible benefits against memory loss.

Are cashew nuts safe for everyone?

It is possible to have a cashew nut allergy, and if there is any sign of an allergic reaction such as difficulty breathing, swelling of the face, tongue or lips, then call 999 immediately, as this can be life-threatening.

Those with an existing nut allergy are more likely to be allergic to cashew nuts.

Is cashew cheese good for you?

When it comes to vegan cheese, cashew cheese is one of the better choices as it is minimally processed and typically contains just cashew nuts and water, or perhaps a little lemon juice and yeast flakes. Check the label when buying cashew cheese to ensure that it doesn’t have lots of added extras like sugar or extra oil.

The bottom line…

Cashew nuts have numerous health benefits and are a good source of nutrients including protein and unsaturated fats, as well as many vitamins and minerals. As with all nuts, they are best eaten in moderation as part of a balanced diet, and always best eaten raw rather than those that are salted or honey roasted, which then begins to negate their natural health benefits.

Further reading

Cashew recipes
Top 10 healthiest nuts
Nut allergy: a dietician explains what to look for
Types of fat
Spotlight on heart disease

Top view of cashew nuts spilled on marble surface. Cashew nuts on marble table top.

All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

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