Top 5 Health Benefits of Cashews

Top 5 Health Benefits of Cashews

Cashews are probably my favorite nut. Cashew nuts are the kidney-shaped seeds that adhere to the bottom of the cashew apple. The cashew tree is native to the coastal areas of northeastern Brazil, but grows in other warm, tropical climates. I have fond memories of climbing cashew apple trees (pomme de cashew) in Senegal and eating the fruit until I was stuffed. I would just throw the cashew part down on the ground- what a waste! 

Cashew seeds must be dried for a time before roasting to release the “nut” from its shell.  The oils within the shell are caustic in nature. The shells cannot be hand-removed, therefore there is no such thing as a truly “raw” cashew for sale. From the South African Department of Agriculture:

“Harvested nuts are dried in the sun for a few days. Properly dried nuts can be stored for 2 years before being shelled. Nuts are roasted to discharge the caustic shell oil and acrid fumes. Hand shelling is impossible if the shell oil has not been removed previously. Kernels must be protected from contamination by the shell oil because it would cause blisters in the mouth and throat when eaten. Before the nuts are roasted they must be soaked in water—the moisture in the shell facilitates the rupturing of the cells containing shell oil and retaining it in the shell. Moisture makes the kernel slightly rubbery and limits breakage of the kernels. The easiest method to wet the shells is to heap the nuts into big piles and to use sprinklers intermittently. Steam may also be used.

The simplest roasting method is to heat the nuts for about a minute in an open pan with holes. Acid fumes are released and if the nuts should catch fire the flames can be doused with water. A more efficient method is to use a slanting perforated cylinder that is rotated above a fire. The shell oil flows through the holes in the cylinder and is collected in a catch through. After the roasting process the nuts are dumped into ash or sawdust to remove the excess shell oil still clinging to the shells.”

The fruit of the cashew is too fragile to export, which is why you won’t find it at your local grocery store. I’ve yet to find it anywhere here in the United States. So, I guess I will settle for eating lots of cashews. I put cashews on salads and in stir-fries, and eat them by the handful. They are great added to homemade granola and snack mixes. I know my family is getting some wonderful health benefits every time we ingest cashews.

  • Weight control – People who eat nuts twice a week are much less likely to gain weight than those who rarely eat nuts. Cashew nuts contain less fat than most other popular nuts and it is the “good fat.” Cashews are dense in energy and high in dietary fiber, making them a great choice for snacking in those who are trying to manage their weight.
  • High in copper – Cashews are rich in the mineral copper. The copper found in cashews is vital for the function of the enzymes involved in combining collagen and elastin, which provide substance and flexibility in our bones and joints. The high copper content of cashews also helps eliminate free radicals which can cause cellular damage,  the common pathway for cancer, aging, and a variety of diseases.
  • High in magnesium – Magnesium is necessary for strong bones. It also is necessary for relieving stress on our bodies. Magnesium keeps our nerves relaxed and also our muscles and blood vessels. Insufficient magnesium leads to higher blood pressure, muscle tension, migraine headaches, and fatigue. Not surprisingly, studies have demonstrated that magnesium helps diminish the frequency of migraine attacks, lowers blood pressure and helps prevent heart attacks. 
  • Oleic acid – As mentioned above, cashews have a lower fat content than most other nuts- most of it is in the form of oleic acid, the same heart-healthy monounsaturated fat found in olive oil. Studies show that oleic acid promotes good cardiovascular health. Cashews are wonderfully cholesterol free and their high antioxidant content helps lower risk of cardiovascular and coronary heart diseases. 

Cashews are so good for you.  Instead of reaching for that bag of chips or cookies, grab an apple and a handful of cashews. It will fill you up and you’ll feel so much better than if you had eaten the junk food. Make small daily  changes like this, and you will see big changes in your well-being and lifestyle very quickly.