What Are Cashews?
Cashews are packed with nutrients. They are a member of the family Anacardiaceae, to which mangoes and pistachios also belong. They appear as kidney-shaped seeds that are present at the bottom of the fruit called cashew apple. Cashews are widely grown in tropical climates. However, they are used in various ways, particularly in Brazil, Asia, and Africa. Though cashews originally belong to the coastal areas of north-eastern Brazil, they are also cultivated in countries such as India, Sri Lanka, Kenya, and Tanzania.
What Are the Nutrients Found in Cashews?
Cashews are considered a powerhouse of proteins and important minerals, like copper, calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. Sodium is also found in them in minimal quantities. As per the USDA, cashews also possess vitamin C, vitamin B complex (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin), folate, vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol), and vitamin K (phylloquinone). They carry oleic acid and render a notable quantity of monounsaturated fats and small amounts of polyunsaturated fats without any total cholesterol content when taken in optimal quantities. One ounce of cashew holds 157 calories and around 9 grams of carbohydrates.
What Are the Health Benefits of Cashews?
Cashews provide incredible health benefits. Some of them are listed below:
Provide Good Heart Health: Cashews are a good source of healthy dietary fats, which are required by the body to absorb fat-soluble vitamins (vitamin A, D, E, and K) and synthesize fatty acids that are essential for the development of the brain and blood clotting. The healthy fats found in cashews are monounsaturated fats (MUFA) and polyunsaturated fats (PUFA), which are good for the heart and help decrease bad cholesterol (LDL) levels, even in diabetics, if taken in appropriate amounts.
Improve Muscle and Nerve Health: Cashews are rich in magnesium, which is imperative for the healthy development of bones, muscles, tissues, and various organs of the body. Magnesium helps in maintaining blood pressure, boosts immunity, maintains nerve function, and keeps the bones strong. It may also participate in metabolic functions and aid in regulating the blood glucose levels of the body (through insulin activity). Magnesium deficiency can affect calcium metabolism and the hormones regulating it.
Aid in Managing Diabetes: Cashews contain minimal amounts of sugar, and no bad cholesterol, making them safe for consumption even in diabetes patients. However, only 4 to 5 cashew nuts are advised to be taken per day, by the nutritionists.
Promote RBC Formation: Cashews have abundant copper, which helps in iron metabolism, aids in the formation of red blood cells (RBC), and helps to keep the bones strong and the immune system healthy. It can also be essential for the nervous and skeletal systems of the body. Copper deficiency in the body may cause osteoporosis, irregular heartbeats, and anemia.
Boost Bone and Oral Health: Cashews carry phosphorus, which is imperative for the healthy development of teeth and bones. Phosphorus may also help in protein synthesis, carbohydrate and fat absorption, and the maintenance of cellular health.
Decrease the Risk of Anemia: Cashews are a good source of dietary iron which is important for the transportation of oxygen throughout the body and helps in the functioning of different enzymes and the immune system. Iron deficiency in the diet can cause fatigue, and anemia, and makes one prone to infections.
Prevent Gallstones: Gallstones are stone-like hard deposits that usually comprise cholesterol, and get accumulated in the gallbladder. Other risk factors for gallstones are increased age and weight, and gastrointestinal issues. Regular intake of healthy nuts such as cashews can aid in lowering the risk of gallstone formation.
Supports Immune System: Cashews hold zinc, which is vital for the strengthening of the immune system against microbial infections, and the proper healing of wounds. It can be of utmost importance during pregnancy for the baby’s optimal growth and development, and also during childhood to maintain a healthy body.
How to Eat Cashews?
Cashew nuts possess a rich buttery flavor along with a bit of sweetness. They can be enjoyed as either roasted or plain, with or without added salt. They are considered healthy snacks and can be roasted to give them a different flavor. Cashews are incorporated as an ingredient in a variety of foods such as curries, cookies, biscuits, and ice cream. Cashews are also included in the preparation of creamy vegan sauces and vegan milk. Cashews can also be used in the following ways:
In cakes and other baked products like raw vanilla cheesecake with cashew cream filling.
In desserts for a nutty flavor like puddings.
As a coating for crispy cauliflower wings.
For garnishing in various recipes like Indo-Chinese dragon chicken recipe with broken cashew nuts
What Are the Side Effects of Cashews?
Various side effects results due to excessive cashew consumption, they are as follows:
Kidney Stones: Cashews contain oxalate salts, which hamper the absorption of calcium in the body and the calcium gets deposited as kidney stones. People prone to developing kidney stones should take only small to moderate quantities of cashew nuts.
Cashew Allergy: Besides their several health benefits, cashews can be harmful to those having allergies to tree nuts. Allergic reactions caused by tree nuts like cashews, walnuts, and pistachios can be mild, moderate, or severe.
Anaphylaxis: Anaphylaxis is a rapidly advancing allergic reaction that affects the whole body, due to a certain substance or a chemical to which the body has developed sensitivity. It is most commonly stimulated by food allergies. Various research studies have demonstrated that cashew nuts can increase the risk of anaphylaxis. Symptoms such as difficulty in breathing, unconsciousness, pale appearance of the skin, swelling of the tongue or throat, and hoarseness in the voice occur. Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency and should be attended to and treated immediately.
Cashews are one of the most nutritious nuts bestowed by nature. They have immense nutritional value and a plethora of health benefits. They can be consumed by almost everyone, except those with nut allergies. They can be a part of a healthy diet yet, they should be consumed in moderate amounts to reap their maximum gains.