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Cashew Health Facts

Cashews are an unusual nut. They are a seed that is grown on the outside of the cashew apple. The cashew shell contains a natural chemical acid so cashews are never sold in shells. The kernel inside is packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals beneficial to health. Like fruits and vegetables, nuts should be included in a healthy daily diet. Enjoying a handful of nuts (30g) regularly may reduce your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes and can help with weight management.1–5 So remember to eat two serves of fruit, five serves of veggies and a handful of nuts every day. A 30g serve of cashews is about 15 nuts.

Nutrition and health benefits of cashews Here’s why you should include cashews in your healthy daily diet:

Rich in monounsaturated fat – cashews are rich in healthy unsaturated fats like other nuts and most of the fat comes from heart healthy monounsaturated fats (63% of total fat).6

Reduces heart disease risk – eating a handful of nuts at least five times a week, including cashews, can reduce the risk of heart disease by 30–50%.1–5 This can be attributed to their content of healthy fats, dietary fibre, arginine, magnesium and antioxidant minerals including copper, manganese and zinc.6

A source of low-Glycemic Index (GI) carbohydrate – cashews have a low GI value of 25. A low-GI diet can help to manage blood glucose and insulin levels and may also reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.7–8

Helps with weight management – although high in fat, research has found that those eating cashews (and other nuts) are more likely to have a healthy BMI – a measure of weight compared to height.1–5 Those watching their waist should include nuts in their diet to help appetite control. Nuts such as cashews also add enjoyment to a weight management diet because of their great texture and taste.9

A good source of plant protein – cashews provide around 5g of protein per handful.6 Combined with their iron and zinc content, this makes cashews an ideal choice for vegetarians or anyone wanting to eat less animal protein.

Contains plant iron – a 30g serve of cashews provides around 12% of the recommended daily intake of iron.6 Plant source of iron are not as well absorbed. Increase the absorption of plant iron from nuts by combining with vitamin C rich foods such as tomato capsicum, broccoli, citrus fruit or juices.10

A source of zinc – you can get around 12% of the recommended daily intake of zinc from a handful of cashews.6 Zinc plays many roles in the body but is particularly important for healthy skin and hair, reproduction and a healthy immune system.10

A source of magnesium, important for bone health. A handful of cashews supplies around 20–25% of daily requirements.6 Magnesium also plays a vital role in energy generation.10

A source of copper – a handful (30g) of cashews provides more than 20% of the recommended daily intake.6 Copper is part of several different enzymes in the body. It helps the body use iron and is important for nerve function, bone growth, and glucose metabolism. Copper also acts as an antioxidant, protecting cell membranes from harmful free radicals.10

Naturally low in chemicals – cashews are the one nut that people following an elimination diet for food intolerance are allowed. Cashews have low levels of natural food chemicals that some may be intolerant too. They are best eaten raw as roasting can increase the levels of these chemicals.11

Buying and storage tips

When choosing nuts, look for crisp, plump kernels. Store nuts in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer. Nuts can be refrigerated for up to 4 months and frozen for up to 6 months. Return nuts to room temperature before eating to bring back their nutty taste profile.


References

  • Ellsworth JL, et al. Frequent nut intake and risk of death from coronary heart disease and all causes in postmenopausal women: the Iowa Women s Health Study. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2001;11(6):372-377.
  • Fraser GE, et al. A possible protective effect of nut consumption on risk of coronary heart disease. The Adventist Health Study. Arch Intern Med. 1992;152(7):1416-1424.
  • Hu FB, et al. Frequent nut consumption and risk of coronary heart disease in women: prospective cohort study. BMJ. 1998;317(7169):1341-1345.
  • Li TY, et al. Regular Consumption of Nuts Is Associated with a Lower Risk of Cardiovascular Disease in Women with Type 2 Diabetes. J Nutr. 2009;6:6.
  • Afshin A, et al. Consumption of nuts and legumes and risk of incident ischemic heart disease, stroke, and diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Jul;100(1):278-88.
  • Nuts for Life. 2016 Nutrient Composition of Tree Nuts. Sydney: Nuts for Life; 2016.
  • Livesey G, et al. Glycemic response and health – a systematic review and meta-analysis: relations between dietary glycemic properties and health outcomes. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008;87(1):258S-268S.
  • Brand-Miller J, et al. The glycemic index and cardiovascular disease risk. Curr Atheroscler Rep. 2007;9(6):479-85.
  • Mattes RD. The energetics of nut consumption. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2008;17 Suppl 1:337-9.
  • National Health & Medical Research Council. Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand. Canberra, ACT: Australian Government Department of Health & Ageing 2006.
  • Swain A, et al. Friendly Food. Murdoch Books 2008.
  • Sydney University Glycemic Index Research Foundation Service (Human Nutrition Unit, University of Sydney). Average of available GI results for cashews. Available at www.glycemicindex.com accessed June 2013.
  • Wu X, et al. Lipophilic and hydrophilic antioxidant capacities of common foods in the United States. J Agric Food Chem 2004; 52 4026-4037

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