If the creamy, rich texture of cashew nuts has caught your fancy, there’s reason to be happy. These kidney-shaped tropical nuts are a superfood of sorts and can do wonders for your health when eaten in moderation. Here are 9 health benefits of cashew nuts you should cash in on!
1. Provide Instant Energy
Don’t be fooled by their size. These small nuts pack in a punch when you want to fuel up. An ounce (28.35 gm) of dry roasted cashew nuts will give you 157 kcal of energy and trumps any sugary snack.1 Pregnant women, for instance, can not only make a healthy treat out of a handful of nuts but can also overcome the fatigue or weakness often seen during pregnancy.
2. Offer Protective Antioxidants
Alkylphenols present in cashew nuts, along with nutrients like selenium and vitamin E, give cashew nuts its antioxidant properties.2 What does that do for you? Antioxidants help counter the damaging effects of free radicals which can damage your cells as well as DNA. Free radicals have been implicated in a range of conditions from liver disease and cancer to Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease. So snack on yummy cashews for a dose of protective antioxidants that keep these illnesses at bay.3
3. Boost Bone Health
An ounce of cashew offer you 622 mcg of copper, meeting about 60% of your DV. Copper helps your body make red blood cells and collagen.
Cashew nuts are a valuable source of minerals like magnesium and phosphorous which are important nutrients for healthy bones and teeth. They also contain a small amount of bone-building calcium.45 An ounce of cashew nuts can give you 83 mg of magnesium (meeting 20% of your recommended daily value (DV)), 168 mg of phosphorus (13% DV), and 10 mg of calcium (1% DV) 6
Cashews also stack up because of its vitamin K content, which helps in the absorption of calcium into bone. In fact, low levels of this important vitamin are also associated with low bone density.7 One study found that women who got in 110 mcg of vitamin K a day were 30% less likely to have a hip fracture than women who got in less. Snacking on cashews is a good way to ensure that your body gets a supply of vitamin K on a regular basis. An ounce of cashews will give you 9.7 micrograms of vitamin K – that’s meeting about 9% of your DV8 9
4. Keep Heart Problems At Bay
Cashew nuts can help your heart stay in good shape and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. This is not only because of its antioxidants but also its combination of beneficial fats. Each ounce of cashew nuts contains 12.43 gm fat in all, of which around 9 gm is the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.10 One study found that when cashew nuts were incorporated into the daily Amercian diet, it helped lowered total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. The participants in the study who were given a couple of ounces of cashews every day for 4 weeks, as against a control group that had potato chips instead, saw LDL cholesterol levels drop by 5%.11 What about the saturated fat content in cashew nuts – about 20% – that usually gets a bad press? The study also pointed out that most of cashew’s saturated fat is from stearic acid, a fatty acid that has a neutral effect on cholesterol levels.12
5. Lower Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is another risk factor for heart disease and can lead to serious health problems such as heart failure, kidney failure, stroke, and heart attack. But having cashew nuts may help you manage your blood pressure levels as well. In one study, people on a standard diabetic diet supplemented it with 30 g of cashew nuts a day for 12 weeks and saw their blood pressure fall. The amino acid arginine present in cashews may be responsible for this beneficial effect. Arginine is converted to nitric oxide in your body, which then dilates your blood vessels and reduces blood pressure.13
6. Help Prevent Cholesterol Gallstones
The majority of gallstones are made up mostly of cholesterol. And high cholesterol levels have been found to be linked to the development of cholesterol gallstones.14 Cholesterol stones form when bile in your gallbladder has a higher cholesterol content than bile salts can break down or when your gallbladder doesn’t empty out properly.15 Since cashews help lower cholesterol levels, their regular consumption can be an effective way of preventing gallstones.16
7. May Fight Cancer
The damage done by free radicals, particularly to DNA, plays a role in the development of cancer. And as we already saw, cashews can be a good source of antioxidants which neutralize free radicals. Therefore, including antioxidant-rich foods like cashews in your diet may help protect against cancer. 17 18
8. Counter Anxiety
Anxiety disorders are considered to be the most common mental health issue in the United States. And while conventional treatment involving therapy or medication may be required to address anxiety, nutritional strategies can also help. Cashews contain two important nutrients that may help ease anxiety – magnesium and zinc. Animal studies have found that low levels of dietary magnesium can lead to an increase in anxiety-related behaviors while foods with zinc have also been linked to lower anxiety. 19
9. Help You Live A Healthier, Longer Life!
All the benefits offered by cashews that we’ve just seen may actually translate into a healthier and longer life. One study which followed people for 30 years found that having a handful of cashews and other nuts daily reduced mortality risk by 20% in this period. They also saw a significant reduction in the mortality risk from major killers like heart disease and cancer –29% lower risk for heart disease and 11% lower risk for cancer!20
Have In Moderation But Avoid If You Have A Nut Allergy
If you are allergic to nuts in general, cashews can trigger a severe reaction in your body. In one comparative study of children with allergies to cashew nuts or peanuts, kids with a cashew nut allergy experienced more cardiovascular symptoms and wheezing than those who were allergic to peanuts.21 So make sure your body can tolerate cashews before you chomp on them.
Having too many cashews can cause a stomach upset and even increase your weight. So don’t lose sight of your calorie intake when you are munching your way through a bowlful of toasted nuts. An ounce of raw cashews adds up to 157 calories. If they are oil roasted, that’s about 164 calories per ounce! It’s ideal to limit consumption of cashews to about 1–2 ounces (30–60 gm) as part of a balanced diet.22 You can add crushed cashew nuts to salads and soups or throw a few kernels into your breakfast cereal for a rich and delicious twist to your regular meals.
|↑1, ↑8||Basic Report: 12087, Nuts, cashew nuts, raw a b. United States Department of Agriculture.|
|↑2||González, Carlos A., and Jordi Salas-Salvadó. “The potential of nuts in the prevention of cancer.” British Journal of Nutrition 96, no. S2 (2006): S87-S94.|
|↑3||Blomhoff, Rune, Monica H. Carlsen, Lene Frost Andersen, and David R. Jacobs. “Health benefits of nuts: potential role of antioxidants.” British Journal of Nutrition 96, no. S2 (2006): S52-S60.|
|↑4||Phosphorus in diet. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑5||Magnesium. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑6||Basic Report: 12087, Nuts, cashew nuts, raw a b. United States Department of Agriculture.|
|↑7||Maresz, Katarzyna “Proper Calcium Use: Vitamin K2 as a Promoter of Bone and Cardiovascular Health.” Integrative medicine 14, no.1 (2015): 34-39.|
|↑9||Vitamin K. Harvard College.|
|↑10||Nuts, cashew nuts, raw. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.|
|↑11||Mah, E., Schutz, Jacqueline A., Kaden, Valerie N., Lawless, Andrea L., Rotor, Jose., Mantilla, Libertie B., and Liska, DeAnn J. “Cashew consumption reduces total and LDL cholesterol: a randomized, crossover, controlled-feeding trial.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 105, no.5 (2017):1070-1078.|
|↑12||Cashews: A better choice than low-fat chips? Harvard Health.|
|↑13||Mohan, Viswanathan, Rajagopal Gayathri, Lindsay M. Jaacks, Nagarajan Lakshmipriya, Ranjit Mohan Anjana, Donna Spiegelman, Raman Ganesh Jeevan et al. “Cashew Nut Consumption Increases HDL Cholesterol and Reduces Systolic Blood Pressure in Asian Indians with Type 2 Diabetes: A 12-Week Randomized Controlled Trial.” The Journal of Nutrition 148, no. 1 (2018): 63-69.|
|↑14||Atamanalp, S. Selcuk, M. Sait Keles, R. Selim Atamanalp, Hamit Acemoglu, and Esra Laloglu. “The effects of serum cholesterol, LDL, and HDL levels on gallstone cholesterol concentration.” Pakistan journal of medical sciences 29, no. 1 (2013): 187.|
|↑15||What to do about gallstones. Harvard Health Publications.|
|↑16||Gallstones. NHS Choices.|
|↑17||González, Carlos A., and Salas-Salvadó, Jordi. “The potential of nuts in the prevention of cancer.” British Journal of Nutrition 96, no. S2 (2006): S87-S94.|
|↑18||Antioxidants and Cancer Prevention. National Cancer Institute.|
|↑19||Nutritional strategies to ease anxiety. Harvard Health Publications.|
|↑20||Nut consumption reduces risk of death. Harvard Gazette.|
|↑21||Clark, A. T., K. Anagnostou, and P. W. Ewan. “Cashew nut causes more severe reactions than peanut: case‐matched comparison in 141 children.” Allergy 62, no. 8 (2007): 913-916.|
|↑22||Laaksonen, David E. “High Dietary Nut Intake: Too Much of a Good Thing?” American Journal of Hypertension 19, no. 6 (m2006): 637–638.|