Unlocking the Nutritional and Health Benefits of Including Cashew Nuts in Your Diet

Cashew nuts are a popular addition to various dishes due to their versatility and unique flavor. These kidney-shaped nuts come from the cashew tree, which is native to Brazil but is now grown in several other countries.

Like most other nuts, cashews have been shown to improve overall health. They’re packed with various essential nutrients, each with unique health benefits. In this article, we will look at the nutritional profile of cashews and discover how incorporating them into your diet can positively impact your health.

The Nutritional Composition of Cashews

Cashew nuts are rich in a wide range of nutrients. According to the USDA, one ounce of unroasted, unsalted cashews contains:

  • Calories: 157
  • Protein: 5g
  • Fat: 12g
  • Carbohydrate: 9g
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Copper: 67% of the daily value
  • Manganese: 20% of the daily value
  • Magnesium: 20% of the daily value
  • Zinc: 15% of the daily value
  • Phosphorus: 13 of the daily value
  • Iron: 10% of the daily value

Cashews are primarily high in unsaturated fat, considered healthy, and linked to a lower risk of heart disease. They are also antioxidant powerhouses, packing various classes of polyphenols and carotenoids. These antioxidant compounds help prevent oxidative damage in cells.

The Health Benefits of Cashews

Integrating cashew nuts into your diet yields the following health benefits:

Weight Loss

Nuts are rich in calories and fat, which has led many people to believe that they are bad for anyone on a weight loss diet. However, recent discoveries show that the reverse is the case.

Studies have linked nut-rich diets to more significant weight loss than nut-free diets. One ounce of cashews supplies the body with 157 calories. However, the human body cannot absorb 26% of the cashew's calories because they are trapped within the fibrous wall.

Cashews, like other nuts, are also rich in protein and fiber. Researchers believe these nutrients can reduce hunger and promote a feeling of fullness, preventing overeating.

Improves Heart Health

Cashews and other nuts have been linked to a lower risk of stroke and heart disease. One study shows that nut intake helps lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and increases the carrying capacity of HDL (good) cholesterol. High levels of LDL cholesterol increase your risk of heart disease.

Furthermore, in 2003, the Food Drug Administration (FDA) revealed that integrating a fistful of nuts into a low-fat diet may help reduce the risk of heart disease. Recent studies show that nutrients in cashew nuts, such as unsaturated fatty acids, protein, fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants, may have heart-protective properties.

Diabetes Prevention and Management

Cashew nuts may be beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes. This is partly due to cashews being high in fiber, a nutrient that prevents blood sugar spikes and protects against type 2 diabetes.

One study found that people with diabetes who ate 10% of their daily calories from cashews had higher insulin levels than those who ate no. Insulin is a hormone that helps regulate the amount of glucose in the blood. 

Moreover, cashews are low in net carbs and sugars. As a result, substituting foods rich in carbs and sugars for cashew nuts can help reduce blood glucose levels.

Eye Protection

Cashew nuts are rich in antioxidants, particularly zeaxanthin and lutein, which are known for protecting the eyes from damage. These antioxidants can help lower the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts, two common eye conditions that can lead to blindness.

A recent study discovered that eating cashew nuts regularly was associated with higher macular pigment optical density, an indicator of macular health. Another study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that a diet high in lutein and zeaxanthin in cashew nuts was associated with a lower risk of cataracts.

Adding Cashews to Your Diet

It is very easy to add cashews to your diet. Here are a few options to help you get the most out of the nut’s nutrients:

  • Eat a handful of cashews as a healthy snack.
  • Add chopped cashews to oatmeal or yogurt for added crunch and nutrition.
  • Use cashews to make a creamy sauce for pasta or vegetables.
  • Make cashew butter as a spread or ingredient in baking.
  • Add cashews to salads, stir-fries, curries, and pasta dishes for added flavor and nutrition.
  • Grind cashews to make cashew milk or cheese by blending them with water and seasonings.
  • Cashews can be used as a topping for soups or casseroles to add texture and flavor.

Cashews contain phytate, a compound that inhibits the absorption of vitamins and nutrients. To reduce the phytate content of the nuts, soak them overnight before adding them to dishes.

Bottom Line

Cashew nuts are rich in fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial plant compounds, which makes them great for your health. They’re generally considered safe for consumption and easy to integrate into your diet.