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Cashews
Cashews

The delicately flavored cashew nut is a favorite between meal snack that can be readily found in your local market year round. It also makes wonderful nut butter and a special addition to salads and stir-fry dishes.

Cashew nuts are actually the kidney-shaped seeds that adhere to the bottom of the cashew apple, the fruit of the cashew tree, which is native to the coastal areas of northeastern Brazil. While cashew apples are not appreciated in the United States, they are regarded as delicacies in Brazil and the Caribbean. Cashews are always sold shelled because the interior of the shells contains a caustic resin, known as cashew balm, which must be carefully removed before the nuts are fit for consumption. This caustic resin is actually used in industry to make varnishes and insecticides.

Cashews, raw
0.25 cup
(40.00 grams)
Calories: 221
GI: low

NutrientDRI/DV

 copper98%




 zinc21%


This chart graphically details the %DV that a serving of Cashews provides for each of the nutrients of which it is a good, very good, or excellent source according to our Food Rating System. Additional information about the amount of these nutrients provided by Cashews can be found in the Food Rating System Chart. A link that takes you to the In-Depth Nutritional Profile for Cashews, featuring information over 80 nutrients, can be found under the Food Rating System Chart.

Health Benefits

Heart-Protective Monounsaturated Fats

Not only do cashews have a lower fat content than most other nuts, approximately 82% of their fat is unsaturated fatty acids, plus about 66% of this unsaturated fatty acid content are heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, similar to those found in olive oil. Studies of diabetic patients show that monounsaturated fat, when added to a low-fat diet, can help to reduce high triglyceride levels. Triglycerides are a form in which fats are carried in the blood, and high triglyceride levels are associated with an increased risk for heart disease, so ensuring you have some monounsaturated fats in your diet by enjoying cashews is a good idea, especially for persons with diabetes.

Crazy about Your Heart? Go Nuts

Research published in the British Journal of Nutrition (Blomhoff R, Carlsen MH), which identified several nuts among plant foods with the highest total antioxidant content, suggests nut's high antioxidant content may be key to their cardio-protective benefits.

Nuts' high antioxidant content helps explain results seen in the Iowa Women's Health Study in which risk of death from cardiovascular and coronary heart diseases showed strong and consistent reductions with increasing nut/peanut butter consumption. Total death rates decreased 11% and 19% for nut/peanut butter intake once per week and 1-4 times per week, respectively.

Even more impressive were the results of a review study of the evidence linking nuts and lower risk of coronary heart disease, also published in the British Journal of Nutrition. (Kelly JH, Sabate J.) In this study, researchers looked at four large prospective epidemiological studies—the Adventist Health Study, Iowa Women's Study, Nurses' Health Study and the Physician's Health Study. When evidence from all four studies was combined, subjects consuming nuts at least 4 times a week showed a 37% reduced risk of coronary heart disease compared to those who never or seldom ate nuts. Each additional serving of nuts per week was associated with an average 8.3% reduced risk of coronary heart disease.

Practical Tip: To lower your risk of cardiovascular and coronary heart disease, enjoy a handful of cashews or other nuts, or a tablespoon of nut butter, at least 4 times a week.

Copper for Antioxidant Defenses, Energy Production, Bones and Blood Vessels

An essential component of many enzymes, copper plays a role in a wide range of physiological processes including iron utilization, elimination of free radicals, development of bone and connective tissue, and the production of the skin and hair pigment called melanin. For example, copper is an essential component of the enzyme, superoxide dismutase, which is important in energy production and antioxidant defenses. Copper is also necessary for the activity of lysyl oxidase, an enzyme involved in cross-linking collagen and elastin, both of which provide the ground substance and flexibility in blood vessels, bones and joints. Low dietary intake of copper may also be associated with increased fecal free radical production and fecal water alkaline phosphatase activity, risk factors for colon cancer.

Numerous health problems can develop when copper intake is inadequate, including iron deficiency anemia, ruptured blood vessels, osteoporosis, joint problems such as rheumatoid arthritis, brain disturbances, elevated LDL (bad) cholesterol and reduced HDL (good) cholesterol levels, irregular heartbeat, and increased susceptibility to infections.

Bone Up and Relax with Cashews

Everyone knows that calcium is necessary for strong bones, but magnesium is also vital for healthy bones. About two-thirds of the magnesium in the human body is found in our bones. Some helps give bones their physical structure, while the rest is found on the surface of the bone where it is stored for the body to draw upon as needed.

Magnesium, by balancing calcium, helps regulate nerve and muscle tone. In many nerve cells, magnesium serves as Nature's own calcium channel blocker, preventing calcium from rushing into the nerve cell and activating the nerve. By blocking calcium's entry, magnesium keeps our nerves (and the blood vessels and muscles they ennervate) relaxed. If our diet provides us with too little magnesium, however, calcium can gain free entry, and the nerve cell can become overactivated, sending too many messages and causing excessive contraction.

Insufficient magnesium can thus contribute to high blood pressure, muscle spasms (including spasms of the heart muscle or the spasms of the airways symptomatic of asthma), and migraine headaches, as well as muscle cramps, tension, soreness and fatigue. Given these effects, it is not surprising that studies have shown magnesium helps reduce the frequency of migraine attacks, lowers blood pressure, helps prevent heart attacks, promotes normal sleep patterns in women suffering from menopausal sleep disturbances, and reduces the severity of asthma.

Help Prevent Gallstones

Twenty years of dietary data collected on 80,000 women from the Nurses' Health Study shows that women who eat least 1 ounce of nuts, peanuts or peanut butter each week have a 25% lower risk of developing gallstones. Since 1 ounce is only 28.6 nuts or about 2 tablespoons of nut butter, preventing gallbladder disease may be as easy as packing one cashew butter and jelly sandwich (be sure to use whole wheat bread for its fiber, vitamins and minerals) for lunch each week, having a handful of cashews as an afternoon pick me up, or tossing some cashews on your oatmeal or salad.

Eating Nuts Lowers Risk of Weight Gain

Although nuts are known to provide a variety of cardio-protective benefits, many avoid them for fear of weight gain. A prospective study published in the journal Obesity shows such fears are groundless. In fact, people who eat nuts at least twice a week are much less likely to gain weight than those who almost never eat nuts.

The 28-month study involving 8,865 adult men and women in Spain, found that participants who ate nuts at least two times per week were 31% less likely to gain weight than were participants who never or almost never ate nuts.

And, among the study participants who gained weight, those who never or almost never ate nuts gained more (an average of 424 g more) than those who ate nuts at least twice weekly.

Study authors concluded, "Frequent nut consumption was associated with a reduced risk of weight gain (5 kg or more). These results support the recommendation of nut consumption as an important component of a cardioprotective diet and also allay fears of possible weight gain."

Practical Tip: Don't let concerns about gaining weight prevent you from enjoying the delicious taste and many health benefits of nuts!

  • Spread some nut butter on your morning toast or bagel.
  • Remember how many great childhood lunches involved a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Upgrade that lunchbox favorite by spreading organic peanut butter and concord grape jelly on whole wheat bread.
  • Fill a celery stick with nut butter for an afternoon pick-me-up.
  • Sprinkle a handful of nuts over your morning cereal, lunchtime salad, dinner's steamed vegetables.
  • Or just enjoy a handful of lightly roasted nuts as a healthy snack.

Description

Cashew nuts are actually seeds that adhere to the bottom of the cashew apple, the fruit of the cashew tree, which is native to the coastal areas of northeastern Brazil. Cashew apples, while not known in the U.S., are regarded as delicacies in Brazil and the Carribean. The seed we know as the kidney-shaped cashew "nut" is delicate in flavor and firm, but slightly spongy, in texture.

You have probably noticed that cashews in the shell are not available in stores. This is because these nuts are always sold pre-shelled since the interior of their shells contains a caustic resin, known as cashew balm, which must be carefully removed before they are fit for consumption. This caustic resin is actually used in industry to make varnishes and insecticides.

Cashews, known scientifically as Anacardium occidentale, belong to the same family as the mango and pistachio nut.

History

The cashew tree is native to coastal areas of Brazil. In the 16th century, Portuguese explorers took cashew trees from this South American country and introduced them into other tropical regions such as India and some African countries, where they are now also cultivated. The cashew tree has always been a prized resource owing to its precious wood, cashew balm and cashew apple, but the cashew nut itself did not gain popularity until the beginning of the 20th century. Today, the leading commercial producers of cashews are India, Brazil, Mozambique, Tanzania and Nigeria.

How to Select and Store

Cashews are generally available in prepackaged containers as well as bulk bins. Just as with any other food that you may purchase in the bulk section, make sure that the bins containing the cashews are covered and that the store has a good product turnover so as to ensure its maximal freshness. Whether purchasing cashews in bulk or in a packaged container, make sure that there is no evidence of moisture or insect damage and that they are not shriveled. If it is possible to smell the cashews, do so in order to ensure that they are not rancid.

Due to their high content of oleic acid, cashews are more stable than most other nuts but should still be stored in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator, where they will keep for about six months, or in the freezer, where they will keep for about one year. Cashew butter should always be refrigerated once it is opened.

How to Enjoy

A Few Quick Serving Ideas
  • Combining cashews with other nuts and dried fruits makes a healthy snack.
  • Right before taking off the heat, add cashews to healthy sautéed vegetables.

    Healthy sauté cashews with shrimp, basil and green beans for a delightful Thai inspired dish.

  • Cashews with a little bit of maple syrup make a great topping for hot cereals.
  • Add cashew butter to breakfast soy or rice milk shakes to up their protein content (a quarter-cup of cashews provides over 5 grams of protein) and give them a creamy nutty taste.
  • In a saucepan over low-medium heat, mix cashew butter with some soy sauce, cayenne pepper, garlic, ginger and water to make a wonderful sauce for fish, vegetables, tofu or rice.
  • To roast cashews at home, do so gently—in a 160-170°F (about 75°C) oven for 15-20 minutes—to preserve the healthy oils. For more on the effect of high heat roasting on nuts, please see the following article.

For some of our favorite recipes, click Recipes.

Individual Concerns

Oxalate Content

Cashews have consistently been determined to have high oxalate content. Oxalates are naturally occurring organic acids found in a wide variety of foods, and in the case of certain medical conditions, they must be greatly restricted in a meal plan to prevent over-accumulation inside the body. Our comprehensive article about oxalates will provide you with practical and detailed information about these organic acids, food, and health.

Cashews and Food Allergies

Tree nuts, such as cashews, are among the eight food types considered to be major food allergens in the U.S., requiring identification on food labels. For helpful information about this topic, please see our article, An Overview of Adverse Food Reactions.

Nutritional Profile

Cashews are an excellent source of copper and a good source of phosphorus, magnesium, manganese and zinc.

Introduction to Food Rating System Chart

In order to better help you identify foods that feature a high concentration of nutrients for the calories they contain, we created a Food Rating System. This system allows us to highlight the foods that are especially rich in particular nutrients. The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good, or good source (below the chart you will find a table that explains these qualifications). If a nutrient is not listed in the chart, it does not necessarily mean that the food doesn't contain it. It simply means that the nutrient is not provided in a sufficient amount or concentration to meet our rating criteria. (To view this food's in-depth nutritional profile that includes values for dozens of nutrients - not just the ones rated as excellent, very good, or good - please use the link below the chart.) To read this chart accurately, you'll need to glance up in the top left corner where you will find the name of the food and the serving size we used to calculate the food's nutrient composition. This serving size will tell you how much of the food you need to eat to obtain the amount of nutrients found in the chart. Now, returning to the chart itself, you can look next to the nutrient name in order to find the nutrient amount it offers, the percent Daily Value (DV%) that this amount represents, the nutrient density that we calculated for this food and nutrient, and the rating we established in our rating system. For most of our nutrient ratings, we adopted the government standards for food labeling that are found in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's "Reference Values for Nutrition Labeling." Read more background information and details of our rating system.

Cashews, raw
0.25 cup
40.00 grams
Calories: 221
GI: low
NutrientAmountDRI/DV
(%)
Nutrient
Density
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
copper0.88 mg988.0excellent
phosphorus237.20 mg342.8good
manganese0.66 mg332.7good
magnesium116.80 mg292.4good
zinc2.31 mg211.7good
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
Rule
excellent DRI/DV>=75% OR
Density>=7.6 AND DRI/DV>=10%
very good DRI/DV>=50% OR
Density>=3.4 AND DRI/DV>=5%
good DRI/DV>=25% OR
Density>=1.5 AND DRI/DV>=2.5%

In-Depth Nutritional Profile

In addition to the nutrients highlighted in our ratings chart, here is an in-depth nutritional profile for Cashews. This profile includes information on a full array of nutrients, including carbohydrates, sugar, soluble and insoluble fiber, sodium, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids and more.

Cashews, raw
(Note: "--" indicates data unavailable)
0.25 cup
(40.00 g)
GI: low
BASIC MACRONUTRIENTS AND CALORIES
nutrientamountDRI/DV
(%)
Protein7.29 g15
Carbohydrates12.08 g5
Fat - total17.54 g--
Dietary Fiber1.32 g5
Calories221.2012
MACRONUTRIENT AND CALORIE DETAIL
nutrientamountDRI/DV
(%)
Carbohydrate:
Starch-- g
Total Sugars2.36 g
Monosaccharides0.04 g
Fructose0.02 g
Glucose0.02 g
Galactose0.00 g
Disaccharides2.32 g
Lactose0.00 g
Maltose0.00 g
Sucrose2.32 g
Soluble Fiber-- g
Insoluble Fiber-- g
Other Carbohydrates8.39 g
Fat:
Monounsaturated Fat9.52 g
Polyunsaturated Fat3.14 g
Saturated Fat3.11 g
Trans Fat0.00 g
Calories from Fat157.86
Calories from Saturated Fat28.02
Calories from Trans Fat0.00
Cholesterol0.00 mg
Water2.08 g
MICRONUTRIENTS
nutrientamountDRI/DV
(%)
Vitamins
Water-Soluble Vitamins
B-Complex Vitamins
Vitamin B10.17 mg14
Vitamin B20.02 mg2
Vitamin B30.42 mg3
Vitamin B3 (Niacin Equivalents)2.17 mg
Vitamin B60.17 mg10
Vitamin B120.00 mcg0
Biotin-- mcg--
Choline-- mg--
Folate10.00 mcg3
Folate (DFE)10.00 mcg
Folate (food)10.00 mcg
Pantothenic Acid0.35 mg7
Vitamin C0.20 mg0
Fat-Soluble Vitamins
Vitamin A (Retinoids and Carotenoids)
Vitamin A International Units (IU)0.00 IU
Vitamin A mcg Retinol Activity Equivalents (RAE)0.00 mcg (RAE)0
Vitamin A mcg Retinol Equivalents (RE)0.00 mcg (RE)
Retinol mcg Retinol Equivalents (RE)0.00 mcg (RE)
Carotenoid mcg Retinol Equivalents (RE)0.00 mcg (RE)
Alpha-Carotene0.00 mcg
Beta-Carotene0.00 mcg
Beta-Carotene Equivalents0.00 mcg
Cryptoxanthin0.00 mcg
Lutein and Zeaxanthin8.80 mcg
Lycopene0.00 mcg
Vitamin D
Vitamin D International Units (IU)0.00 IU0
Vitamin D mcg0.00 mcg
Vitamin E
Vitamin E mg Alpha-Tocopherol Equivalents (ATE)0.36 mg (ATE)2
Vitamin E International Units (IU)0.54 IU
Vitamin E mg0.36 mg
Vitamin K13.64 mcg15
Minerals
nutrientamountDRI/DV
(%)
Boron-- mcg
Calcium14.80 mg1
Chloride-- mg
Chromium-- mcg--
Copper0.88 mg98
Fluoride-- mg--
Iodine-- mcg--
Iron2.67 mg15
Magnesium116.80 mg29
Manganese0.66 mg33
Molybdenum-- mcg--
Phosphorus237.20 mg34
Potassium264.00 mg8
Selenium7.96 mcg14
Sodium4.80 mg0
Zinc2.31 mg21
INDIVIDUAL FATTY ACIDS
nutrientamountDRI/DV
(%)
Omega-3 Fatty Acids0.02 g1
Omega-6 Fatty Acids3.11 g
Monounsaturated Fats
14:1 Myristoleic0.00 g
15:1 Pentadecenoic0.00 g
16:1 Palmitol0.05 g
17:1 Heptadecenoic0.00 g
18:1 Oleic9.41 g
20:1 Eicosenoic0.06 g
22:1 Erucic0.00 g
24:1 Nervonic0.00 g
Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids
18:2 Linoleic3.11 g
18:2 Conjugated Linoleic (CLA)-- g
18:3 Linolenic0.02 g
18:4 Stearidonic-- g
20:3 Eicosatrienoic-- g
20:4 Arachidonic-- g
20:5 Eicosapentaenoic (EPA)-- g
22:5 Docosapentaenoic (DPA)-- g
22:6 Docosahexaenoic (DHA)-- g
Saturated Fatty Acids
4:0 Butyric0.00 g
6:0 Caproic0.00 g
8:0 Caprylic0.01 g
10:0 Capric0.01 g
12:0 Lauric0.01 g
14:0 Myristic0.01 g
15:0 Pentadecanoic0.00 g
16:0 Palmitic1.57 g
17:0 Margaric0.02 g
18:0 Stearic1.29 g
20:0 Arachidic0.11 g
22:0 Behenate0.07 g
24:0 Lignoceric0.04 g
INDIVIDUAL AMINO ACIDS
nutrientamountDRI/DV
(%)
Alanine0.30 g
Arginine0.77 g
Aspartic Acid0.65 g
Cysteine0.14 g
Glutamic Acid1.64 g
Glycine0.34 g
Histidine0.17 g
Isoleucine0.29 g
Leucine0.54 g
Lysine0.34 g
Methionine0.13 g
Phenylalanine0.35 g
Proline0.30 g
Serine0.39 g
Threonine0.25 g
Tryptophan0.10 g
Tyrosine0.18 g
Valine0.40 g
OTHER COMPONENTS
nutrientamountDRI/DV
(%)
Ash1.02 g
Organic Acids (Total)-- g
Acetic Acid-- g
Citric Acid-- g
Lactic Acid-- g
Malic Acid-- g
Taurine-- g
Sugar Alcohols (Total)-- g
Glycerol-- g
Inositol-- g
Mannitol-- g
Sorbitol-- g
Xylitol-- g
Artificial Sweeteners (Total)-- mg
Aspartame-- mg
Saccharin-- mg
Alcohol0.00 g
Caffeine0.00 mg

Note:

The nutrient profiles provided in this website are derived from The Food Processor, Version 10.12.0, ESHA Research, Salem, Oregon, USA. Among the 50,000+ food items in the master database and 163 nutritional components per item, specific nutrient values were frequently missing from any particular food item. We chose the designation "--" to represent those nutrients for which no value was included in this version of the database.

References

  • Bes-Rastrollo M, Sabate J, Gomez-Gracia E, Alonso A, Martinez JA, Martinez-Gonzalez MA. Nut consumption and weight gain in a Mediterranean cohort: The SUN study. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2007 Jan;15(1):107-16. 2007. PMID:17228038.
  • Blomhoff R, Carlsen MH, Andersen LF, Jacobs DR Jr. Health benefits of nuts: potential role of antioxidants. Br J Nutr. 2006 Nov;96 Suppl 2:S52-60. 2006. PMID:17125534.
  • Davis CD. Low dietary copper increases fecal free radical production, fecal water alkaline phosphatase activity and cytotoxicity in healthy men. J Nutr. 2003 Feb; 133(2):522-7. 2003.
  • Ensminger AH, Ensminger, ME, Kondale JE, Robson JRK. Foods & Nutriton Encyclopedia. Pegus Press, Clovis, California. 1983.
  • Ensminger AH, Esminger M. K. J. e. al. Food for Health: A Nutrition Encyclopedia. Clovis, California: Pegus Press; 1986. 1986. PMID:15210.
  • Fortin, Francois, Editorial Director. The Visual Foods Encyclopedia. Macmillan, New York. 1996.
  • Hu FB, Stampfer MJ. Nut consumption and risk of coronary heart disease: a review of epidemiologic evidence. Curr Atheroscler Rep 1999 Nov;1(3):204-9. 1999.
  • Kelly JH Jr, Sabate J. Nuts and coronary heart disease: an epidemiological perspective. Br J Nutr. 2006 Nov;96 Suppl 2:S61-7. 2006. PMID:17125535.
  • Resnicow K, Barone J, Engle A, et al. Diet and serum lipids in vegan vegetarians: a model for risk reduction. J Am Diet Assoc 1991 Apr;91(4):447-53. 1991. PMID:16190.
  • Tsai CJ, Leitzmann MF, Hu FB, Willett WC, Giovannucci EL. Frequent nut consumption and decreased risk of cholecystectomy in women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Jul;80(1):76-81. 2004. PMID:15213031.
  • Wood, Rebecca. The Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York, NY: Prentice-Hall Press; 1988. 1988. PMID:15220.

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