9 Powerful Benefits of Cashews

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated - Medically reviewed by Vanessa Voltolina (MS, RD)

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The powerful health benefits of cashews include a healthy heart, strong nerve and muscle function, and improved bone and oral health. They also provide relief from diabetes, anemia, and gallstones. By offering an antioxidant defense, they also encourage a better immune system.

What are Cashews?

Cashews are nutritionally dense nuts. They belong to the family of Anacardiaceae, which includes mangoes and pistachios. Cashews are originally native to the coastal areas of north-eastern Brazil. They are kidney-shaped seeds widely cultivated in places that have tropical climates. Cashews are typically grown in countries like India, Sri Lanka, Kenya, and Tanzania. The nuts are found at the bottom of the fruit known as a cashew apple, and have diverse uses, particularly in Brazil, Asia, and Africa.

Cashews Nutrition Facts

Cashews are good for you as they are a powerhouse of proteins and essential minerals, including copper, calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. Sodium is also present in very small quantities. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, cashews also contain vitamin C, B- vitamins, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin), folate, and vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol), and vitamin K (phylloquinone). They are a source of oleic acid and provide a good quantity of monounsaturated fat and low amounts of polyunsaturated fats with no total cholesterol content when consumed in moderation.

Nutrition Facts

Nuts, cashew nuts, raw
Serving Size :
Water [g]5.2
Energy [kcal]553
Energy [kJ]2314
Protein [g]18.22
Total lipid (fat) [g]43.85
Ash [g]2.54
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]30.19
Fiber, total dietary [g]3.3
Sugars, total including NLEA [g]5.91
Sucrose [g]5.81
Glucose (dextrose) [g]0.05
Fructose [g]0.05
Starch [g]23.49
Calcium, Ca [mg]37
Iron, Fe [mg]6.68
Magnesium, Mg [mg]292
Phosphorus, P [mg]593
Potassium, K [mg]660
Sodium, Na [mg]12
Zinc, Zn [mg]5.78
Copper, Cu [mg]2.2
Manganese, Mn [mg]1.66
Selenium, Se [µg]19.9
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]0.5
Thiamin [mg]0.42
Riboflavin [mg]0.06
Niacin [mg]1.06
Pantothenic acid [mg]0.86
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.42
Folate, total [µg]25
Folate, food [µg]25
Folate, DFE [µg]25
Lutein + zeaxanthin [µg]22
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]0.9
Tocopherol, beta [mg]0.03
Tocopherol, gamma [mg]5.31
Tocopherol, delta [mg]0.36
Tocotrienol, beta [mg]0.1
Tocotrienol, gamma [mg]0.2
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]34.1
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]7.78
8:0 [g]0.02
10:0 [g]0.02
12:0 [g]0.02
14:0 [g]0.02
16:0 [g]3.92
17:0 [g]0.05
18:0 [g]3.22
20:0 [g]0.27
22:0 [g]0.17
24:0 [g]0.1
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]23.8
16:1 [g]0.14
18:1 [g]23.52
20:1 [g]0.14
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]7.85
18:2 [g]7.78
18:3 [g]0.06
Campesterol [mg]9
Beta-sitosterol [mg]113
Tryptophan [g]0.29
Threonine [g]0.69
Isoleucine [g]0.79
Leucine [g]1.47
Lysine [g]0.93
Methionine [g]0.36
Cystine [g]0.39
Phenylalanine [g]0.95
Tyrosine [g]0.51
Valine [g]1.09
Arginine [g]2.12
Histidine [g]0.46
Alanine [g]0.84
Aspartic acid [g]1.8
Glutamic acid [g]4.51
Glycine [g]0.94
Proline [g]0.81
Serine [g]1.08
Sources include : USDA

Health Benefits of Cashews

The health benefits of cashews are incredible! Here are just a few of the reasons why you should add them to your diet:

Prevent Heart Diseases

Cashews are a good source of healthy dietary fats, which are essential for our body to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins (vitamin A, D, E, and K) and produce fatty acids that are vital for the development of the brain and blood clotting. These healthy fats include monounsaturated fats (MUFA) and polyunsaturated fats (PUFA). They are good for the heart and help reduce bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) if consumed in appropriate amounts, even in diabetics.

LDL cholesterol can rise as a result of excessive consumption of saturated fats, posing a major threat to people suffering from cardiovascular diseases like atherosclerosis (aka hardening of arteries). Studies have demonstrated that choosing unsaturated fats over saturated fats enhances the levels of HDL cholesterol, reduces triglyceride levels, and beneficially lowers the blood pressure as well. The inclusion of nuts such as cashews, fish, and vegetable oils like olive oil and canola oil in the diet can provide these healthy unsaturated fats to the body.

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Healthy Muscles & Nerves

Cashews are a good source of magnesium, which is vital for the healthy development of bones, muscles, tissues, and the body’s organs. Magnesium helps maintain blood pressure, boost immunity, maintain nerve function, and keep the bones strong. It also is involved in metabolic functions and helps regulate the blood sugar levels of the body (via insulin activity). A deficiency of magnesium can alter the metabolism of calcium and the hormones responsible for its regulation.

Reduce Risk of Diabetes

Cashews contain very low amounts of sugar, and no harmful cholesterol, making them safe for people with diabetes. However, only 4-5 cashew nuts are recommended per day by nutritionists.

Cashews on a wooden spoon kept on the table

Cashews are rich in protein. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Cancer Chemopreventive Agent

Research has shown that the wealth of antioxidants like anacardic acids, cardanols, and cardols which cashews contain – make this nut effective for people undergoing treatments for tumor and cancer eradication. Ground cashews are a comparatively simple absorbed form of protein and are safe for patients as well.

Promote Formation of RBC

Cashews are rich in copper, which helps in the metabolism of iron, aiding in the formation of red blood cells (RBC), and helping to keep the bones and immune system healthy. It is also vital for the nervous and skeletal system of the body. A deficiency of copper in the body may result in osteoporosis, irregular heartbeats, and anemia.

Boost Bone & Oral Health

Cashews provide phosphorus, which is essential for the healthy development of teeth and bones. Phosphorus also aids in protein synthesis, absorption of carbohydrates and fats, and the maintenance of cellular health.

Reduces Risk of Anemia

Cashews are a source of dietary iron which is vital for carrying oxygen around the body and aids in the functioning of enzymes and the immune system. A deficiency of iron in the diet can lead to fatigue, anemia, and increased susceptibility to infections.

Prevent Gallstones

Gallstones are stone-like deposits that usually consist of cholesterol, which accumulates in the gallbladder. Risk factors include age, weight, and any gastrointestinal issues. Regular inclusion of healthy nuts like cashews can help lower the risk of the formation of gallstones.

Boost Immune System

Cashews contain zinc, which plays a vital role in the strengthening of the immune system against microbial infections, and the healing of wounds. It is extremely important during pregnancy for the growth of the baby and the developmental years of childhood to maintain a healthy body.

How To Eat Cashews?

Cashew nuts are tasty and highly sought-after nuts. They can be enjoyed either roasted or plain, and with or without salt. They are added to various vegetarian and non-vegetarian delicacies and a range of confectionery food items like cookies, biscuits, and ice cream. Cashews are also used to make creamy vegan sauces and vegan milk. Each ounce of cashews contains around 160 calories, so it’s best to limit yourself to a handful (16-18 nuts) a day.

Uses of Cashew Products

Apart from the famous and delicious cashew nut, the cashew tree offers an immense treasure of medicinal and industrial uses as well. These applications are widely popular in Guyana and all over the Amazon.

Cashew Nut Shell Liquid: This is a by-product obtained while processing cashews and is a versatile material in terms of industrial usage. It is one of the sources of naturally available phenols. It is a raw material that is used in the preparation of drugs, insecticides, paints, plastics, resins, and anti-termite treatments for timber. Due to its medicinal properties and the presence of anacardic acids, cashew nut shell liquid has an antibiotic effect and is used in the treatment of sore teeth, leprosy, ringworm, warts, scurvy, and elephantiasis.

Cashew Bark and Leaf: The bark and the leaf of the tree possess medicinal benefits, and have been used as a remedy for both, diarrhea and colic. Cashew leaf extract is utilized to reduce blood sugar and blood pressure levels. Oils extracted from the seeds prove effective in the preparation of insecticides. The infusion of the bark of the cashew tree has astringent properties used as a mouthwash for treating oral ulcers and as a remedy for sore throats and influenza. Leaves of the cashew tree, when boiled with water, serve as an anti-pyretic and are used for providing relief from aches and pains throughout the body.

Cashew Fruit (Cashew Apple): Cashew apples possess anti-bacterial properties and have been proven to be effective in treating stomach ulcers and gastritis, which are usually caused by H. pylori bacteria. The juice from cashew apples is rich in vitamin C and therefore has an anti-scurvy effect. It is widely utilized in the cosmetic industry due to the presence of antioxidants and is used in the preparation of various creams and shampoos.

Cashew extract contains anacardic acid, which is an antioxidant and has been shown to limit the pigmentation effects of aging and eradicate cancer cells. The fruit of the cashew tree is used to treat the infant’s thrush and sore mouth. In the Amazon, people use tea prepared from the bark and the cashew apple juice for chronic dysentery and as an anti-diarrheal remedy. It is also believed to possess sudorific or sweat-inducing properties. The juice extracted from the cashew apple can also serve as an ointment for aches of rheumatism and neuralgia.

In South America, it is used to prepare sauces, jams, and curries, and it is also fermented into vinegar and liquor. It is not very popular because of its acidic taste, owing to the presence of a layer of its skin that can lead to allergic reactions on the throat or tongue, making it unpalatable. It can be consumed only after steaming or boiling for a few minutes.

Cashew Seed: Oil extracted from cashew seeds is widely used for curing cracked heels. Powdered cashew seeds have anti-venom effects and are used for treating snake bites.

Cashew Stem: Gum extracted from the cashew stem is used as a varnish for woodworks and books.

Side Effects of Cashews

Let us look at the side effects of excessive cashew consumption.

  • Kidney Stones: Cashews contain oxalate salts, which interfere with the absorption of calcium in the body. The accumulated calcium can result in the formation of kidney stones. Research conducted on this topic concluded that people who are prone to develop kidney stones should consider eating only small to moderate amounts of cashew nuts.
  • Cashew Allergy: Despite several health benefits, they can be dangerous for those who are allergic to tree nuts. It is informative to know that along with the changing national standards in food manufacturing, handling, and processing practices, such allergies also vary for different regions or countries.
  • Allergic reactions caused by tree nuts such as cashews, walnuts, and pistachios can be mild or severe. It is advisable to consult a doctor if one develops any allergies after consuming cashews.
  • Anaphylaxis: Anaphylaxis is a fast progressive allergic reaction that can happen to the whole body due to some substance or chemical to which the body has developed sensitivity. It is most commonly triggered by food allergies. As demonstrated by various research studies, cashew nuts can pose a high risk of anaphylaxis. It can lead to symptoms like noisy breathing, unconsciousness, pale appearance, swelling of the tongue or throat, and hoarseness in the voice. Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency and should be given the utmost attention.

If you have an allergy, be aware of the following:

  • Contact Dermatitis: Contact dermatitis is an itchy skin ailment caused as a result of the skin coming in contact with the allergen. Hives and swelling can develop around the mouth or other parts that have come in contact with the nuts or their shells. The anacardic acid present in cashews is also the reason for the vesication of the cashew nut shell liquid and can lead to acute skin rashes and allergies.
  • Gastrointestinal Discomfort: Some people might experience nausea, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, coughing, and vomiting if they have an allergy to cashews.
  • Breathing Difficulties: A runny nose, coughing, and shortness of breath can often be felt. More severe reactions can result in a fatal condition like glottic edema or anaphylaxis.

Barring a few exceptions, cashews are a healthy option to be included in the diet. If consumed in appropriate quantities, they can help maintain a robust and steady-state of health. Nuts can stand as a good alternative to compensate for essential nutrients, particularly in those who are vegetarian, vegan, or avoid meat products.

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About the Author

Meenakshi Nagdeve, Co-Founder, Organic Facts is a health and wellness enthusiast and is responsible for managing it. She has completed the Nutrition And Healthy Living Cornell Certificate Program, Cornell University, US. She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from IIM Bangalore and B. Tech in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science from IIT Bombay. Prior to this, she worked for a few years in IT and Financial services. An ardent follower of naturopathy, she believes in healing with foods. In her free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.

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