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Cashew nut

Fruit and Nut: Cashews

This antioxidant-packed nut that is widely consumed across the world originated in the tropics of Latin America, in Brazil. The cashew nut became known to the world through the Portuguese sailor. The Portuguese travelers brought the nut to East Africa and India to cultivate it in the warm, humid climates of the east. Today, it's widely heralded across the globe for its health benefits. Let's discuss whether cashews are fruits or nuts, their health benefits, and more!

Is A Cashew A Nut or Fruit?

Are cashews fruits or nuts? Well, neither, I guess. Cashews are the seeds of the fruits of the cashew trees. 

The flowers from these trees are red in color, which produces red and yellow fruits. These fruits are often apple-shaped. These apples bear seeds, which, unlike most seeds, grow outside the fruit. 

Anatomy of a Cashew

The cashew apple is rich in Vitamin C. In a few countries, such as Brazil and Nigeria, cashew apples were used in folk medicine to treat heart ailments and diabetes. Also, cashew leaves have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. 

Cashew nuts are kidney-shaped seeds that are known as drupes. These are encased in a hard outer layer containing a poisonous substance called anacardic acid. 

This layer has to be removed to consume the nut. The toxin found in the layer is similar to the toxins in poison ivy and poison oak and is known to cause an allergic rash on the skin. The toxic layer is the reason why cashew nuts are not sold in their pristine form. They are dried and roasted to deplete this toxic layer.

How Long Do Cashews Last?

Cashew nuts are about an inch in length and half an inch in diameter. They are kidney-shaped and split into two halves. Processed cashew nuts have a creamy color and a crunchy texture. Unshelled cashew nuts can be stored up to two years.

The cashew apples are juicy, pulpy fruits with very short shelf-life. This perishable fruit turns rancid within a period of 24 hours after being harvested. Hence is mostly accessible to people living very close to the farms. However, the fruit is preserved in the form of jams, drinks, or alcoholic beverages.

Today, cashew crops are grown in countries like Vietnam, India, Nigeria, and Indonesia, which have warm, humid climates. The cashew trees grow to a height of about 20 to 40 feet. The trees flower only during the winters. 

They also set their fruits during the winter. On an average, the cashew trees give a yield of about 2kg of nuts at 3 to 5 years of age, and about 10 kg at 11 to 15 years of age.

Nutritional Composition of Cashews

So, what kind of nutrition does one ounce of cashew nuts give you? Unlike other nuts such as walnuts, hazelnuts, and macadamia nuts, cashews have fewer calories per ounce.

Each ounce of cashew nuts contains 155 calories.

  • Fiber: 0.9 grams
  • Protein: 5 gms or 8 % of the RDA
  • Fat: 12.3 gms 8 g of monounsaturated fat and 2 g of polyunsaturated fats)
  • Manganese: 23% of the RDA
  • Magnesium: 20% of the RDA.
  • Copper: 30% of the RDA
  • Zinc: 11% of the RDA
  • Iron: 9% of the RDA

3 Reasons to Include Cashews in Your Diet

Cashews are considered as one of the health nuts and have plenty of health benefits. Here's why you need to include cashews into your meals and snacks. 

1. Helps fight diabetes

Cashews help in lowering the risk of Type II diabetes. Cashews have monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), which help in lowering the triglycerides in the blood.

Type II diabetic patients have high triglyceride levels in their bodies. The high amount of Magnesium in cashews also helps the insulin to function properly. Cashews also help to relieve arterial hypertension, obesity and reduce cardiovascular risk.

2. For a healthy heart

Studies show that eating nuts like cashews can help lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases. MUFA and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) in the cashew nuts boost the metabolism.

They also help reduce bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol). Cashew nuts are linked to increasing HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein) cholesterol, the 'good cholesterol', and reducing systolic blood pressure.

3. Has cancer-fighting properties

Studies have shown that the cashew nut shell liquid can treat skin infections, cracks on soles of feet, and cancerous ulcers. The anticancer properties of cashew are known to be particularly effective against liver and colon cancers.

Cashew has a good amount of antioxidants like anacardic acids, cardanols and cardols which help fight tumors and cancers.

The antioxidants fight against the free radicals in the body. Free radicals are known to cause damage to DNA, cell mutation, and cancerous tumor formation.

Including Cashews in Your Diet

The best way to consume cashews is to soak them overnight and have them in the morning. This increases the nutrient content and reduces the antinutrient content. Another healthy way to include cashew in your diet is by preparing trail mixes. A trail mix is rich in healthy fats and has no added sugar.

Preparing a trail mix

Add one cup of raisins, one cup of sprouted almonds, one cup of sprouted cashews, and half a cup of dried cranberries in a container. Thoroughly mix all the ingredients, and your trail mix is good to go!

Butter and Milk

Did you know that you can prepare butter and milk from cashews? Similar to almond milk and Brazil nut milk, cashew nut is also creamy and is a great substitute for dairy milk.

You can prepare the cashew nut milk right at home, using a few cashew nuts that are soaked overnight, some water, and a blender. The milk needs to be consumed within 3 to 5 days. And since it is made at home, you can also add honey or maple syrup to sweeten it.

Just like your peanut butter, cashew butter is also a great way to have your bread. Soak the cashews overnight and dry them. Blend the dried cashew nuts and add some salt to taste. Creamy, delicious cashew butter is ready to serve!

When should you say no?

Like peanut allergy, cashew allergy is also very common. Cashew nuts can cause a severe allergic reaction. If you are already allergic to nuts like peanuts, walnut, or almonds, please avoid cashew nuts as well. It can cause a severe anaphylactic reaction. An immediate symptom of cashew allergy is hay fever or asthma. If you observe these symptoms, it is best to avoid cashew and consult a doctor right away.

While cashews may be filled with rich nutrients and minerals, they can be life-threatening if you are allergic to nuts or legumes. It is also best to avoid cashews if you are suffering from a kidney stone problem.

Not sure if cashews agree with the bacteria in your gut? Get your gut tested with Ombre. We can let you know which foods you should eat and which you should avoid so that you can meet your wellness goals.