Cashew nuts are native to Brazil, where they have long been viewed as a delicacy. More recently, cashews have become popular throughout the world for their delicate flavor and extraordinary health benefits. Manufacturers always sell cashews in their shelled state, as part of the shell contains a resin that is not safe for consumption. However, it is possible to purchase raw cashews, roasted cashews, or cashews that have been seasoned with various flavorings. This means you can use them as a snack or as an addition to salads, smoothies, stir-fries and other meals. With each serving of cashews, you harness incredible health benefits that set them apart from other nuts.
Cashews Are Rich in Heart-Healthy Fatty Acids
Not all fats are bad for you, and some types of fat can actually help your heart health. Cashews contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, including oleic and palmitoleic acids (Nutrition and You, 2012). These are essential fatty acids that have been associated with lower levels of unhealthy LDL cholesterol and higher levels of healthy HDL cholesterol. As a result, consumption of the monounsaturated fats in cashews is associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular disease (Kris-Etherton, 1999).
Cashews Provide Nearly 100 Percent of Your Recommended Daily Copper Intake Copper is a trace mineral that we get in very small amounts, mostly from animal sources such as crab, mussels, liver and oysters. The presence of copper is required for a variety of physiological reactions in the body (Prohaska, 2014), including reactions needed for energy production, the metabolism of iron, and neurotransmission. Failure to get enough copper has been associated with poor immune system functioning; higher risk of cardiovascular disease; increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s; and impaired bone health.
Cashews are an excellent vegetarian source of copper, providing more of the mineral than most other non-meat sources. In fact, eating a quarter-cup of cashews every day gives you 98 percent of your recommended daily intake of copper, which may decrease your risk of chronic disease (WH Foods, 2014).
Cashews Make a Fantastic Vegan Cream
Did you think that going vegan means you have to give up all your favorite creamy foods and desserts? Think again. The rich fat content of cashews (mostly heart-healthy fats!) makes them a perfect substitute for heavy cream. To witness this almost magical transformation for yourself, soak a cup of raw cashews in ½ cup water overnight; then, blend the mixture in a food processor until completely smooth, adding additional chilled water to reach the desired consistency. You’ll be astonished as to how rich and creamy the result is, and it’s nearly indistinguishable from dairy cream, but with a fraction of the fat and calories.
Cashew cream can be added to a variety of sweet or savory dishes as a healthy vegan substitute for heavy whipping cream. Sweeten the cashew cream with 2 tablespoons of sugar and enjoy it atop a bowl of fresh strawberries. Alternatively, swap unsweetened cashew cream in your favorite alfredo recipe to cut calories and fat without sacrificing rich flavor.
Cashews Are Protein Rich
Like all nuts, cashews provide an excellent source of protein. Protein is one of three macronutrients your body uses for energy, and it is particularly important for rebuilding muscle tissue and creating new cellular compounds. Plus, eating protein prevents you from getting hungry between meals, which can help you stick to a healthy eating plan.
Although many nuts are good sources of protein, cashews stand apart from the pack because of their particularly well-balanced nutritional profile. Each ounce of cashews (about 16 to 18 nuts) contains 160 calories, 5 grams of protein, and 13 grams of fat (most of it heart-healthy monounsaturated fats) (MacMillan, 2015). This makes them less calorie dense than other nuts such as macadamia nuts, which contain 200 calories but only 2 grams of protein per ounce. Thus, eating cashews is an excellent snack choice for people following a low-calorie or high-protein diet.
Eating Cashews Could Boost Your Immune System
In addition to containing high amounts of copper, cashews are a great source of zinc (WH Foods, 2014). Failing to get enough zinc compromises your immune system functioning, since this mineral is important for the development of immune system cells, production of antioxidant enzymes and activity of immune system regulators (Ho, 2013). Each 1-ounce serving of cashews provides 1.6 mg of zinc, helping you advance toward your recommended daily target of 11 mg for men and 8 mg for women. In numerous studies, boosting zinc intake has been associated with a healthier immune response, meaning that cashews could help you fight off your next cold (Ho, 2013).
Cashews Are an Excellent Source of Antioxidants
antioxidants, the compounds that counteract oxidative damage in the cell. Antioxidants sweep through the cell, neutralizing free radicals that can cause cellular damage. Some of the most potent antioxidants include vitamins E and K. Cashews contain both of the vitamins, helping your body fight off oxidative damage.
Cashews Contain No Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a waxy compound that accumulates in the blood, leading to plaque that can restrict cardiovascular functioning. Avoiding cholesterol in your diet can be a healthy choice that promotes optimal blood circulation. Cashews contain no cholesterol, making them an extraordinarily heart-healthy choice.
Eating Cashews Lowers Your Risk of Gallstones
Gallstones are made up of hardened cholesterol or a compound called bilirubin, and they can be extremely painful. In a study of more than 80,000 women, eating nuts such as cashews was associated with a 25 percent lower risk of developing gallstones (Ros, 2010). Thus, enjoying cashews every day could lower your risk of painful gallstones.