Satisfying as a snack, a topping, or in sauces and butter, the cashew is beloved all around the world for its versatility and its rich flavor.
Many people eat cashews on a regular basis without understanding their origins. The nut may seem raw and natural when sold as a snack, but in its freshly-picked form, it's actually toxic. It cannot be safely consumed until it has been roasted.
Even after necessary heat treatment, the cashew's exterior must be removed to access the tasty product inside. This labor-intensive process accounts not only for the cashew's high price, but also for its prized status even among similar nuts.
Cashews are native to Central and South America, as well as several Caribbean Islands. In these places, they have been enjoyed for thousands of years.
Europeans encountered the nut during the late 1500s. After that, they quickly spread to India and parts of Africa. They did not become popular in the United States until the General Food Corporation began shipping them in bulk during the 1920s. Today, however, Americans are among the world's most dedicated cashew consumers.
Rich in protein, healthy fats, and antioxidants such as polyphenols, cashews offer a variety of noteworthy health benefits.
Cashews have previously received a bad rap for including saturated fat, but this may not be as problematic as the saturated label suggests. Much of the fat in cashews comes from stearic acids, which experts believe has a neutral impact on blood cholesterol. Research suggests that people who eat a small serving of cashews every day see a minor reduction in LDL "bad" cholesterol.
Heart Disease Prevention
In addition to lowering rates of LDL cholesterol, cashews may help to prevent heart disease due to their high magnesium content. Proper magnesium intake may reduce the risk of ischemic heart disease, which often occurs when the heart does not receive enough blood.
The magnesium in cashews may help to reduce the risk of stroke. This link is most notable for hemorrhagic strokes, which result from a weakened vessel that spills blood into brain tissue upon rupturing.
Diabetes Prevention or Management
Cashews are low in carbohydrates, especially as compared to other common snacks. This limits their impact on blood sugar, making them a great option for those with type 2 diabetes, as well as those looking to prevent the condition.
Cashews are a wonderful source of healthy fats, including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated varieties. These nuts are also a modest source of protein. For this reason, they are often heavily featured in the diets of vegetarians and vegans.
Cashews are also an excellent source of:
Nutrients per Serving
A one-ounce serving of cashews contains:
- Calories: 165
- Protein: Less than 1 gram
- Fat: 14 grams
- Carbohydrates: 9 grams
- Fiber: Less than 1 gram
- Sugar: 1 gram
Things to Look Out For
Cashews are high in calories and therefore best enjoyed in moderation. Keep in mind when serving these nuts that they may cause severe allergic reactions for some people.
How to Prepare Cashews
Cashews are available on a year-round basis at nearly all grocery stores and co-ops. They can also be found in many specialty food shops.
If purchased in bulk, cashews should be transferred to an airtight container. No matter how they're stored, they should be kept away from significant sources of heat. Room temperature is acceptable for short-term storage. On a long-term basis, cashews can be kept in the fridge or freezer.
While often enjoyed on their own as a snack, cashews can also be incorporated into a variety of meals. They provide not only a delightfully nutty flavor but also a satisfying crunch. This makes them an excellent option for adding texture to several dishes and baked goods.
Here are a few convenient ways to include cashews in your favorite meals and snacks:
- Combine cashews with dried fruit, chocolate chips, and other nuts to create a trail mix.
- Toss cashews with romaine lettuce, tomatoes, and a hint of olive oil for a healthy and satisfying salad.
- Add to a wrap featuring cubed chicken, mustard, and mayonnaise.
- Combine with coconut, maple syrup, and rolled oats. Mix these ingredients before baking to form granola.
- Sprinkle salted cashews on top of roasted green beans.
- Enjoy with yogurt, granola, and fruit in a tasty parfait.
- Prepare with rice, soy sauce, chicken, and red pepper flakes in a slow cooker.
- Toss with lo mein noodles coated in oyster sauce and soy sauce.