Health Benefits of Cashews

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on August 28, 2023
4 min read

We often think of them as nuts. But cashews are the seeds of cashew apples, which grow in trees native to Central and South America as well as several Caribbean islands.

When they're freshly picked, the shell that holds the cashew has a toxic oil that can cause blisters on your skin, like poison ivy. The shells are treated with heat, then removed to get to the nut inside. This is why cashews are never sold in the shell, and one reason they can be expensive. 

 The cashew is beloved around the world because it has a rich flavor and many uses. They're popular as a snack, topping, as cashew butter, and in dairy replacements.

What is cashew butter?

Cashew butter is a spread made from cashews. The process includes roasting cashews for 10-15 minutes, then grinding them until they release oil and take on a creamy texture. Extra oil can be added to help with the texture.

What is cashew cream?

Cashew "cream" is a nondairy cream substitute made from cashews. It's often used in place of heavy cream or sour cream in dishes such as soups and desserts. You make it by soaking and draining cashews, then blending them with the leftover water to create the creamy liquid.

Rich in protein, healthy fats, and antioxidants such as polyphenols, cashews offer several health benefits:

Reduced cholesterol

Cashews have had a bad reputation for containing saturated fat. But much of the fat in cashews comes from stearic acids, which experts think have little effect on blood cholesterol. Research suggests that people who eat a small serving of cashews every day may see a small reduction in LDL "bad" cholesterol. 

Heart disease prevention

Not only can they lower bad cholesterol, cashews may help prevent heart disease due to their high magnesium content. Getting enough magnesium may reduce your risk of ischemic heart disease, which happens when your heart doesn't get enough blood.

Stroke prevention

The magnesium in cashews may help reduce the risk of stroke. This link is thought to be strongest for hemorrhagic strokes, which happen when a weakened blood vessel ruptures and spills blood into the brain.

Diabetes prevention or management

Cashews are low in carbohydrates, especially compared to many other common snacks. This limits their impact on blood sugar, making them a good choice for people with type 2 diabetes, as well as for those looking to prevent the condition.

Cashews are rich in healthy fats, including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated types. They're also a good source of protein. That's one reason they're popular with many vegans and vegetarians.

Cashews are also a good source of:

  • Magnesium
  • Manganese
  • Phosphorus
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin K

Nutrients per serving

A 1-ounce serving of cashews contains:

  • Calories: 165
  • Protein: 5 grams
  • Fat: 11 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 10 grams
  • Fiber: Less than 1 gram
  • Sugar: about 2 grams

Things to look out for

Cashews are high in calories, so keep portion size in mind. They can cause serious reactions in people who are allergic to them.

You can get cashews year-round at nearly all grocery stores and in many specialty food shops. You can buy them roasted or "raw." Raw cashews are processed with steam to remove their hard shell.

If you buy them in bulk, transfer them to an airtight container when you get home. Keep them away from high heat. Room temperature is OK for short-term storage. For longer time frames, keep them in the fridge or freezer. 

Whether you eat them on their own or use them in cooking, they have a delightfully nutty flavor and a satisfying crunch. 

Here are a few easy ways to include cashews in meals and snacks:

  • Combine them with dried fruit, chocolate chips, and nuts to create trail mix.
  • Toss cashews with romaine lettuce, tomatoes, and a hint of olive oil for a healthy and satisfying salad.
  • Add them to a wrap featuring chicken, mustard, and mayonnaise. 
  • Combine cashews 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 them with yogurt, granola, and fruit in a tasty parfait.
  • Prepare them with rice, soy sauce, chicken, and red pepper flakes in a slow cooker.
  • Toss cashews with lo mein noodles coated in oyster sauce and soy sauce.

Cashew milk is made the same way as almond milk but has a more earthy flavor. First, the cashews are shelled and roasted. Next, they're soaked in filtered water. From there, they're ground into a paste, then blended with water. Liquid created while straining this pulp forms the final product.

Because of its thick texture, it works well for drinking or in cereal. You can also use cashew milk in baking or many other recipes.

Cashew milk nutrition

Nutrients in cashew milk vary. With some brands, one cup of unsweetened cashew milk has:

  • 25 calories
  • Less than 1 gram of protein
  • 2 grams of fat
  • 1 gram of carbohydrates
  • 0 grams of fiber
  • 0 grams of sugar