Everyone’s got almonds on the brain…and I love em too… but let’s shine a light on the lesser loved but equally awesome cashews.
What exactly are the health benefits of cashews?
Cashews are a nut with tons of health benefits; and these crescent-shaped nuts have a delicate creamy, and subtly sweet taste that is super versatile in a plant-centred kitchen. Read on, my friend.
Yes, there is protein in cashews
Nuts can have a varying amount of protein, and while not the highest in the family, cashews provide about 6 grams of protein per quarter cup (60ml).
Protein helps stabilize blood sugars and keep us energized throughout the day, while it supports the immune system, and cellular repair.
So cashews are a great addition to a plant-based meal, or an excellent healthy snack to help stave off those 3 PM crashes.
Yes, there are carbs in cashews
One quarter cup of cashews contains almost 10g of carbs, which, if you are on a ketogenic diet means that cashews are off the table. And if you are not on a ketogenic diet, DO NOT FOR A SECOND WORRY ABOUT THE CARBS IN NUTS. You want your carbs from whole foods, yo.
Vitamins and minerals in cashews
Cashews, while not exceptionally high in fibre or vitamins, contain a pretty impressive mineral profile; for those on a more plant-based diet, getting multiple mineral sources into your day is super important.
A quarter cup of cashews contains a little over:
- 2mg of iron
- 96mg of magnesium
- 218mg of potassium
It also contains almost 2mg of zinc, which is critical for immune function and healing. Cashews also contain 0.72mg of copper, which is a critical mineral for building red blood cells and feeling energized. Doesn’t sound like a lot? It’s 80% of a woman’s daily intake.
There is also some vitamin E for healthy skin too.
Heart health and cashews
Your heart is your most important muscle; so give it a little nutty love. Studies suggest that tree nut intake, which include cashews, lowers triglyceride, total and LDL cholesterol levels, which are all known to increase risk of heart disease.
About 70% of the fat in cashews is mono- and poly-unsaturated fats, which have are known for their heart-protective qualities.
Bone health and cashews
Cashews contain two bone-loving minerals— about 30% of the magnesium and phosphorous you need in a day.
These two minerals are abundantly found in bones and work together with calcium to support the formation of strong and healthy bones. If you lack any of these minerals, you can be at a higher risk for osteoporosis, where your bones become fragile and can cause more fractures, especially at older age.
Even if that seems so far away for you, now is the time to protect your future bones.
All the ways you can cook with cashews
- Cashews are so delicious on their own as a snack, but chopped raw cashews are a delicious crunchy topper for salads, stir fries and soups.
- You can also toast them with spices for a delicious snack mix. I love 101 Cookbook’s Turmeric Cashews
- Since cashews are so creamy, I cannot live without them to create non-dairy creams and cheeses in my plant-based kitchen. First you soak them for up to 4 hours, then you blend with a varying amount of water (start with 3 parts cashew to 2 parts water and add more water to adjust thickness) to create a cream. Then, you can turn that cream into a pasta sauce, a queso, a chia pudding or a cheesecake.
- Chopped cashews are surprisingly delicious in a nut salsa (sounds funny, but Google it!!)
- Cashews can also be thrown into a smoothie, rendering it super creamy.
Where do cashews come from, and how do they grow?
Cashews are a true tree nut, not a legume, that originated from Brazil and was spread to other tropical countries like India by the Portuguese. A large portion of the world’s cashew supply comes from India.
Cashews grow out of the bottom of a fruit called a cashew apple. Getting it out of the shell is incredibly laborious and done by hand. It needs to be dried, then frozen and steamed…and the shell is filled with carol and anacardic acid, that can burn skin. Yep, for real.
There are reports that some farm owners do not provide basic protective equipment (AKA gloves) for the workers (often women) so there is a huge social aspect to making your cashew selection.
If you can afford to buy cashews, which are already kinda pricey, I recommend buying Fair-Trade varieties. When I tried to connect with a few companies on Instagram about the issue, Prana – a company I’ve loved for years – confirmed that they take the proper measures to ensure farm workers are protected.
In Vancouver, we also have Nut Hut, which has ethical cashews. And if ethical cashews are too pricey, you might be surprised to know you can make some awesome creams with sunflower seeds too. Super cheap, and you can avoid the whole acid burn thing.
So, you tell me…are cashews good for you? I’d give it a heck yes.
Just make the ethical choice.
A big thank you to Gloria Sun for her help in putting this article together!