Superfood 101: Cashews!

This slightly sweet, buttery nut is one of my favorites. I love popping a bunch of raw cashews in the oven and then lightly toasting them for an afternoon snack. I also like to sprinkle them on cereal or anything that needs a crunch. 

Cashews have always been seen as an “expensive” nut. If you don’t believe me…try taking all the cashews out of a nut bowl — you’ll get yelled at. Though they are great on their own or lightly toasted, cashews are excellent to use in raw desserts and vegan recipes. Soaking these crescent-shaped nuts in water for a few hours and then blending them with a high-speed blender will leave you with a creamy base that can be used as a cheese substitute, whipped cream, salad dressing, or even a raw cheesecake. One of my favorite things to make with cashews is a mock Caesar dressing with soaked cashews, lemon juice, salt, garlic, and dulse flakes. It seriously almost tastes like the real thing. 

Cashews are also considered more of a seed than a nut since they grow out of an apple-like fruit called “cashew apples.” They’re technically a tree nut, though, so it’s important to stay away from them if you are allergic. It’s worth extra caution if you’re allergic to other nuts, too. 

They taste absolutely delicious, but there’s more to cashews than just their high status in the nut mix…they also have a ton of health benefits.

Health Benefits of Cashews

1. Provide Healthy Fat

One of the great things about cashews is that it is high in “healthy fats,” or “unsaturated fats.” About 62% of a cashew’s fat content is monounsaturated, 18% polyunsaturated and a very small amount of saturated. So the next time you’re reaching for a “high in saturated fat” cheese sauce, try a cashew substitute instead. Since unsaturated fats are better for you than saturated, cashews are considered to be beneficial towards the prevention of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Try swapping in nuts to satisfy your fat cravings and see how much better you feel! 

2. Prevent Gallstones

Since cashews can lower cholesterol, they are directly correlated with prevention of gallstones. Gallstones are formed when too much cholesterol is present in the body. The cholesterol hardens with calcium in the liver and thus creates gallstones. Snack on cashews to keep that cholesterol low and in check. 

3. Support Brain Function

Cashews are considered a “brain food” due to their high contents of essential fatty acids (EFAs) as well as trace minerals such as copper and zinc. Walnuts seem to get all the glory when it comes to “brain foods,” but cashews are basically just as good! Get at least a handful in per day to really reap the benefits of this powerful nut. 

4. Prevent Diabetes

In a recent study, cashew extract was found to improve the body’s response to its own insulin, making it a viable treatment for patients with diabetes. Out of all the extracts tested, cashew was the only one that significantly stimulated absorption of blood sugar by the muscle cells. Keep cashews on hand to keep blood sugar in check. Tree nuts in general are considered to be healthy for diabetes due to the unsaturated fat. Anytime you can replace your high fat, oily snacks with some roasted nuts, is going to be way better for you in the long run. 

5. Prevent Cancer

In a study, 829 patients were surveyed in their cashew consumption. Those who reported 2-3 servings per week were found to have a 46 percent lower risk of their cancer returning as well as a 53 percent lower risk of dying. These stats are intriguing to say the least. Although the study was purely “observational,” it was telling as to what a huge difference a few servings of cashews made. 

6. Maintain Eye Health

Cashews contain a chemical called zea-xanthin which is a compound that helps to prevent age-related macular de-generation as well as protect against light damage. Keep cashews in rotation if you want to see well into your old age.