Cashew nuts health benefits
Cashews are a kidney-shaped seed sourced from the cashew tree Anacardium occidentale, a tropical tree native to South Africa specifically Brazil but now cultivated in various warm climates across the world like Asia and India.
Cashew nuts are popular as a snack (appetizer), they are sold both raw or roasted and salted and unsalted.
They have recently been used to make dairy alternatives such as cashew milk, cashew based cream sauces, and sour cream.
They are rich in nutrients and beneficial plant compounds and make for easy addition to many dishes.
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been able to give us a national nutrient database for 1 ounce of cashew (28.35 grams). It contains;
|Total fat||12.43 grams|
|Calcium||10 milligrams (mg)|
Cashews also contain Vitamin C and B, including 7 micrograms (mcg) of DFE (Dietary Folate Equivalent). They are rich in unsaturated fats- a category of fats linked to reducing the risk of premature death and heart disease.
They are also low in sugar content and fiber content. They are a great source of magnesium, potassium and calcium which are important nutrients for bone health.
BENEFICIAL PLANT COMPOUNDS
Cashew nuts are rich in antioxidant content. Antioxidants are very beneficial plant compounds that neutralize damage-causing molecules known as free radicals in the body.
This in turn helped reduce inflammation and boost the immune system performance. The antioxidants are polyphenols and carotenoids and have been linked to help lower levels of oxidative cell damage.
This may be particularly true for roasted cashew because they appear to have an increased antioxidant activity compared with their raw counterparts.
BENEFITS OF CASHEWS
Generally, consuming a high portion of plant based foods are very healthy for the body as they reduce the risk of many lifestyle related health conditions.
- Cashew nuts may help you lose weight: Although cashew nuts and nuts generally are rich in calories and healthy far. Its ability to cause weight gain or weight loss is dependent on the amount you are adding to your diet.
However, some upcoming research is beginning to link nut- rich diets to greater weight loss and overall lower body weights than nut-free diets.
According to the food data central database of the United States department of agriculture (USDA), cashews provide 157 calories from 1 ounce (28 grams) serving.
However, recent research has suggested that the human body only gets to digest and absorb around 80% of these calories.
This is because a portion of fat that was to be absorbed during digestion remains trapped within the cashew’s fibrous wall.
Grinding or roasting cashew nuts before eating them may help the body to fully digest them which in turn increases the amount of calories absorbed.
This suggests that weight loss benefits are more associated with whole, raw cashews although more research is needed to confirm this. Plus you may also be missing out on the increased antioxidant benefit that comes with roasting your nuts.
Another study has also shown us that since nuts are rich in fiber and protein and since fibers are not easily digested in the body.
They stay in the stomach for a longer period promoting feelings of fullness and reducing hunger which will prevent you from taking in more food while they burn the old fat content in the stomach thereby promoting weight loss.
- Boost heart health: Cashew nuts and other diets that include nuts have been linked to lower risk of diseases such as stroke and heart diseases. They are rich in phytosterols, oleic compounds and phenolic compounds which could be extremely beneficial to the heart.
The monosaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids found in cashews can help decrease LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglyceride levels. This helps in reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases, heart attack and stroke.
A few studies have focused on the specific heart health benefits of cashews.
A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition showed that the risk of coronary heart disease maybe 37 percent lower in people who consume nuts more than four times per week compared with people who never consume nuts.
Another study found out that people with type 2 diabetes who consume 10% of their daily calories from cashew had lower LDL (bad) cholesterol to HDL (good) cholesterol ratios than those who didn’t eat cashews at all.
A low LDL to HDL ratio is typically seen as a marker of good heart health.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a health claim for food labels that “eating 1.5 oz per day of most nuts as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of a heart disease”.
Cashews are a good source of magnesium which is involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body.
These reactions include; metabolism of food and the synthesis of fatty acids and proteins, muscle relaxation and neuromuscular transmission.
Deficiency in magnesium has been linked to coronary heart disease, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance and osteoporosis.
- Lowers blood pressure: Cashews are recommended for people with type 2 diabetes because they have shown to be helpful in the reduction of blood pressure.
According to a 12 weeks study conducted on Asian Indians with type 2 diabetes.
The consumption of cashew nuts helped reduce systolic blood pressure and increase HDL (good) cholesterol without having any negative effect on the body weight, glycemia or other lipid variables.
Cashews also contain an amino acid called L- arginine which also plays a role in blood pressure reduction.
- Decreases blood sugar level: Cashew nuts have been reported to reduce blood sugar level in people especially those with type 2 diabetes.
This is because they are a good source of fiber, a nutrient that helps prevent blood sugar spikes and is believed to offer protection against type 2-diabetes.
A study has shown that 10 percent of people with type 2 diabetes who acquired their daily calories from eating cashews had lower insulin levels- a marker of blood sugar control, than those who did not eat cashews at all.
Moreover, cashews only contain 8 grams of net carbs per ounce of which less than 2 grams come from sugars.
Net carbs refer to the total amount of carbs in food minus the amount of fiber it contains providing a value for the net amount of carbs that the body can absorb.
Substituting foods higher in net carbs and sugar with cashews are likely to help reduce blood sugar levels.
Cashews are also rich in polyphenols which can help improve the gut microbiome and reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Helps in immune-boosting: Cashew nuts are rich in zinc which is an immune boosting compound vital for basic cell processes such as cell division, transcription and regulation.
Taking cashew regularly can help you reach the recommended daily allowance for zinc.
- An excellent source of antioxidants: Cashew are considered healthy nuts as they are rich in antioxidants such as polyphenols and carotenoids which help to lower or prevent cell damage caused by oxidative stress. Cashew milk is also rich in plant sterols which are natural antioxidants that boost the immune system and prevent chronic disease occurrence.
- May help strengthen bones: Cashew nuts are rich in protein and minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium which helps in the formation and building of stronger bones. Therefore, adding cashew to your diet may help strengthen your bones.
- May prevent Cancer: General studies have proven that regular consumption of nuts reduces the risk of cancer. Cashew nuts are high in selenium content which can help prevent cancer from developing in the body.
CASHEW NUTS HEALTH BENEFITS TO MALES
A lot of research has been able to prove that a diet rich with nuts could improve the quality, quantity and motility of sperm cells. Consuming a diet with 60 grams of nuts could be very effective for men’s reproductive health.
The research showed that eating nuts can boost sperm count by nearly 20 percent.
Sperm vitality by 5 percent, sperm motility by 6 percent and morphology by 1 percent. Nuts can also significantly reduce the level of sperm DNA fragmentation, a parameter closely associated with infertility in the male gender.
Also, cashew nuts are rich in zinc which helps in increasing fertility in men. Deficiency in zinc can affect the testosterone level and decrease sperm count.
HOW TO EAT CASHEWS IN A HEALTHY WAY
Cashews are very healthy nuts and adding them to your diet is totally safe but they are key points to note while doing so and also things to avoid to make sure you’re not missing out on all the benefits of having them in your diet.
Cashew nuts that are roasted or salted contain high levels of salt and oils. For this reason, you should opt for unsalted dry roasted nuts.
Studies have proven that roasted cashew nuts have higher levels of antioxidant than raw cashew. Consider roasting raw cashews yourself unsalted and without extra oils.
You can do this by spreading your nuts on a baking tray and dry roast them at 350F (188C) in your oven for 8- 15 minutes. Remember to stir the cashews at regular intervals to prevent them from burning.
Cashews also contain phytates which can cause the body to experience difficulties when trying to absorb the minerals and vitamins the cashew contains.
To prevent this from happening, soak your nuts overnight before making use of them as this will help reduce the phytate content and improve digestion.
Cashew milk an extract from cashew is a healthy and nutrient-rich alternative to cow/buffalo milk.
It is popular among vegans and people suffering from lactose intolerance. Since cashews contain many essential fatty acids, minerals, vitamins and plant sterols, you can reap their nutritional benefits by consuming cashew milk or cashew cream.
SIDE EFFECTS OF CASHEWS
Unprocessed cashews or raw cashews should be consumed only after removing the outer shell as it contain a substance known as urushiol. Urushiol is toxic and contact with it can trigger a skin reaction in some people.
People who are allergic to nuts should consult a doctor before having cashews because they could cause severe immune responses in such cases. These severe conditions could include;
- Anaphylaxis: Research has found that an extreme reaction to cashews can lead to a fatal condition called anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency where the person develops symptoms such as swelling of the tongue, difficulty in breathing and swallowing and loss of consciousness.
- Contact dermatitis: One of the skin allergies that can develop. It is manifested by itchy skin, swelling, and hives due to contact with urushiol oil found in cashew outer shell.
- Gastrointestinal discomfort: People allergic to cashews can show symptoms such as coughing, nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea.
QUANTITY OF CASHEWS YOU SHOULD EAT A DAY
Cashew nuts are very healthy to the body but can pose some health risks if consumed too much. Knowing the right amount of cashew nuts to eat in a day will help you maintain a healthy diet and avoid some potential risks.
Cashews are high in proteins, antioxidants, magnesium, iron and selenium which play major roles in the body. But like every other nut, there are limitations in its consumption.
Eating 15 cashews which is almost 30 grams in a day will be just fine. Experts recommend only 4 to 5 cashew nuts in a day for people who are avoiding weight gain as cashew nuts are high in calories.
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU CONSUME A LOT OF CASHEW NUTS EVERYDAY
- The first thing you will probably experience is a lot of weight gain because cashews contain lots of calories.
- People with kidney stones are not recommended to consume a lot of cashew nuts because they contain oxalates. Although the oxalates content in cashew nuts are lower as compared to other nuts. Excess consumption will increase your total daily intake of oxalate which may accelerate kidney stone formation.
- Also, people with cashew allergies may experience a severe medical condition called “Anaphylaxis” if they consume too much of cashew nuts.
Cashew nuts are one healthy kind of nut containing a lot of minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, proteins, healthy fat and health-protective beneficial plant compounds.
Their benefits include boosting heart health, weight loss management, lowers blood pressure, lowers blood sugar level and may other benefits as mentioned above.
For this reason, including cashew nuts and other cashew products like cashew milk and cashew cream can give you access to all the nutritional benefits associated with cashews.
Cashew nuts may have some side effects which are mostly linked to consuming it in excess or not eating it the healthy way.
The allergies associated with cashew nuts are quite risky so consult a doctor before including it into your diet if you have allergies to cashew nuts or nuts generally.