What are the Nutritional Facts of Cashews?

Here's everything you need to know about the delicious cashew nuts, its history, where it comes from, health benefits, and are they good for dogs.

Cashews are one of the most recognizable nuts in the world. They have a distinct shape and a distinct flavor. They’re salty and savory, great in desserts or in trail mix…and they’re all a huge lie. That’s right. Because cashew nuts aren’t nuts at all. They’re seeds. And the nutritional benefits and health benefits you think they have might be all wrong, too.

Related: Peanuts | Brazil Nuts | Pine Nuts | Chestnuts | Macadamia Nuts | Types of Nuts

What are Cashews and Where Do They Come From?

Cashews are often thoughts of as a type of tree nut and they’re often grouped together with other tree nuts, such as peanuts and almonds. They’re actually the seeds of the cashew tree. This is a tropical tree that’s native to Brazil and the rest of South America. Early colonists to the New World, the Americas, introduced these nuts to Arica and India. From here, they spread around the world.

Fresh red cashews growing in a tree.

The nuts are prized because they have a slightly sweet taste and a somewhat soft consistency. They’re easy to eat and packed with natural flavor. Cashew nuts, rich in oil and tasty, have become a key component in a lot of Asian cuisines. They’re commonly added to Indian dishes.

The wood from the cashew tree also has a lot o commercial value, making the tree a valuable commodity even without its nuts.

Cashews are always sold without shells. This is because the oil that is produced in cashew nuts is a skin irritant that causes an allergic reaction. In fact, many cashews that are sold commercially are roasted in order to remove the oil that may harm your skin. Even if you purchase raw cashews, it is likely they have been boiled or otherwise treated to remove all the oils.

However, even processes like this won’t remove all traces of the natural nut oil produced by cashews. People who are extremely sensitive to poison ivy and poison oak should avoid touching raw cashews with their bare skin. The oil produced by cashews is similar to the oil produced by these “poison” plants.

Cashew nuts grow out of what’s known as a cashew apple, which looks like a piece of fruit that does resemble red apples. However, this isn’t a fruit but the swollen end of the stem of the cashew tree. The “cashew apple” and nuts appear in the winter. Once the tree fruit turns gray or the nut falls to the ground, the cashew seeds (nuts) are ready to be harvested. To harvest nuts, they are simply twisted off the cashew fruit or picked up by hand.

A person harvesting a cashew fruit.

Every cashew nut must be stored in a cool, dry place until it can be shelled and processed. Cashew nuts can be stored in this fashion for up to two years without going bad. Cashews must be shelled and processed for eating carefully because of that harmful oil that is produced by the nut. You must wear safety clothing while cashew processing, including gloves and goggles.

Cashew nuts are roasted outside. This is necessary because the nuts release fumes that are harmful. Place the nuts in a pan. Cover it with a lid or fill it with sand or water until the nuts are completely covered. As the nuts heat up, the dangerous liquid inside of them will leak out inside the pan. The sand absorbs this harmful liquid, or the water diffuses it, depending on the method you use.

A close look at cashew nuts being roasted in their shells.

Let the nuts roast this way on low heat for 10 to 20 minutes. Once they’re roasted, leave your protective gear on and wash each nut thoroughly in non-toxic soap and water. Once all this is done, the nuts can be cracked open so the cashew kernel inside can be retrieved. Nuts can then be roasted, boiled, or soaked to remove traces of oil and prepare them for eating.

Because each raw cashew nut is so thoroughly processed and because most of the processing is done entirely by hand, these nuts are pretty pricey at the supermarket. You’ve probably already noticed how expensive cashews are since they’re a popular food and dessert ingredient.

A pair of gloved hands processing the cashew nut.

There are machines that are designed to remove the shell from cashews but the machines are expensive to run and maintain and they’re not perfect. Cashew nuts don’t grow in one specific size. They’re natural seeds so their size fluctuates slightly and the shell isn’t always uniformly perfect. This means that hand processing cashew nuts are still the best method, despite its expense.

Cashew Nutrition Information

Cashews are a rich source of protein, minerals, and vitamins. Like the tree nuts they are often compared to, however, cashews are somewhat high in calories and fat. An ounce of unroasted, unsalted cashews, which is about 28 grams, contains 157 calories and 12 grams of fat.

This serving size, which is about 18 whole cashews, has five grams of protein and one grand of fiber, along with nine grams of carbs. An ounce of cashews has copper, manganese, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, iron, and vitamins C, K, and B6.

The cashew is naturally rich in saturated fat. This is a healthy fat that helps lower your risk of premature death and heart disease. Cashews are low in sugar and high in protein, something your body needs. The minerals and fatty acids in cashews give you energy, promote healthy brain function, and help keep your immune system strong. The manganese, magnesium, and copper in cashews promote healthy bones, too.

A person taking a picture of his food before eating.

All nuts and seeds are rich in antioxidants, which help to reduce inflammation and generally keep you healthier. Nut-rich diets have been found to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Considering how tasty the cashew nut is, adding more of them to your diet in order to stay healthy doesn’t seem like a great loss.

Eating cashews may reduce your risk of gallbladder surgery, according to some studies. In other words, cashews are very good for your health in many different ways. They can help prevent your risk of many different kinds of diseases and help reduce other health risk factors. That’s a lot of good health benefits from one nut.

Of course, all this nutrition info for the cashew only matters when you’re eating raw cashews. If you want to talk about roasted cashews instead, everything ends up changing. Toasted or roasted nuts of any kind are considered to be a tasty treat but they’re also far less healthy than simply enjoying raw cashews when it comes to nut consumption.

How to Roast Cashews

If you’re still craving roasted cashews and you don’t mind losing a little of their nutritional value, don’t buy cashew nut varieties that have already been roasted. Learn how to rost cashews on your own so you can control the amount of oil and salt you add to them.

The problem with roasted cashews is that they can be high in sodium and fats. You can cut back on these negative aspects of the snack by roasting your own cashews if you want to use them in a recipe, enjoy them as a light snack or use them as an ingredient in baked goods.

Spread cashews evenly on a baking sheet and roast them right in the oven at 350 degrees F. Let them roast for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring them every three to five minutes.

Once your cashews have cooled, they can be eaten alone as a tasty treat or added to recipes. They’re a great addition to hot cereals, yogurt, salads, or as an addition to vegetable dishes and soups. Heat them with soy sauce and spices to make a cashew nut sauce that goes beautifully with meat, fish, vegetables, or grains, such as rice.

Comparing Chasews to Other Nuts

A close look at walnuts, cashew and green peas.

So how do cashew nuts compare to other types of nuts, such as peanuts, walnuts, and pistachios? Peanuts contain vitamins B3, B5, and E, just like cashews. They have fiber, calcium, and potassium. Cashews have more minerals and less sodium than peanuts. Cashews are lower in sugar and saturated fats, but not in price.

In the battle of cashews vs. walnuts, cashews contain more iron, potassium, magnesium, copper, zinc, and phosphorus than walnuts, but less sodium and calcium. Walnuts contain more of some vitamins, including C, A, B2, and B6. Walnuts are lower in sugars than cashews, which are lower in price than walnuts.

When you compare almonds and cashews, you find that almonds have a higher dietary fiber content. Almonds are particularly rich in vitamins E and B2 and have a slightly different mineral and vitamin composition than cashews.

Are pistachios or cashews healthier? Well, cashews have more iron, copper, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorus, but pistachios have more calcium and potassium. Pistachios have a higher vitamin content than cashews, providing more Vitamins C, A, E, B1, B2, B3, and B6 than cashew nuts. Cashews are higher in fats, sodium, and price than pistachios. Cashews, almonds, and pistachios are the lowest in calories of all the nuts that are commonly sold and eaten.

Are Cashews Bad for You or Good for You?

The cashew nut may actually be a seed, but people who suffer from nut allergies still cannot consume cashews. People who have a nut allergy can experience several symptoms, including gastrointestinal problems such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting. the allergy can also cause shortness of breath, trouble swallowing, an itchy mouth and/or throat, and a runny nose.

Cashews, like all nuts, contain phytates. This compound makes foods more difficult to digest. This can cause an upset stomach and other symptoms after you eat many raw cashews. Prevent this by soaking nuts first. This helps leach out the phytates so that the nuts are easier for your body to digest and absorb.

Cashew nuts are not typically harmful to dogs. It’s always a good idea to ask if a certain nut is harmful to dogs before you have a bunch of them laying around the house because macadamia nuts are extremely toxic to dogs. Cashews, however, are safe for your fur babies.

A woman feeding nuts to her dog.

However, that doesn’t mean you should start feeding them cashews. Because these nuts are so rich in fat, it’s not a good idea for dogs to consume them. Also, dogs can also be allergic to certain foods just like people and yes, some dogs can have a nut allergy.

So what is the final verdict? Are cashews good or bad for you? The cashew is a highly nutritious nut that’s relatively low in calories, compared to other nuts. Incorporating the cashew nut into your diet can improve your overall health and decrease your risk of disease, but only when this nut is eaten in moderation.

Cashews are low in calories for a type of nut but all nuts are somewhat high in calories and fats, which means that eating a lot of them frequently is not good for you. But in moderation and used as part of a healthy diet, cashews can do a lot to keep you healthy and lean.

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