Delicious and crunchy, cashew nuts are a popular snack as well as a healthy source of food. These kidney shaped nuts are formed in the cashew tree (Anacardium occidentale), which is a native to the coastal regions of northeastern Brazil. However, nowadays they are grown in many tropical countries like India, Southeast Asia and Africa. Cashew nuts are actually seeds of the cashew apple and are found attached to the bottom of the fruit. The outer shell of the nut is inedible and has to be removed. The shell contains phenolic resin which is an allergenic and skin irritant.
Processing of cashew nuts
The cashew tree bears its fruits called cashew apples. Cashew nut grows as an extension of these fruits. The nuts can be found hanging from the underside of the cashew apples. The cashew apples come in different colors like yellow, orange and red. They are edible, tasty and used in the manufacture of juice, wine, jellies and jams.
The processing of cashew nuts is rather complex and intensive. The nuts that fall down are collected every day. Once you have collected the nuts, they are removed from the cashew apples. They are then cleaned to remove all impurities. The nuts are then roasted which makes it easy for the shells to be cracked open. Once the shell is cracked you get the portion of the cashew nut that is edible. But there is an outer skin on these nuts that also has to be removed. In many countries these processes are done carefully by hand.
Nutritional value of cashew nuts
Cashew nut is a highly healthy and nutritious food that provides us with considerable amount of energy. It is a rich source of protein, carbohydrates, fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Being cholesterol free, cashew nuts are heart healthy too. These nuts contain monounsaturated fat that increases the good cholesterol level in your blood. A 100 gram serving of cashew nuts contains 30.19 grams of carbohydrates, 18.22 grams of protein, 3.3 grams of fiber, 5.91 grams of sugar, 43.85 grams of fat (total fat), 553 kilocalories, 5.31 mg of vitamin E, 37 mg of calcium, 6.68 mg of iron, 593 mg of phosphorus, 292 mg of magnesium, 660 mg of potassium, 5.78 mg of zinc, 0.42 mg of thiamine, 1.06 mg of niacin, and 0.06 mg of riboflavin.
Health benefits of cashew nuts
Not only are cashew nuts fabulously tasty, they also provide you with an array of nutritional benefits that allow you to lead a healthy life. Some of the health benefits of cashew nuts are listed below.
Cashew nuts protect your heart
Cashew nuts are heart healthy as they contain no cholesterol. It contains unsaturated fatty acids like oleic acid that increases the level of good cholesterol (HDL) and reduces the triglyceride levels in your blood. It also improves blood circulation and ensures normal functioning of your cardiovascular system. The antioxidants in cashew nuts help to lower your risk of heart diseases.
Improve your bone strength with cashew nuts
It is a well known fact that calcium and magnesium are two minerals that play a vital role in maintaining healthy bones. Inadequate amounts of magnesium in your body can lead to problems like high blood pressure, migraine attacks, fatigue, tension, and muscle cramps. Cashew nuts are a rich source of magnesium and calcium, and so their regular consumption guarantees you strong and healthy bones and teeth.
Cashew nuts and cancer
Cashew nuts contain proanthocyanidins, which is a type of flavonol that has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It is found to prevent the growth and reproduction of cancer causing cells. Cashew nuts also contain significant amount of copper that helps in lowering your risks of developing colon cancer.
Cashew nuts promote weight loss
A common notion among people is that eating cashew nuts can lead to weight gain. However, contrary to this belief, it has been found that this super food can actually help you lose weight. Cashew nuts are packed with fiber and other nutrients that increase your metabolism and help to burn more calories. Foods rich in fiber give you a feeling of fullness and prevent you from overeating.
Cashew nuts help to control high blood pressure
High blood pressure is a serious condition that can cause damages to your blood vessels and lead to heart attack and stroke. Although there are medications to control blood pressure, a more natural way is to follow a healthy lifestyle and eat a balanced diet containing foods that are rich in potassium and fiber. Like all nuts, cashew nuts are also a good source of fiber, potassium and iron. They are also cholesterol free and have low fat content.
Cashew nuts help to ease digestion
The high fiber content of cashew nuts helps in digestion and in regularizing your bowel movements. This helps to maintain a healthy digestive system.
Cashew nuts for diabetics
Studies suggest that cashew nuts help to improve blood sugar levels in people suffering from type 2 diabetes. They are a rich source of magnesium and fiber that helps to keep the level of insulin and blood sugar under check. The monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in cashew nuts lowers insulin resistance. Moreover, the high levels of antioxidants contained in these nuts play a major role in preventing diabetes. Research also reveals that cashew nuts possess anti-glycemic effects as well.
Cashew nuts can reduce stress
The various nutrients in cashew nuts can reduce the effects that stress has on your body. Nutrients like magnesium, tryptophan, and omega-3 fatty acids in this nut can help to improve your mental health. Tryptophan can stimulate your brain to produce more serotonin, which makes you feel good, and allow you to have a healthy sleep.
Cashew nuts for healthy liver
Cashew nuts are a good source of copper, an important mineral that is essential for the breaking down of food. Insufficient amount of copper can lead to a rise in the triglyceride levels and put you at risk of heart diseases and fatty liver disease.
Cashew nuts for dental care
Cashew nuts are rich in calcium, magnesium and phosphorus, all of which are essential for maintaining dental health. They help to destroy the bacteria responsible for causing tooth decay and gum diseases.
Cashew nuts are a good source of copper
Copper is an essential mineral that helps in removing the dangerous free radicals. This helps in preventing premature aging and also the skin problems related to aging. Tyrosinase, an enzyme present in this mineral stimulates the production of melanin that gives color to your hair and skin. Copper also provides great flexibility to your joints and bones. Eating cashew nuts can provide you with sufficient amount of copper.
Prevent gallstones with cashew nuts
Gallstones are stones that are mostly made of cholesterol and are formed in the bladder. These stones can sometimes cause inflammation of the gallbladder, which can lead to symptoms including intense abdominal pain, vomiting, and nausea. It has been found that gallstones can be prevented to a great extent by following a healthy lifestyle and eating a balanced diet. Evidence suggests that eating cashew nuts can considerably reduce your risk of developing gallstones.
Uses of cashew nuts in the culinary field
Cashew nuts find many uses in the food industry. They are widely used in baked goods and confectionaries. You can find them as toppings in cakes, ice creams and other kinds of desserts. Cashew nut paste makes for a delicious spread on sandwiches. Just like peanut butter, it is possible to make cashew nut butter. Cashew nut butter is popular for its wonderful flavor and taste. Roasted and salted cashew nuts are delicious and can be enjoyed as a snack. These nuts have a creamy nature and are used in sauces and soups to increase their thickness.
Side effects of cashew nuts
Just like any other kind of foods, cashews nuts may also cause some health risks. They are likely to cause allergic reactions in some people. In many cases the reaction may be mild like a rash or irritation while in some cases it may be serious leading to anaphylaxis. This condition that may even lead to death has many symptoms like swelling of your throat, itchy rashes nausea, vomiting and low blood pressure. If any of these symptoms are observed after eating cashew nuts, it is extremely important to seek medical help immediately. Cashew nuts contain substances called oxalates that are also found in many plants. These substances can sometimes join together with calcium and form kidney stones. People who have a higher risk of developing kidney stones should consider cutting down on the amount of cashews consumed. Before consuming cashew nuts it is important to get rid of the caustic nutshell liquid, as it can be rather toxic. It is capable of causing skin problems like blisters and inflammation.
Although cashew nuts are a favorite snack for many people due to their super taste, their nutritional value is far more important than their wonderful taste. These exotic nuts are storehouses of several nutrients including a large variety of vitamins, minerals, essential fats, and proteins. Therefore, including cashew nuts as part of your balanced diet can improve the functioning and performance of your body and reduce your chances of developing serious and debilitating illnesses.Image Credits: Wikimedia