Nuts are great sources of nutrients such as protein and antioxidants. They’re also very versatile in dishes and handy as quick snacks. But while peanuts and almonds seem to proliferate store shelves, other nuts are outliers, and some mystery surrounds them.
One of these is the cashew. Is it a seed or a nut? Where does it come from? Can pets eat it? Are cashews good for you? Here’s what you should know about this kidney bean–shaped snack!
What Are Cashews?
Cashew trees produce cashews, which is why cashews are classified as seeds. They’re native to Brazil, but you can find them grown all over the world. More specifically, cashews grow on the bottoms of cashew apples, or cashew fruits. The seed is the only edible part, as the layers surrounding it are toxic if ingested or even touched.
Cashews are shelled by hand, since mechanically shelling them causes damage. Because of this, cashews are more expensive than other nuts.
How Toxic Are Cashews?
Urushiol is a type of toxin found in poison ivy as well as in cashews, and it can cause skin issues such as itching, rashes, and even blisters. Truly raw cashews aren’t safe to eat. However, the seeds we eat aren’t toxic because cashew-producers roast them, which burns off the toxins. You might see cashews on store shelves with labels that say “raw,” but they aren’t truly raw—this simply refers to the process used to remove the toxins.
Are Cashew Apples Edible?
Even though the layers surrounding the cashew seed aren’t edible, you can still eat the cashew apple. They’re packed with antioxidants, and they have a slightly sweet taste similar to that of other tropical fruits, such as mangoes. Overall, you can expect a citrusy taste. You can even juice cashew apples for an even bigger antioxidant boost.
Do Cashews Fall Under a Tree Nut Allergy?
Even though they’re technically seeds, cashews do fall under a tree nut allergy. If you’re allergic to tree nuts, you unfortunately can’t ingest cashews. If you experience symptoms such as abdominal pain, itching, or swelling of the mouth after ingesting cashews, you’ll need immediate medical attention.
Can Pets Eat Cashews?
Cashews are safe for dogs to ingest, unlike the macadamia nut, which is poisonous to them. Cashews do contain a lot of calories, so you shouldn’t give your dog too many, but cashews will give them the same nutrients they provide for us humans.
Are Cashews Good for You?
They are! Cashews provide a ton of nutrients, including dietary fiber, vitamin K, omega-3 fatty acids, and a large amount of protein. Unlike peanuts, cashews also contain additional minerals such as magnesium and copper. They also have more omega-3 fatty acids than the common variety nut.
Health Benefits of Cashews
So how are cashews good for you? Here’s what you should know about how cashews promote a healthy heart and prevent chronic diseases:
Promote Heart Health
Like all nuts, cashews are great sources of antioxidants, which promote heart health. But more specifically, cashews contain compounds called phytosterol and phenolic, which are helpful in preventing cardiac disease. They also have healthy unsaturated fats but lower levels of saturated fatty acids. All of these nutrients have anti-inflammatory properties that reduce the likelihood of developing chronic diseases.
Thanks to the greater number of healthy fatty acids and the lower amount of “bad” fat, cashews can lower your cholesterol if you swap them out for chips and other unhealthy snacks. Studies have found that the monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids found in cashews reduce LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, which is the cholesterol we should avoid to prevent ourselves from developing problems that could lead to heart attacks.
Lower Blood Pressure
Magnesium and potassium, also found in cashews, regulate blood pressure to help with problems such as hypertension. Including cashews in your diet could lower your blood pressure without adding on the pounds.
Help Diabetes Symptoms
The nutrients within cashews also manage diabetes symptoms because they can reduce your glycemic response after eating. Why? All nuts, including almonds, hazelnuts, and peanuts, have a high protein content. When you eat a balanced meal that combines protein with healthy carbohydrates, you prevent your blood sugar from spiking.
With their magnesium and vitamin K, cashews can even strengthen your bones to give you good bone health and to limit problems such as osteoporosis. We typically get vitamin K by eating leafy green vegetables, which can sometimes be missing from our dinner plates. By adding these nutrients to our diets with cashews, however, we gain bone mass and decrease the likelihood of bone fractures.
Help with Weight Loss
There’s a persistent myth that nuts will cause weight gain. But if you eat them in moderation, they can be very beneficial for weight loss. Cashews, like all other nuts, are great sources of plant-based protein. Protein helps us stay fuller longer, and since they prevent our blood sugar from spiking, they also curb the sudden hunger pains you might get from eating only carbohydrates in a meal.
How Can You Add Cashews to Your Diet?
There are lots of easy ways to add these helpful little seeds into your daily diet. Of course, eating them as midday snacks is one way, but you can also add them to salads, oatmeal, or baked goods. If you want to eliminate cheese, you can sub toasted cashews into everyday dishes to add a nutty flavor.
You can also add cashew butter to smoothies or yogurt for an added protein boost after a workout. Or you could swap out the peanut butter for cashew butter to get more of those helpful omega-3 fatty acids. You can even find cashew milk—it’s an extremely potent way of adding plant sterols, an antioxidant that helps our immune systems fight off disease.
Explore the cashew products at Sohnrey Family Foods to add these heart-healthy nutrients to your daily routine. We have cashew butter, whole cashews, and honey-roasted cashews for a perfect gift. You can also order bulk raw nuts online—including cashews, almonds, and many more—and use them for months if you store the nuts properly.