Cashew nuts are a type of tree nut that are native to Brazil but are now grown in many other tropical regions around the world. Cashews are oval-shaped and have a distinctive shape with a curved bottom and a pointed tip. The cashew nut is protected by a hard outer shell, which is removed during processing to reveal the smooth, ivory-colored kernel inside.
Cashew nuts are prized for their rich, buttery flavor and creamy texture. They can be enjoyed raw or roasted, and are a popular ingredient in a wide range of sweet and savory dishes. Cashews can also be ground into a paste, which is often used as a base for sauces, dips, and spreads.
Plain cashew nuts are simply roasted or raw cashews that have not been flavored or seasoned in any way. They are a versatile ingredient that can be used in a wide range of dishes, from salads and stir-fries to baked goods and desserts. Plain cashews are also a popular snack on their own, and are often eaten as a healthy alternative to chips or candy.
Cashews are also highly nutritious, containing a range of essential vitamins and minerals, including healthy fats, protein, fiber, and antioxidants. They are particularly rich in magnesium, which plays a key role in many important bodily functions, including energy production, muscle and nerve function, and bone health.
Are Cashews Good for You?
Nutrition, Benefits, and Downsides
Cashews are a kidney-shaped seed sourced from the cashew tree — a tropical tree native to Brazil but now cultivated in various warm climates across the world.
While “raw” cashews are widely sold, truly raw cashews are not safe to eat, as they contain a substance known as urushiol, found in poison ivy. Urushiol is toxic, and contact with it can trigger a skin reaction in some people.
Cashew kernels are cooked in processing to remove this toxic liquid, and this resulting product is sold as “raw”.
Although commonly referred to as tree nuts, and nutritionally comparable to them, cashews are really seeds. They’re rich in nutrients and beneficial plant compounds and make for an easy addition to many dishes.
Like most nuts, cashews may also help improve your overall health. They’ve been linked to benefits like weight loss, improved blood sugar control, and a healthier heart.
This article reviews the nutrition, benefits, and downsides of cashews to determine whether they’re good for you.
Rich in nutrients
Cashews are rich in a range of nutrients. One ounce (28 grams) of unroasted, unsalted cashews provides you with around (1Trusted Source):
Protein: 5 grams
Fat: 12 grams
Carbs: 9 grams
Fiber: 1 gram
Copper: 67% of the Daily Value (DV)
Magnesium: 20% of the DV
Manganese: 20% of the DV
Zinc: 15% of the DV
Phosphorus: 13% of the DV
Iron: 11% of the DV
Selenium: 10% of the DV
Thiamine: 10% of the DV
Vitamin K: 8% of the DV
Vitamin B6: 7% of the DV
Cashews are especially rich in unsaturated fats — a category of fats linked to a lower risk of premature death and heart disease (2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source).
They’re also low in sugar, a source of fiber, and contain almost the same amount of protein as an equivalent quantity of cooked meat (5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source).
In addition, cashews contain a significant amount of copper, a mineral essential for energy production, healthy brain development, and a strong immune system. They’re also a great source of magnesium and manganese, nutrients important for bone health (8Trusted Source, 9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source).
Cashews are low in sugar and rich in fiber, heart-healthy fats, and plant protein. They’re also a good source of copper, magnesium, and manganese — nutrients important for energy production, brain health, immunity, and bone health.
Contain beneficial plant compounds
Nuts and seeds are considered antioxidant powerhouses, and cashews are no exception.
Antioxidants are beneficial plant compounds that keep your body healthy by neutralizing damage-causing molecules known as free radicals. In turn, this helps reduce inflammation and increases your body’s ability to stay healthy and free from disease .
Cashews are a rich source of polyphenols and carotenoids — two classes of antioxidants also found in other tree nuts .
Studies link antioxidants in nuts like walnuts, pecans, and almonds to lower levels of oxidative cell damage .
Due to their similar antioxidant profile, cashews may be expected to offer similar oxidation-fighting benefits. This may be particularly true of roasted cashews, which appear to have an increased antioxidant activity compared with their “raw” counterparts.
That said, the number of cashew-specific studies are limited and more research is needed before strong conclusions can be made.
Cashews are rich in carotenoids and polyphenols, two categories of antioxidants that may help reduce inflammation and offer protection from disease. However, more cashew-specific research is needed.
May help you lose weight
Nuts are rich in calories and fat. Hence, people wishing to lose weight have traditionally been advised to limit the amount of nuts in their diet.
However, research is starting to link nut-rich diets to greater weight loss and overall lower body weights than nut-free diets.
This may in part be explained by the fact that cashews appear to provide the body with fewer calories than once thought.
According to the FoodData Central database of the Unites States Department of Agriculture (USDA), cashews provide 157 calories per 1-ounce (28-gram) serving.
However, recent research suggests that the human body may only digest and absorb around 84% of these calories. This is likely because a portion of the fat they contain remains trapped within the cashew’s fibrous wall rather than being absorbed during digestion (20Trusted Source).
On the other hand, roasting or grinding nuts may increase your body’s ability to fully digest them, thereby increasing the number of calories absorbed .
As a result, weight loss benefits may be strongest for whole, “raw” cashews, although more research is needed to confirm this. And you may be sacrificing the antioxidant benefit that comes with roasting cashews.
In addition to providing fewer calories than expected, nuts are also rich in protein and fiber, which are known to reduce hunger and promote feelings of fullness, both of which can further promote weight loss (22Trusted Source, 23Trusted Source.
Cashews appear to provide fewer calories than once thought. Their rich fiber and protein content can help reduce hunger and increase feeling full. Put together, all of these factors may help you lose excess weight.
May improve heart health
Diets rich in nuts, including cashews, have been consistently linked to a lower risk of disease, such as stroke and heart disease (25Trusted Source, 26Trusted Source, 27Trusted Source).
A few studies have focused on the specific heart health benefits of cashews.
One found that people with type 2 diabetes who consumed 10% of their daily calories from cashews had lower LDL (bad) cholesterol to HDL (good) cholesterol ratios than those who ate no cashews at all.
A low LDL to HDL ratio is typically viewed as a marker of good heart health .
Two other studies link cashew nut consumption to higher HDL cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure, as well as lowering total and LDL cholesterol levels (30Trusted Source, 31Trusted Source).
However, a recent review shows conflicting results. One of the included studies suggests that regular intake of cashews may lower blood pressure and triglyceride levels. However, it finds no effect on total, LDL, or HDL cholesterol levels .
Similarly, another review failed to find any significant changes in cholesterol or triglyceride levels following the consumption of 1–3.8 ounces (28–108 grams) of cashews per day for 4–12 weeks.
Researchers suggest that these inconsistent results may be due to the limited number of studies and their small participant sizes. They conclude that although cashews are just as likely to benefit heart health as other nuts, more research is needed to confirm this.
There also may be differences based on whether participants in these studies replaced more unhealthy snacks with cashews or just added cashews to their current eating patterns.
Nut-rich diets are consistently shown to be beneficial to heart health. Cashews appear to offer some benefits to lower blood pressure, triglycerides, and cholesterol. However, more studies are needed before strong conclusions can be made.May be beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes
People with type 2 diabetes may benefit from adding cashews to their diet.That’s in part because cashews are a good source of fiber, a nutrient that helps prevent blood sugar spikes and which is believed to offer protection against type 2 diabetes.
Studies looking at the effects of cashews on blood sugar levels are limited.
However, in one study, people with type 2 diabetes who ate 10% of their daily calories from cashews had overall lower insulin levels — a marker of blood sugar control — than those who ate no cashews at all .
Moreover, cashews only contain 8 grams of net carbs per portion, of which less than 2 grams come from sugars.
Net carbs refer to the total amount of carbs in a food, minus the amount of fiber it contains — providing a value for the net amount of carbs that your body can actually absorb.
Substituting foods higher in net carbs and sugar with cashews is likely to help reduce blood sugar levels.
That said, more research is needed to examine the effects of cashew-rich diets in people with type 2 diabetes.
Cashews are low in sugar and rich in fiber — two factors which, when combined, may help reduce blood sugar levels and protect against the development of type 2 diabetes. However, more research is needed to confirm these benefits.