Are Cashews Good or Bad Your Health? The Nutty Truth | Signos

Cashews are tasty nuts packed with vitamins and minerals. But can these nuts help you reach your wellness goals?

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by
Mia Barnes
— Signos
Staff Writer
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Reviewed by

Mia Barnes
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Updated by

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Science-based and reviewed

Published:
May 20, 2024
July 11, 2023
— Updated:
July 12, 2023

Table of Contents

Cashews are famous worldwide thanks to their smooth texture and rich taste. It’s a versatile nut, used for snacking or with dried fruit, as nut butter and milk, and as part of savory cuisines. As versatile as they are, you might wonder, “Are cashews good for you?” Here’s all you need to know.

What Exactly are Cashew Nuts?

Cashews originated in South America.1 They grow at the end of cashew apples on tropical evergreen cashew trees. While the apples are edible, many found them unpalatable. Meanwhile, the cooked nuts became a delicious treat.

In the 1600s, Portuguese colonists brought trees from their native Brazil to West Africa, where residents planted them along the coast to stop erosion, though the nuts were a welcomed bonus. These trees soon made their way to India and now grow in Africa and Southeast Asia, though Australia also grows them for sale. Cashews have many health benefits as part of an anti-inflammatory and heart-healthy diet.

Cashew Nutrition Facts

Cashews have a complex nutritional profile. They’re high in protein, have a low glycemic index, and are packed with fiber, vitamins, and other essential nutrients. These nuts are an excellent tool to strengthen your metabolic health and are packed with calcium, lutein, and zeaxanthin, which reduce your risk of certain eye diseases.

An ounce of cashews has a glycemic index of 25, which is in the low glycemic index range. This means that cashews are not likely to cause spikes in blood sugar levels when eaten in moderation. Research also shows hat cashews may be beneficial for blood glucose management. One study found that consumptoin of cashews over eight weeks reduced inulin levels, significantly improved HOMA-IR, as well as improved the LDL to HDL cholesterol ration in people living with type 2 diabetes.2

Are Cashews Good for You? 8 Health Benefits You Didn’t Know

Now, the most important question is — are cashews good for you? Here are eight benefits of cashews that make them worth adding to your diet.

  • Immune Support 

Cashews are high in iron and zinc, which support a healthy immune system. When you lack minerals that naturally support your immune system, your likelihood of getting sick increases, as does your chance of staying sick longer than you would with greater immunity.

  • Increased Cell Protection

Cashews are high in copper, an essential nutrient for processing iron. This process allows your body to produce more healthy red blood cells. They also contain vitamin E and beta-carotene, which reduce free radicals in your body, protecting your cells from damage.

  • Improved Cholesterol

Cashews are high in plant-based omega-3 fatty acids. These acids could reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, which negatively impacts your body. Having low LDL cholesterol can reduce your risk of cardiac events and stroke.

  • Better Brain Health 

Many of the vitamins and minerals in cashews support brain health. Cashews contain tryptophan, which helps your brain regulate your circadian rhythm. They also have B vitamins and manganese, which support and improve mood regulation.

  • Lower Blood Pressure 

A meta-analysis of studies found that incorporating cashews into your diet can improve your triglyceride levels and diastolic and systolic blood pressure.3

  • Regulated Blood Sugar

Some people believe that since cashews are high in carbohydrates, they’re bad for blood sugar. However, a 2019 study of 50 people found evidence that eating cashews daily could reduce insulin serum levels.2 While further research is ongoing, it’s a promising sign that cashews can help regulate blood sugar levels.

  • Improved Heart Health

The many benefits of cashews contribute to better cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.3 Lowered blood pressure, decreased LDL cholesterol, and cell protection all contribute positively to your heart’s health.

  • Better Metabolism 

The nutrients in cashews can also improve your metabolism. Data shows that eating cashews can increase antioxidant levels in people with metabolic syndrome.4 Antioxidants can help poor metabolism by making it easier for your body to cope with the oxidation of molecules and increased inflammation.

Are Cashews Good for Weight Loss?

Cashews can be a tool for weight loss with other foods and increased activity. They’re a good source of protein and very palatable, making them a filling snack packed with nutrients. Their tastiness makes them less likely to cause cravings than bland foods. Cashews also contain mono-saturated fats, which can promote weight loss with exercise.

It’s essential to eat cashews in moderation. An ounce of nuts is around 150 calories, and too many servings each day could interfere with your ability to reach your weight loss goals. In the right amount, cashews can be your best weight-loss buddy.

4 Ways Cashews Can Help with PCOS

A common cause of weight gain is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Cashews have properties that can help mitigate some of the condition’s symptoms.

  • Improves Magnesium Levels

PCOS can cause severe menstrual pain due in part to low magnesium levels. Cashews have high levels of magnesium to help regulate your discomfort.

  • Can Improve Blood Sugar Levels

Even women with PCOS who aren’t overweight can experience blood sugar irregularities. Cashews have a low-glycemic index to help reduce those levels.

  • Are A Healthy Snack

It can be challenging for those with PCOS to find snacks, as they often experience gastrointestinal problems, including pain and bloating. Cashews are a relatively mild and nutrient-packed snack that can satisfy you without the added discomfort.

  • Are Rich In Iron

Heavy bleeding associated with PCOS can reduce a patient’s iron levels. Eating cashews can build these levels back up.

Potential Downsides of Cashews

With all the health benefits cashews have, there are some things to keep in mind and some signs people should avoid these nuts altogether. Pregnant women should be cautious around the nuts since they contain oxalates, which can cause pregnancy complications in high doses. While they can benefit milk production, some breastfed babies suffer tummy problems when mothers eat cashews.

Cashews are high in calories, making them a hard snack to lose weight with. Obesity contributes to many health conditions, including heart disease and diabetes. Portioning out the nuts ahead of time can help prevent overconsumption.

Everyone should avoid unprocessed cashews. When these nuts are uncooked, they contain urushiol, which irritates the skin if touched and can be poisonous if ingested.5 Thankfully, food companies are experts in roasting and steaming cashews to eliminate that risk, but you should always check to ensure the cashew nuts you buy are not genuinely raw. However, many companies label their cooked or steamed cashews as “raw cashews,” but these are not truly raw, unprocessed nuts.

There are some other potential downsides to eating cashews:

  • Allergies 

Since cashews are tree nuts, they’re a common allergen. Peanut allergies are even more common, and cashews are often processed in the same facilities, which can cause a reaction in people who aren’t allergic to tree nuts. Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening allergic reaction, and people with either nut allergy should avoid cashews unless they’re positive they’re safe.

  • Drug Interactions 

Many type 1 and type 2 diabetes medications negatively interact with cashews, decreasing their effectiveness. Medications affected include insulin, glyburide, rosiglitazone, chlorpropamide, pioglitazone and tolbutamide. Check with your healthcare provider if you are unsure if eating cashews is safe for you.

  • Heartburn

Some people may experience heartburn after eating cashews. They’re high in fat, which can distend your stomach and put pressure on your esophagus, causing the sensation.

How to Incorporate Cashews into Your Meals

Cashews are very versatile, working well with many flavors and textures. Roasted cashews have more fat but a stronger flavor than steamed options. Steamed cashews have more vitamins and antioxidants. In an airtight container, cashews can last a month at room temperature, six months in the refrigerator, and a year in the freezer. There are many ways to add cashews to your plate.

  • With Salad

With croutons or acting as a replacement, cashews can add a nice crunch to a salad. You can blend them with your favorite seasonings to create a dressing for extra flavor.

  • In Trail Mix 

Cashews are a great complement to dried fruit. The savoriness of the nuts combines with the sweet flavors of the fruit to make a healthy and hardy trail mix. You can mix and match with other healthy nuts and your favorite snacks for a mix all your own.

  • With Noodles

The nuttiness of cashews adds flavor to many pasta dishes. They also add a crunch to pasta many cultures enjoy.

  • In A Parfait

Add cashews to fruit and Greek yogurt for a refreshing, protein-packed breakfast or snack. Include them alone or as part of a granola mix.

How Many Cashews Should You Eat in a Day?

A standard serving of cashew nuts is ¼ cup. This provides a nutritious snack of around 200 calories, with 5 grams of protein and 16 grams of healthy fats. These nuts are easy to overeat, thanks to their flavor and smooth texture. Sticking to one or two servings daily can help you reap the benefits without overindulging.

3 Tips to Eat Cashews Without Overdoing It

With a few tricks, you can enjoy cashews without eating too many.

  • Measure By Handfuls 

It can be hard to remember to count your cashews before each day. A handful of the nuts is close to one serving size for most adults.

  • Spread Out Your Portions

Spreading out your cashew portions throughout the day can evenly distribute protein and fiber instead of getting full only to crave a portion hours later.6

  • Combine with Other Snacks

Adding lower-calorie plant-based snacks to cashews can satisfy you before you overindulge. Fruits and fresh-cut vegetables are nutritious, low-calorie options to consume alongside cashews.

3 Cashew Recipes You’ll Be Eager to Try

There are many plant and protein-based recipes to make with cashews. Here are some tasty options.

  • Zucchini-Cashew Pesto Pasta7

Ingredients:

  •  ¼ cup of cashews
  •  ½ cup of fresh basil
  •  ¼ cup of olive oil
  •  1 ½ tablespoons of nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon or lime juice

This delicious plant-based pasta is easy to make and is a crowd-pleaser. Combine two garlic cloves, ¼ cup of cashews, ½ cup of fresh basil, ¼ olive oil, 1 ½ tablespoons of nutritional yeast, and one tablespoon of lemon or lime juice. Blend them in a food processor. Pour the sauce on salted zucchini noodles, and enjoy!

  • Cashew Chicken8 

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup roasted, unsalted cashews
  • ¼ cup water
  • 4 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1½ pounds chopped chicken breasts
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 6 minced garlic cloves
  • 8 chopped scallions
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon sesame oil

Toast cashews in a 350° Fahrenheit oven until fragrant. Whisk together water, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and cornstarch to form a sauce. Coat the chicken with salt and pepper, and stir-fry on high heat with vegetable oil.

Add in the garlic and white scallions until lightly browned. Add rice vinegar and cook until evaporated. Then, add the sauce and cook until it’s thick. Stir in the cashews, green scallions, chicken, and sesame oil, and serve.

  • Cashew Coffee9

Blend cashews into hot coffee for a rich flavor that doesn’t require milk, sugar, or creamer. Brew your coffee and place it in a blender to process with the nuts. Ensure the drink is smooth, and enjoy it in your favorite mug.

  • Cashew-Cauliflower Soup10

Ingredients:

  • 1 cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1 diced carrot
  • 1 rib of chopped celery 
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 3 golden potatoes 
  • 3/4 cup of unseasoned cashews
  • 6-8 cups of vegetable stock
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 6 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 bay leaf 
  • 1 ½  teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 ½  teaspoons ground ginger

Add a small amount of water or vegetable stock in a large pot and sauté the chopped onion until translucent. Add in carrots and celery and cook until softened. Then, add the garlic, potatoes, cauliflower, cashews, thyme, and bay leaf and toss them together. Add the vegetable stock and simmer until everything is soft. Take out the thyme and bay leaf and blend, seasoning to taste.

Learn More About Healthy Nutrition with Signos’ Expert Advice

Cashews provide healthy nutrition, and learning what foods nourish your body can improve your overall health and well-being. Signos’ expert advice can help you adopt healthy eating habits, manage your blood sugar levels and improve your heart health. 

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References

  1. Global Cashew Council (2023) https://www.cashews.org/cashew-industry/cashew-information/.
  2. Darvish Damavandi R, Mousavi SN, Shidfar F, Mohammadi V, Rajab A, Hosseini S, Heshmati J. Effects of Daily Consumption of Cashews on Oxidative Stress and Atherogenic Indices in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes: A Randomized, Controlled-Feeding Trial. Int J Endocrinol Metab. 2019 Jan 23;17(1):e70744. doi: 10.5812/ijem.70744. PMID: 30881468; PMCID: PMC6408729.
  3. 9. Mahboobi S. The Effect of Cashew Nut on Cardiovascular Risk Factors and Blood Pressure: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis (P06-117-19). Curr Dev Nutr. 2019 Jun 13;3(Suppl 1):nzz031.P06-117-19. doi: 10.1093/cdn/nzz031.P06-117-19. PMCID: PMC6573847.
  4. Wong SK, Chin KY, Ima-Nirwana S. Vitamin C: A Review on its Role in the Management of Metabolic Syndrome. Int J Med Sci. 2020 Jun 27;17(11):1625-1638. doi: 10.7150/ijms.47103. PMID: 32669965; PMCID: PMC7359392.
  5. Marks JG Jr, DeMelfi T, McCarthy MA, Witte EJ, Castagnoli N, Epstein WL, Aber RC. Dermatitis from cashew nuts. J Am Acad Dermatol. 1984 Apr;10(4):627-31. doi: 10.1016/s0190-9622(84)80269-8. PMID: 6715612.
  6. 7. Paoli A, Tinsley G, Bianco A, Moro T. The Influence of Meal Frequency and Timing on Health in Humans: The Role of Fasting. Nutrients. 2019 Mar 28;11(4):719. doi: 10.3390/nu11040719. PMID: 30925707; PMCID: PMC6520689.
  7. ZUCCHINI PASTA WITH CASHEW PESTO (GLUTEN-FREE, ALMOST RAW), https://www.food.com/recipe/zucchini-pasta-with-cashew-pesto-gluten-free-almost-raw-504409
  8. Cashew Chicken, https://www.onceuponachef.com/recipes/cashew-chicken.html#tabrecipe.
  9. Cashew Coffee, https://www.lifeslittlesweets.com/cashew-coffee/
  10. 14. Vegan Cheesy Cauliflower Cashew Soup, https://veggiesociety.com/best-cauliflower-soup-recipe-vegan/

About the author

Mia Barnes is a health writer and researcher who specializes in nutrition, fitness, and mental health.

View Author Bio

Please note: The Signos team is committed to sharing insightful and actionable health articles that are backed by scientific research, supported by expert reviews, and vetted by experienced health editors. The Signos blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. Read more about our editorial process and content philosophy here.

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