Cashew nuts are a product of the Cashew tree, Anacardium occidentale. The nuts are commonly consumed, either whole or as part of meals, in different parts of the world. In Nigeria, it is usually roasted. The whole nut is heated for about 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the level of heat, to harden the edible part and remove as much anacardic acid from the shell as possible. When the shell has been removed, the edible part can either be eaten alone like other nuts or eaten alongside garri.
In other parts of the world, the nut is an excellent snack. It is also used to garnish sweets and curries in India and Pakistan. Sometimes, they are ground till they become paste and use the paste as a base for sauces in Korma. It is also ground into powder for use in various Indian desserts and Bolo Pana, a cake produced with mashed potatoes. These days, cashew milk, gotten from cashew nuts, is an excellent alternative to dairy milk.
As you read on, you will learn about the nutritional value and composition of cashew nut. You will also know the health benefits associated with consuming cashew nuts and the accompanying side effects. Can one eat too many cashew nuts? You will get the answer here.
Nutritional Value of Cashew Nuts
Cashew as a fruit is very nutritious. However, our focus is on the nut. According to the Food Organization of Africa, FAO, the nutritional value of Cashew nut is greatly influenced by the variety of cashew tree that the nut is gotten from and the growing conditions the tree is subjected to. For this reason, let’s see the general average nutrient composition of 100g of cashew nut.
|Retinol Equivalent||33 IU; 10 mcg|
From the table, it states that 100g of cashew nut contains as much a 24% of protein. Considering the importance of protein in our diet. It is advisable to consume cashew nuts to make up for amino acids deficit in our bodies.
It also has 41% of carbohydrates gotten from reducing, non-reducing sugars, starch, and oil present in the nut.
It is also rich in other nutrients such as vitamins. The most pronounced vitamin content is in Vitamin K. Other vitamins it contains include Thiamin, Riboflavin, Tocopherol, and traces of vitamin D and Axerophtol and Pyridoxine.
Minerals like calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, sodium, copper, manganese, and zinc are all present in the nut.
Health Benefits of Cashew Nuts
Cashew nuts contain an array of nutrients which when individually examined perform wonders in the human body. Some of the health benefits associated with consuming cashew nuts are highlighted below.
Saturated fats are a major enemy to the heart as they cause hardening of the arteries, a disease called atherosclerosis. Cashew nuts contain monosaturated and polyunsaturated fats that help to lower the bad cholesterol level present in the arteries.
Cashew nuts also contain healthy fats that aid in the dissolution of some vitamins such as the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. they also contain fats that are essential for blood clotting and brain development.
Muscular and Nervous Health
Muscle cramps and spasms are common, especially among athletes. It occurs due to the unregulated contraction of the muscles. These contractions are caused by the binding of calcium to the muscle proteins such as troponin C.
Interestingly, magnesium displaces calcium to bind with these muscle proteins when they are present in abundance. The higher level of magnesium present in cashew nuts help them soothe muscle cramps and spasms.
Individuals with type 2 diabetes usually have a corresponding low magnesium level. With the body cells having low magnesium level, it is difficult for the insulin receptors in the cells to effectively utilize the insulin and this consequently causes a high blood sugar level.
Cashew nuts contain no harmful cholesterol and low sugar. It is therefore an excellent choice of snack or part of a diet for diabetics. However, nutritionists recommend about 4-5 nuts per day.
Boosts Immune System
The immune system is the body’s defence against foreign organisms such as bacteria, viruses, and the likes. To boost the immune system, zinc – which is a part of the minerals contained in cashew nuts – is essential.
It is advised that pregnant mothers consume foods rich in zinc so as to help build their child’s immune system.
Boosts Red Blood Cell Formation
Iron is an important mineral in the production of blood and red blood cells. Another such important mineral is copper. It helps in the metabolism of iron, and this in turn helps in the formation of red blood cells. The red blood cells are important in the transportation of oxygen throughout the body.
Copper also improves the health of the skeletal system and a shortage of it might lead to anaemia, irregular heartbeats, and osteoporosis.
Gallstones are deposits that look like stone, they are present in the gallbladder and one of their constituents is cholesterol. Cashew nuts. When eaten in the recommended dosage helps to prevent gallstone formation due to its low level of cholesterol.
Improves Bone and Teeth Health
Phosphorus is one of the nutrients present in cashew nuts. It (Phosphorus), alongside calcium helps in in the development of healthy bones and teeth.
Phosphorus also aids in the formation of energy in the form of ATP as needed by the body and also helps in the formation of protein, absorption of fats and carbohydrates, and generally maintain healthy cells.
Side Effects of Cashew Nuts
As amazing as cashew nuts are in providing beneficial and healthy perks to the body, it has its downside when they are consumed beyond the recommended daily level. Some of them are discussed below.
Risk during Pregnancy
In as much as cashew nuts contain different minerals and vitamins that are beneficial to a pregnant woman and her child, it is not yet confirmed by research if it is safe to consume beyond the daily recommended level. It is safe to stick to the recommendation of 4-5 nuts per day and get more nutrient levels from other food sources.
Cashew nuts when consumed in the bracket of the daily recommendation provides the body with just enough sugar. Consuming more might cause a spike in sugar level in the blood and this might pose some blood sugar control challenge before and after surgery.
Cashew is healthy for diabetics. However, it is essential to watch your blood sugar level when you eat large amount of cashew nuts as it may cause a spike.
If you are allergic to nuts like pistachio, peanut, hazelnut, or almond, there is a high chance that you will be allergic to cashew nuts as well. If your allergies come from consuming mangoes, pectin, or citrus seeds, you might be allergic to cashew nuts as well.
It is better to check with your doctor or a healthcare professional before you consume cashew nut if you are allergic to other nuts.
Cashew nuts are an excellent source of different minerals, vitamins, healthy fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. They help in improving human health from the cellular to the tissue level of life and helps to manage different health condition ranging from the heart to the muscles, bones, and teeth.
Despite its benefits, it is also wise to follow the recommended daily consumption rate as an excess of cashew nuts might pose problems to a pregnant person, an allergic person and diabetic people.