Cashews have a delicate and more subtle flavor than other nuts. Cashews and their products are a favorite in the Paleo world, but are they truly health, and should you be eating them?
Nutritional Value of Cashews
Serving Size: 1 ounce
- Calories: 157
- Total Fat: 12g
- Saturated Fat: 2.2g
- Polyunsaturated Fat: 2.2 g
- Monounsaturated Fat: 7 g
- Total Carbs: 9 g
- Dietary Fiber: 1 g
- Sugar: 2 g
- Protein: 5 g
- Zinc: 2 mg
- Magnesium: 82 mg
- Phosphorous: 166 mg
- Iron: 2 mg
- Selenium: 6 mcg
Health Benefits of Cashews
As if we needed any more reason to put a handful of nuts into our home-made trail mix, cashews not only have a creamy and smooth texture, combined with a slightly sweet and buttery palatable flavor, these nuts have an impressive nutritional resume.
Cashews pack a mean punch in the mineral game, containing roughly:
- 31% of the daily recommended value for copper
- 23% for manganese
- 20% for magnesium
- 17% phosphorus
- 12% vitamin K
If minerals weren’t enough to make you crave a handful of cashews, you should know these delicious and nutritious nuts are as full of fiber, protein, and many other beneficial compounds!
Cashews are a great source of plant based protein (roughly 5 grams per ounce), as well as dietary fiber and antioxidants in the form of phytosterols and phenolic compounds. Cashews are about 21 percent protein, 46 percent fat, and 25 percent carbohydrates, making it a great mid-day or even pre-workout snack to keep you feeling satiated and sustained. (1)
Cashews also contain a high content of oleic acid (an omega-9 fatty acid that is also found in olive oil) which can help regulate blood sugar control, increase HDL cholesterol, and increase fat oxidation. Cashews are more stable than most other nuts due to their oleic acid profile, making them the perfect go-to nut to keep in your purse or desk at work.
Cashew consumption has been linked to having beneficial effects on oxidative stress levels and a reduction in inflammatory markers. This is due largely in part to their ability to lower small dense LDL particles, while improving HDL cholesterol levels. The phytosterol (or plant compounds) found in cashews also play a role in the structure of cell membranes, helping to stabilize the cell walls and interfere with their ability to absorb oxidized cholesterol, which is the kind of cholesterol we do not like. (2)
Blood Sugar Balance
Eating more cashews can help to stabilize blood sugar levels. This is due to the main ingredient found in cashews, called hydroethanolic extract in the form of anacardic acid, which stimulates glucose transport and control. Anacardic acid has been shown to stimulate glucose uptake into the cells, which can lead to lower levels of inflammation and lower levels of circulating insulin. (3)
Cashews are a rich source of proanthocyanidins, which are plant compounds (flavanols) that have been found to inhibit the ability of cancer cells to divide and multiply, as well as strengthen capillaries and provide antioxidant support. Cashews are also a great source of L-arginine, which is a precursor of nitric oxide, known to help improve circulation and the dilation and relaxation of blood vessels. (4)
Cashews can benefit your bones due to the presence of calcium, magnesium, vitamin K, and potassium. These minerals work together to protect against bone demineralization, while vitamin K works with other essential minerals like calcium to maintain bone mineral density, ensure calcium is delivered to the bones and not the arteries and soft tissues, and help protect the bones against fractures and osteoporosis. (5)
Eating more cashews can help support cognitive abilities and multiple brain processes by regulating neurotransmitter pathways, synaptic transmission, and membrane fluidity. Trace minerals that are found in cashews, such as zinc, iron, and copper, are all important co-factors in cognitive health, as well as elimination of free radicals and creating superoxide dismutaste, an enzyme that is important for energy production and antioxidant protection. (6)
If fat is something you still fear, even though research has proven the right kinds of fat to be healthy and safe, cashews might be the perfect starter nut for you. Cashews not only have a lower fat content compared to other nuts, but they are also made up of roughly 82 percent unsaturated fat and about 66 percent fat that comes from the heart-healthy mono-unsaturated fats (also found in olive oil), with the remaining 18 percent being a mixture of polyunsaturated fats. (7)
Seasonality and Where to Buy Cashews
Look for plain, dry-roasted or even raw (you can roast them at home on your own) when buying cashews. If you are buying them in a pre-made mix, make sure they aren’t adding any additional oils (especially vegetable oils) or sugars.
Cashews are known for their high phytic acid content, so if you have the time, try sprouting or soaking your cashews for increased nutrient absorption and digestion. You can soak your cashews overnight in plain water or try sprouting them to further increase their mineral content and availability.
Cashews contain a good amount of starch, so if you decide to soak them you will also find yourself with a great natural alternative for a thickening agent that you can later use as a “milk” or for a substitute in recipes that call for cream.
Should I Eat Cashews on a Paleo Diet?
As most people begin to navigate their way through the Paleo do’s and don’ts, nuts have been a heated point of discussion. Some nuts, like peanuts, are actually legumes and not Paleo. Others are technically seeds, which are fine on a Paleo diet. Cashews are in the seed class.
Cashews are the seeds of the cashew apple, so they are not technically a nut, but rather a seed. Cashews are the fruit of the tropical tree called Anacardium occidentale, which makes the cashew apple.
Cashews aren’t new to the nut game. They are third in consumption among all the tree nuts in the world and are cultivated in more than 30 countries.
How to Eat Cashews
Cashews are great when mixed with raisins, dried cranberries, shredded coconut, sunflower seeds, and other nuts, such as almonds and walnuts, to make a fantastic homemade trail mix. If you are feeling extra creative, mix cashews into your salad or even a healthy stir-fry. Adding cashew butter to your smoothies will make them, yes, smooth, and can be an added protein and carb boost.
You can also roast your own cashews. Roasting cashews can produce higher levels of beneficial nutrients than eating them raw. Specifically, the antioxidant activity of cashews has been found to increase as the roasting temperature increases, which is opposite for most other nuts. (8)
Cashews also make a great dairy-free milk alternative. You can also find or make some great tasting cashew cheeses. Cashew flour also makes for a great Paleo flour option that you can use in place of other non-Paleo gluten-free flours to make pancakes, muffins, and other Paleo-friendly treats.
32 Paleo Cashew Recipes
If you need some creative inspiration for how to use cashews in your Paleo diet, we’ve collected 32 of the best Paleo cashew recipes that exist, ranging from appetizers to desserts, and everything in between.
- Cashew-Crusted Chicken
- Zucchini Pizza Bites
- Paleo “Alfredo” Sauce
- High Energy Breakfast Bars
- Carrot Cake with Dairy-Free Frosting
- Fruit and Nut Clusters
- Paleo Pesto Sauce
- Banana, Coconut, and Cashew Cream Tart
- Orange, Avocado, and Cashew Salad
- Paleo Trail Mix
- Cashew Broccoli with Lemon
- Paleo Chicken Alfredo
- Smoked Salmon Cucumber Bites with Cashew Cream Cheese
- Chard and Cashew Saute
- Garlic and Pepper Cashew Dip
- Cajun Chicken Pasta with Light Zucchini Noodles
- Dairy-Free Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
- Cheesy Chicken Paleo Quesadillas
- Sunny-Side Up Burger with Cashew Cheese
- Key-Lime Cheesecake Bites
- Dairy-Free Sour Cream
- Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers with Cashew Cheese
- Strawberry Cheesecake Tarts
- No-Bake Strawberry Bars
- Cashew Cheese
- Spicy Paleo Lasagna
- Buttery Avocado Lime Cheesecake
- Creamy Paleo Coleslaw