Nutrition, Health & Wellness

Too High in Calories or a True Health Food? Discover the 6 Nutritional Benefits of Cashews

Let’s talk about one of my favorite types of nuts: cashews! While it’s had a bad rap in recent years due to its higher calorie content, the nutritional benefits of cashews are incredible.

From promoting heart health and satiety to fighting cellular damage and even type 2 diabetes, the mighty cashew is one plant-based food you’ll want to add to your regular rotation of healthy foods.

So, get ready to learn all about the nutritional benefits of cashews—including what gives them their health-promoting properties and different ways to enjoy them!

 

 

What Makes Cashews So Healthy?

To truly understand why cashews are a great health food, we must first look at its composition. Cashews are made up of about 45 percent healthy fat, 20 percent protein, and 35 percent carbohydrates. [1]

While cashews are higher in calories than other nuts, they also have lower fat content. But they do contain high amounts of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs)—the fatty acid known to promote heart health, satiety and more.

But that’s not all. Cashews also have a rich nutrient profile, containing significant amounts of copper, manganese, magnesium, zinc, iron, phosphorus, vitamin K, vitamin E, B vitamins, and more.

In fact, a single ounce of cashews (about 18 cashews) delivers almost 70 percent of your daily copper requirement! That’s important because copper is a crucial trace mineral involved in energy production, connective tissue synthesis, brain development, and even immune system performance.

Let’s take a closer look at exactly how the nutrients in cashews offer many health benefits to your body.

 

Nutritional benefits of cashews - Dr. Pingel

 

6 Nutritional Benefits of Cashews

Here are six of the top nutritional benefits of cashews according to scientific findings.

1. Support heart health

Thanks to their MUFA content, one of the top nutritional benefits of cashews is their ability to support heart heath.

According to one study containing over 125,000 participants, substituting MUFAs for saturated fatty acids (SFAs) actually lowered the participants’ risk of coronary heart disease by 15 percent. [2]

Additionally, studies have shown that, in comparison to other diets such as those high in carbohydrates, MUFA-rich diets help to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. [3]

2. Support satiety and weight management

As I mentioned above, cashews are known for their high caloric content, so it may surprise you that one of the nutritional benefits of cashews is their ability to support weight management.

But because they’re rich in healthy fats, which are known to be more filling, cashews actually support satiety. This means you’re less prone to snacking between meals.

Even though cashews contain less fat than other popular nuts (such as almonds and walnuts), their nutrient content actually leaves you feeling satisfied!

Why? Well, when you eat highly nutritious foods and your body gets the energy it needs to function, you feel energized and less hungry! Incredible, right?

In fact, regularly eating nuts has been shown to boost your metabolism and help you burn up to 15 percent more calories each day! [4]

3. Fight cellular damage

You may be surprised to learn that one of the top nutritional benefits of cashews is the fact that they’re known to fight cellular damage caused by oxidative stress. And this is due to the fact that they’re rich in antioxidants, such as vitamins E and K.

In fact, in a review published in 2020, researchers confirmed that in vitro studies found that nuts exert antioxidant effects by repairing DNA, preventing the oxidative degradation of lipids, and inhibiting inflammatory pathways.

They also confirmed that nut consumption improved biomarkers of oxidative stress in animal studies. [5]

In addition, a 2010 study followed the impact of nut consumption on 50 adults with metabolic syndrome. The researchers divided the participants into two groups: one group ate a healthy diet and the other group ate the same diet but supplemented with 30 grams of nuts.

The participants followed their assigned diets for 12 weeks. At the end of the 12-week period, the researchers discovered that the nut group experienced significant reduction in DNA damage compared to the control group. [6]

As a result, the researchers noted that regular nut consumption not only benefits those with metabolic syndrome but may also help prevent and/or fight several chronic diseases.

4. Support healthy blood sugar levels

When it comes to the nutritional benefits of cashews, a great one is its impact on blood sugar levels. And this is due to their fiber content, which is known to help prevent spikes in blood sugar.

In fact, according to a 2018 review of meta-analyses, consuming the highest amounts of dietary fiber can help to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Specifically, the researchers found that using β-glucan or psyllium fibers on type 2 diabetic participants resulted in the greatest reductions in both fasting blood glucose concentrations and glycosylated hemoglobin percentages. [7]

Additionally, a 2019 study showed that daily consumption of cashews had a marked benefit on blood sugar control.

The researchers divided 50 patients with type 2 diabetes into two groups: either a control group or an “intervention” group that consumed 10 percent of their total calorie intake from cashews. The participants followed their assigned diets for eight weeks.

After the eight-week period, the researchers found no significant difference in the participants’ weight, body mass index (BMI), or waist circumference. They did, however, discover that those in the intervention group saw significant improvements in their serum insulin and cholesterol levels. [8]

5. Support the health of your bones

Due to its magnesium content, the nutritional benefits of cashews also include supporting bone health.

As you may recall, magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in your body, and  about 50 to 60 percent of it is found in your bones. This means that a deficiency in magnesium would impact the integrity of your bones.

In fact, studies have shown that a magnesium deficiency directly contributes to the development of osteoporosis because magnesium provides a stabilizing effect in bone synthesis. [9]

When your bones lack magnesium, they’re more prone to crystal formation and weakness.

Accordingly, a 2017 study on confirmed that having low levels of magnesium increase the risk of bone fractures while higher levels can prevent them.

The researchers followed 2,245 men between the ages of 42 and 61. The found that those with lower magnesium levels were over 40 percent more likely to experience bone fractures than those with higher levels. [10]

6. May support immune system health

Finally, when it comes to the nutritional benefits of cashews, we can’t leave out one of the most relevant: it’s ability to support immune system health. Cashews offer this important benefit due to their rich zinc content.

Did you know that many in the scientific community actually refer to zinc as the gatekeeper of immune function? [11]

In fact, zinc is known to activate your body’s T-cells. This is important because T-cells not only stimulate and moderate your immune system but also attack viruses, bacteria, and even cancerous cells. [12]

Now, consider that more than 5 percent of a cashew is made up of zinc! So, eating one ounce of cashews offers about 1.5 mg of zinc. That’s a lot of nutritional bang for your buck, right?

Incorporating More Cashews Into Your Diet

While a handful of cashews can be a great and easy snack (especially when you’re on the go), it’s important to remember that you can take advantage of the nutritional benefits of cashews in many ways!

Personally, I love to make cashew cream sauce that I can utilize in many dishes. And it’s so simple! I just use a base of cashews, water, lemon juice, and nutritional yeast.

Then, depending on how I’m using it, I make it thick or thin and add different spices and herbs to complement the meal. Some spices I tend to incorporate pretty often include cayenne, Italian seasoning, or curry.

Cashews are also great to sprinkle on top of a salad, stir fry, or curry dish. I even use cashew milk in place of cow’s milk in certain recipes.

As you can see, there are many ways to reap the nutritional benefits of cashews. All you have to do is start experimenting and see what appeals most to you!

 

Key Takeaways

  • While it’s had a bad rap in recent years due to its higher calorie content, the nutritional benefits of cashews are incredible.
  • While cashews are higher in calories than other nuts, they also have lower fat content. But they do contain high amounts of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs)—the fatty acid known to promote heart health, satiety and more.
  • Cashews also have a rich nutrient profile, containing significant amounts of copper, manganese, magnesium, zinc, iron, phosphorus, vitamin K, vitamin E, B vitamins, and more.
  • Some of the top nutritional benefits of cashews include: supporting heart health, weight management, healthy blood sugar levels, bone health, and immune system health. They also fight cellular damage!
  • Whether you prefer to eat them as a snack, in a sauce, or on salads, cashews are easy to incorporate into your diet.

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