The cashew nut is always sold shelled, because of the corrosive oil contained between its two shells. It is usually roasted in oil, then added with salt or not. This is one of the nuts and oleaginous fruits (often called wrongly “nuts”) the least rich in fat. In addition to having a content of vitamins and minerals of the most interesting, it contains active ingredients that confer health benefits.
Cashew nuts: understand everything in 2 min
Active principles and properties
For fruits with hulls (pistachio, almond, etc.) and oleaginous fruits (pecans, walnuts, etc.) in general
Several epidemiological and clinical studies associate regular consumption of nuts and oleaginous fruits with various health benefits. They would have a cholesterol-lowering effect1 and they would reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease2, type 23 diabetes, gallstones4 and gallbladder ablation5, and women’s colon cancer6. The amount of nuts and oleaginous fruits to be consumed for health benefits is, in most studies, equivalent to about five 30 g (1 oz) servings per week.
For the cashew nut
Monounsaturated fatty acids. Like most nuts and oleaginous fruits, nearly three-quarters of the total calories of cashews are fat (fat). The majority (60%) of these lipids are in the form of monounsaturated fatty acids, a type of fat that has beneficial effects on cardiovascular health. In fact, the replacement of saturated fatty acids in the diet with monounsaturated fatty acids leads to a decrease in total cholesterol and LDL (“bad” cholesterol), without reducing the HDL (“good” cholesterol) 9.
To date, only one study has evaluated the effect of cashew nut consumption on certain metabolic markers related to cardiovascular disease, such as blood lipid and glucose levels and blood pressure. It was conducted in obese subjects with metabolic syndrome7. In this randomized nutritional study, no significant effect was observed in the cashew nut group compared to the control group7. Cashew nut, however, contains a type of lipid favorable to cardiovascular health, hence the importance of conducting more studies on the benefits related to its consumption.
Phytosterols. Phytosterols are compounds found in plants whose structure is similar to that of cholesterol. A meta-analysis of 41 clinical trials showed that taking 2 grams of phytosterols daily reduced LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels by 10%. This reduction could reach 20% as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol10.
One study evaluated the phytosterol content of cashew nuts at 150 mg per 100 g portion11. For comparison, the same amount of almonds contains 200 mg and the champions, sesame seeds, contain 400 mg11. The phytosterol content of plants is still relatively low, it is virtually impossible to get a contribution of 2 g per day only from food. For the moment, Health Canada does not allow the marketing of foods enriched in phytosterols.
Although the effects of naturally occurring phytosterols in foods have not been directly evaluated, it is possible to assume that they remain attractive for cardiovascular health.
Antioxidants. Antioxidants are compounds that protect the body’s cells from damage caused by free radicals. The latter would be involved in the development of cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers and other diseases related to aging12. Some authors have estimated that cashews have one of the lowest levels of antioxidants among nuts and oleaginous fruits, such as nuts, almonds, pecans, pistachios and hazelnuts13-14.
The antioxidant capacity of cashew has been found in vitro15, but so far its antioxidants have been poorly characterized. It is known to contain vitamin E, mainly in the form of gamma-tocopherol 14,16. In general, tocopherols are potent antioxidants that have protective effects against cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension and cognitive decline17.
Most important nutrients
Excellent source Magnesium. Cashew nuts and cashew butter are excellent sources of magnesium for women and good sources for men (the magnesium needs of men are higher than those of women). Magnesium is involved in bone development, protein building, enzymatic actions, muscle contraction, dental health, and the functioning of the immune system. It also plays a role in the metabolism of energy and in the transmission of nerve impulses.
Excellent source Copper. Cashew nuts and cashew butter are excellent sources of copper. As a constituent of many enzymes, copper is necessary for the formation of hemoglobin and collagen (a protein used to structure and repair tissue) in the body. Several copper-containing enzymes also contribute to the body’s defense against free radicals.
Good source Phosphorus. Cashew nuts and cashew butter are good sources of phosphorus (see our Phosphorus nutrient record). Phosphorus is the second most abundant mineral in the body after calcium. It plays a vital role in the formation and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. In addition, it participates among other things in the growth and regeneration of tissues and helps to maintain the pH of the blood. Finally, phosphorus is one of the constituents of cell membranes.
The cashew nut grows on a fake fruit that is called a cashew apple, although it is more like a pear. The cashew apple, yellow or red, is particularly consumed in Brazil, raw, cooked or in juice. It contains various antioxidant compounds, such as vitamin C, flavonoids and carotenoids21,22.
Good source Iron. Cashew nuts and cashew butter are good sources of iron for men and sources for women (the iron needs of women are higher than those of men). Each body cell contains iron. This mineral is essential for the transport of oxygen and the formation of red blood cells in the blood. It also plays a role in the manufacture of new cells, hormones and neurotransmitters. It should be noted that the iron contained in foods of plant origin (such as cashews) is less well absorbed by the body than the iron contained in foods of animal origin. The absorption of plant iron is, however, favored by the consumption of certain nutrients, such as vitamin C.
Good source Zinc. Cashew nuts and cashew butter are good sources of zinc. Zinc is involved in immune responses, the production of genetic material, taste perception, wound healing and fetal development. It also interacts with sex and thyroid hormones. In the pancreas, he participates in the manufacture, storage and release of insulin.
Good source Manganese. The cashew nut is a good source of manganese for the woman and a source for the man (the manganese needs of the man being superior to those of the woman). As for cashew nut butter, it is a source of manganese. Manganese acts as a cofactor for several enzymes that facilitate a dozen different metabolic processes. He also participates in the prevention of damage caused by free radicals.
Source Selenium. Cashew nuts and cashew butter are sources of selenium. This mineral works with one of the main antioxidant enzymes, preventing the formation of free radicals in the body. It also helps to convert thyroid hormones into their active form.
Source Vitamin B1. Cashew nuts and cashew butter are sources of vitamin B1. Also called thiamine, vitamin B1 is part of a coenzyme needed for energy production mainly from the carbohydrates we ingest. It also participates in the transmission of nerve impulses and promotes normal growth.