Cashew Nuts: Health Benefits & Nutritional Facts.

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Cashew nut is packed with energy, antioxidants, minerals and vitamins that are essential for robust health.

Cashew, or “caju” in Portuguese, is one of the popular ingredients in sweet as well savory dishes worldwide.

Botanically, cashew is an average size tropical evergreen tree belonging in the Anacardiaceae family, in the genus: Anacardium. Scientific name: Anacardium occidentale.

The cashew tree is native to Brazil’s Amazon rain forest. It spread all over the world by Portuguese explorers and today, it is cultivated commercially in Brazil, Vietnam, India and in many African countries.

Cashew tree bears numerous, edible, pear shaped false fruits or “accessory fruits'” called "cashew apples."

Cashew nut which actually is a “true-fruit”, firmly attaching to bottom end of cashew-apple, appearing like a clapper in the bell. Botanically, this tiny, bean shaped, grey “true fruit” is a drupe, featuring hard outer shell enclosing a single edible kernel known commercially as “cashew nut.”

Its exterior shell composes a phenolic resin, urushiol, which is a potent caustic skin irritant toxin. In the processing units, this outer shell is roasted in order to destroy urushiol resin, and only then its edible cashew kernel is extracted.

Cashew nut measures about an inch in length, 1/2 inches in diameter, and kidney or bean shape, with smooth curvy pointed tip. Each nut splits into two equal halves as in legumes. Cashews featurec ream white color with the firm yet delicate texture and smooth surface.

Health benefits of Cashew nuts

  • Cashew Nuts Protects Against Diseases & Cancer
    They are packed with soluble dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals and numerous health-promoting phyto-chemicals that help protect us from diseases and cancers.

  • Good For The Heart
    They are rich in “heart-friendly” monounsaturated-fatty acids like oleic, and palmitoleic acids. These essential fatty acids help lower harmful LDL-cholesterol while increasing good HDL cholesterol. Research studies suggest that Mediterranean diet, which is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids help to prevent coronary artery disease and strokes by favoring healthy blood lipid profile.

  • Great Source Of Essential minerals.
    Cashew nuts are rich in minerals such as manganese, potassium, copper, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium are concentrated in these nuts. A handful of cashew nuts a day in the diet would provide enough of these minerals and may help prevent deficiency diseases. Selenium is an important micronutrient, which functions as a co-factor for antioxidant enzymes such as Glutathione peroxidases, one of the most powerful antioxidants in the body. Copper is a cofactor for many vital enzymes, including cytochrome c-oxidase and superoxide dismutase (other minerals function as co-factors for this enzyme are manganese and zinc). Zinc is a co-factor for many enzymes that regulate growth and development, gonadal function, digestion, and DNA (nucleic acid) synthesis.
     
  • Great Source Of Essential Vitamins.
    Cashews are also good in many essential vitamins such as pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), riboflavin, and thiamin (vitamin B-1). 100 g nuts provide 0.147 mg or 32% of daily-recommended levels of pyridoxine. Pyridoxine reduces the risk of homocystinuria, and sideroblastic anemia. Niacin helps prevent "pellagra" or dermatitis. Additionally, these vitamins are essential for metabolism of protein, fat, and carbohydrates at the cellular level.

  • Prevents Age-related Macular Degeneration (ARMD) in the Elderly.
    Cashew nuts contain small amount of zea-xanthin, an important pigment flavonoid antioxidant, which selectively absorbed into the retinal macula lutea in the eyes. It is thought to provide antioxidant and protective UV ray filtering functions and helps prevent age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) in the elderly.

    Eating Nuts Lowers Risk of Weight Gain

    Although nuts are known to provide a variety of cardio-protective benefits, many avoid them for fear of weight gain. A prospective study published in the journal Obesity shows such fears are groundless. In fact, people who eat nuts at least twice a week are much less likely to gain weight than those who almost never eat nuts.
    The 28-month study involving 8,865 adult men and women in Spain, found that participants who ate nuts at least two times per week were 31% less likely to gain weight than were participants who never or almost never ate nuts.
    And, among the study participants who gained weight, those who never or almost never ate nuts gained more (an average of 424 g more) than those who ate nuts at least twice weekly.
    Study authors concluded, "Frequent nut consumption was associated with a reduced risk of weight gain (5 kg or more). These results support the recommendation of nut consumption as an important component of a cardio-protective diet and also allay fears of possible weight gain."
    Practical Tip: Don't let concerns about gaining weight prevent you from enjoying the delicious taste and many health benefits of cashew nuts!


    Safety profile

    Cashew nut allergy is a common hypersensitivity condition in some individuals, especially in children. The reaction symptoms may range from simple skin itching (hives) to severe form of anaphylactic manifestations, including breathing difficulty, abdomen pain, vomiting, and diarrhea.
    The allergic manifestations are due to chemical compound anacardic acid (urushiol) that is present in cashew apples, shells, and nuts. Cross-reactions may also occur with some other nuts and fruits of Anacardiaceae family such as mango, pistachio, etc. Individuals with known allergic reactions to cashew nut and fruit may observe caution while eating them.
     
    See the table below for in depth analysis of nutrients:

    Cashew nut (Anacardium occidentale),
    Nutrition value per 100 g.
    (Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)
    Principle Nutrient Value Percentage of RDA
    Energy 553 Kcal 28%
    Carbohydrates 30.19 g 23%
    Protein 18.22 g 32.5%
    Total Fat 43.85 g 146%
    Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
    Dietary Fiber 3.3 g 8.5%
    Vitamins

    Folates 25 µg 6%
    Niacin 1.062 mg 6.5%
    Pantothenic acid 0.864 mg 17%
    Pyridoxine 0.417 mg 32%
    Riboflavin 0.058 mg 4.5%
    Thiamin 0.423 mg 35%
    Vitamin A 0 IU 0%
    Vitamin C 0.5 mg 1%
    Vitamin E 5.31 mg 35%
    Vitamin K 4.1 µg 3%
    Electrolytes

    Sodium 12 mg 1%
    Potassium 660 mg 14%
    Minerals

    Calcium 37 mg 4%
    Copper 2.195 mg 244%
    Iron 6.68 mg 83.5%
    Magnesium 292 mg 73%
    Manganese 1.655 mg 72%
    Phosphorus 593 mg 85%
    Selenium 19.9 µg 36%
    Zinc 5.78 mg 52.5%
    Phyto-nutrients

    Carotene-β 0 µg --
    Crypto-xanthin-β 0 µg --
    Lutein-zeaxanthin 22 µg --

    References
    1. USDA National Nutrient Database. 
    2. Stanford School of Medicine Cancer information Page-Nutrition to Reduce Cancer Risk.
    3. EDIS-University of Florida-PDF.
    4. Nutrition and You -Cashew Nutritional Facts 
    5. Image Source: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_M4EAcEwEQkc/S9teBHzhY5I/AAAAAAAAM3s/4892oTSQ724/s1600/Cashew+2.jpg  
    6. WHFoods- Cashews

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