One-quarter cup of cashews provides more than 5 grams of protein, 1 gram of fibre, no cholesterol, plenty of B vitamins, including thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B6, along with iron, magnesium, vitamin E, folate and some calcium.
All nuts have a high fat content, but cashews have a different fat profile: they are lower in fat overall, but higher in saturated fat. They are still a good source of protein and unsaturated fatty acids, as well as other nutrients, so they are an excellent nut variety to include in your diet. The fat profile of cashews, as compared to almonds - dry roasted, without added salt: Per 1/4 cup (34.5 g)
|Total fat (g)||15.9||18.2|
|Saturated fat (g)||3.1||1.4|
|Monounsaturated fat (g)||9.4||11.6|
|Polyunsaturated fat (g)||2.7||4.4|
Cashews come from the same plant family as mango and pistachio, as well as poison ivy and poison oak. The "poison" in these plants refers to the powerful chemical irritants they contain, which causes our skin to itch. So, handling and eating raw cashews will cause the same itchy skin reaction in people sensitive to the irritant as handling poison ivy.
Since these caustic chemicals are found in the shell oil, not the nuts themselves, shelling them removes much of this oil and irritants. Roasting cashews at a high temperature helps ensure that commercially sold nuts will not trigger a reaction in their consumers, since the roasting process destroys the shell oil that may still remain on the nut.
Most commercially available cashews are roasted. Purchase them as fresh as possible, since rancid nutmeats will ruin whatever food they are prepared with. To be sure they are fresh, buy cashews and other nuts from a supplier with rapid turnover. When buying cashews in bulk, choose those that are heavy for their size. Shelled nuts should be plump, crisp and uniform in colour and size.
You may be able to find raw, shelled cashews in specialty or health food stores. These nuts have not been roasted, but they have been heat-treated to remove the caustic shell oil. Raw cashews are popular among raw food followers, and can be used to make cashew milk. Choose a reputable source, as you want to avoid rancidity in the unroasted nuts as well as ensuring that the caustic shell oil has been removed.
Due to their high content of unsaturated fat, cashews are susceptible to rancidity. For this reason, they should be stored, tightly wrapped, in the refrigerator. Shelled nuts such as cashews can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 4 months, or frozen for up to 6 months.
Toasting - While most of the cashews on the market are already roasted to remove the caustic shell oils, a light toasting, either on the stovetop or in the oven, enhances their flavour. Keep a close eye on toasting nuts as they can burn quickly.
Cashew Milk - Homemade cashew milk can be used to replace milk in recipes that would benefit from a mild nutty flavour, such as custards and puddings. You can also use it in place of cow's milk or soy milk on cereal, etc.
To make "cashew milk", combine 1/2 cup raw cashew peices, 1 cup of water and 1 tbsp maple syrup or other sweetener in a blender (use more or less sweetening ingredient, to taste). Blend on high to form a thick cream. Slowly add more water and continue to blend until smooth and desired consistency, about 2-5 minutes. Thicker cashew milk is very rich and can be used in place of cream, thinner cashew milk can be used in place of milk.
Enjoy cashews as they are, or use them in a wide variety of sweet and savoury dishes, from breakfast to dinner, salads to desserts. Snacking tends to call for whole or halved cashews; but when adding cashews to a dish, coarsely chop them first so they go further.
Healthy Ways to Enjoy Cashews:
- Toss some chopped cashews into your morning cereal.
- Spread cashew butter on your toast.
- Sprinkle yogurt with chopped cashews.
- Make a cashew milk smoothie - add your choice of fruit to prepared cashew milk.
- Bake cashews into muffins and quickbreads.
- Sprinkle cashews (whole or in pieces) on a salad.
- Try a CB&J: Cashew Butter and Jam sandwich.
- Toss a handful of cashews on dinner leftovers such as stews or stir-fries - the additional texture and flavour will liven up your lunch.
- Prepare a Biriyani dish, in which cashews are a featured ingredient.
- Make a vegetarian stirfry with plenty of veggies and cashews as your protein ingredient.
- Chop cashews and mix them into a rice pilaf side dish.
- Enjoy cashews on their own or toss them in a trail mix with other nuts, seeds and dried fruit.
- A small serving of nuts and a piece of fruit make a great pick-me-up in the afternoon.
Did you know? Cashews are sometimes referred to as a "rainforest" nut and may be found in products that have a rainforest friendly label or connotation. While cashew trees will grow in tropical wet forests, they rarely produce many nuts, so the rainforest is not a major contributor to cashew production.
- The Cashew Export Promotion Council of India - www.cashewindia.org
- University of Georgia - photos of cashew plants, apples and nuts www.uga.edu