Cashews nut is the kidney-shaped seeds that adhere to the bottom of the cashew apple, the fruit of the cashew tree, which is native to the coastal areas of North-Eastern Brazil.
History of the cashew nut
The cashew tree is native to coastal areas of Brazil. In the 16th century, Portuguese explorers took cashew trees from this South American country and introduced them into other tropical regions such as India and some African countries, where they are now also cultivated.
The cashew tree has always been a prized resource owing to its precious wood, cashew balm and cashew apple, but the cashew nut itself did not gain popularity until the beginning of the 20th century.
Seasonality and availability
The leading commercial producers of cashews are India, Brazil, Mozambique, Tanzania and Nigeria.
The modern-day name cashew derives from the Portuguese word for the fruit of the cashew tree, caju, which translates in Portuguese to “nut that produces itself.”
Cashews are considered drupes that grows at the end of the cashew apple fruit. The drupe develops first on the cashew apple tree and then expands to become the cashew apple.
The apple itself has a sharp taste and delicate skin, therefore it doesn’t transport well and isn’t commonly eaten.
In some parts of the world, however, like Brazil and regions in Africa, cashew apples are actually considered healing delicacies and are used for their natural medicinal qualities.
What are cashews nutritional content
Cashews are one of the best-tasting, most versatile and healthiest nuts.
1 serving of raw cashews, approx 30g contains:
- 157 calories
- 8.56 grams (g) of carbohydrate
- 1.68 g of sugar
- 0.9 g of fiber
- 5.17 g of protein
- 12.43 g of total fat
- 10 milligrams (mg) of calcium
- 1.89 mg of iron
- 83 mg of magnesium
- 168 mg of phosphorus
- 187 mg of potassium
- 3 mg of sodium
- 1.64 mg of zinc
Cashews also contain vitamins C and B. They are high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and a good source of protein.
Lets talk about Zinc, an essential mineral our bodies need
Zinc is considered an essential nutrient, meaning that your body can’t produce or store it, so for this reason, you must get a constant supply through your diet.
Zinc is required for numerous processes in your body, including
- Gene expression
- Enzymatic reactions
- Immune function
- Protein synthesis
- DNA synthesis
- Wound healing
- Growth and development
Zinc is the second-most-abundant trace mineral in your body - after iron - and is present in every cell.
Zinc is necessary for the activity of over 300 enzymes that aid in metabolism, digestion, nerve function and many other processes.
In addition, it’s critical for the development and function of immune cells. This mineral is also fundamental to skin health, DNA synthesis and protein production
What’s more, body growth and development relies on zinc because of its role in cell growth and division.
Zinc is needed for your sense of taste and smell. Because one of the enzymes crucial for proper taste and smell is dependent on this nutrient, a zinc deficiency can reduce your ability to taste or smell.
What are the health benefits of cashew nuts
Healthy muscles & nerves
Cashews are a good source of magnesium, which is vital for the healthy development of bones, muscles, tissues, and the body’s organs. Magnesium helps maintain blood pressure, boost immunity, maintain nerve function, and keep the bones strong.
It also is involved in metabolic functions and helps regulate the blood sugar levels of the body (via insulin activity).
A deficiency of magnesium can alter the metabolism of calcium and the hormones responsible for its regulation.
Boost immune system
Cashews contain zinc, which plays a vital role in the strengthening of the immune system against microbial infections, and the healing of wounds.
Reduces risk of anemia
Cashews are a source of dietary iron which is vital for carrying oxygen around the body and aids in the functioning of enzymes and the immune system. A deficiency of iron in the diet can lead to fatigue, anemia, and increased susceptibility to infections.
When it comes cashews nutritional benefits, experts consider all nuts to be important additions to our diets in order to provide a variety of healthy fats, fiber and trace minerals - and to aid in prevention of a wide range of chronic diseases.
How to prepare and cook cashew nuts
Cashew nuts are one of my favourite nuts to work with as they are so versatile, they work well in both sweet and savoury dishes.
Cashew nuts make great milks, butters, creams, mayonnaise and pesto's. They make a great addition to salads, stir-fries and curries.
When making cashew milks and desserts they are best soaked overnight to extract the maximum nutrition.
My favourite cashew nut recipes
Try out some of these cashew recipes on One Green Planet.
Interesting cashew nut fact
The cashew apple fruits are regarded as delicacies in Brazil and the Caribbean.
Cashews are always sold shelled because the interior of the shells contains a caustic resin, known as cashew balm, which must be carefully removed before the nuts are fit for consumption.
This caustic resin is actually used in industry to make varnishes and insecticides!
Where to buy cashew nuts
Cashews are widely available in most good supermarkets and health food stores. You can easily purchase them online.
It is best to buy them raw, unsalted, unsweetened and organic.