Cashews are a wonderful source of healthy fats, including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated varieties. These nuts are also a modest source of protein. For this reason, they are often heavily featured in the diets of vegetarians and vegans.
The seeds of most fruits grow within the flesh, but the cashew seed hangs from the bottom of a cashew apple, essentially a swollen stem. A hard shell with two layers encases the kidney-shaped cashew seed, which must be harvested by hand. Between these two layers lurks the phenolic resin urushiol, which is the same substance that causes the blistering rash seen after contact with poison ivy and poison oak. The shelling process removes this substance, which is then used in the making of such products as varnish, insecticide, paint, and other industrial products. Because of the potential toxicity, cashews are never sold in the shell.
Fresh cashew apples taste delicious, but only growers and people living near cashew orchards will ever get to enjoy this fruit, as it is highly perishable. Cashew apples begin to ferment immediately after harvesting, and stay fresh no longer than 24 hours. Highly prized in their growing locale, cashew apples can sometimes be found canned, in jams, or as the base of a liqueur. Commercial producers in Brazil and India package the juice for sale regionally. The cashew tree itself does not go to waste, as the wood is milled into lumber used to build shipping crates and boats.
Rich in protein, healthy fats, and antioxidants such as polyphenols, cashews offer a variety of noteworthy health benefits.
Reduced Ch olesterol
Cashews have previously received a bad rap for including saturated fat, but this may not be as problematic as the saturated label suggests. Much of the fat in cashews comes from stearic acids, which experts believe has a neutral impact on blood cholesterol. Research suggests that people who eat a small serving of cashews every day see a minor reduction in LDL “bad” cholesterol.
Heart D isease Prevention
In addition to lowering rates of LDL cholesterol, cashews may help to prevent heart disease due to their high magnesium content. Proper magnesium intake may reduce the risk of ischemic heart disease, which often occurs when the heart does not receive enough blood.
Stroke P revention
The magnesium in cashews may help to reduce the risk of stroke. This link is most notable for hemorrhagic strokes, which result from a weakened vessel that spills blood into brain tissue upon rupturing.
Diabetes Prevention or Management
Cashews are low in carbohydrates, especially as compared to other common snacks. This limits their impact on blood sugar, making them a great option for those with type 2 diabetes, as well as those looking to prevent the condition.