Cashew nuts, which grow in tropical and subtropical regions, have a rich, buttery taste. The cashews grow inside small, pumpkin-shaped fruits called cashew apples. Cashews are also a good source for several different nutrients, and you can include them as part of a healthy diet.
One ounce of dry-roasted cashew nuts—about one handful, or 16 to 18 nuts—has 160 calories and 13g of fat, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. Most of the fat in cashew nuts in unsaturated fat: Only three of the 13g of fat are saturated fat. An ounce of cashews has 4g of protein and 1g of dietary fiber. The same-size serving of cashews also contains about 45mg of phytosterols.
Increasing the amount of unsaturated fat in your diet and decreasing the amount of saturated fat can improve your total cholesterol, according to New York University's Langone Medical Center. The phytosterols in cashews also have cholesterol-lowering abilities.
In addition to positively impacting your cholesterol levels, there are many reasons cashews can be part of a healthy diet. In a study published in the "International Journal of Obesity" in 2001, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women's Hospital found that dieters who included nuts like cashews in their diet were able to lose weight better than people who stuck with more traditional diet plans. Another study, published in the "Journal of the American Medical Association" in 2002, showed that women who ate nuts were 30 percent less likely to have diabetes than women who didn't eat nuts.
Cashews are suggested as part of the recommended four to five servings of "nuts, seeds and legumes" in the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), a diet plan designed to help combat high blood pressure.
Because cashews are high in fat and calories, eating too many of them can derail a healthy diet. Limit your intake to a handful at a time. Some people are allergic to cashews, so if you notice a rash, shortness of breath or other symptoms after eating cashews, see a doctor.