Native to South America, cashews are actually a seed despite being popularly known as a nut. These seeds are found on the end of cashew apples in parts of South America closest to the equator. Cashews contain 5 g of protein per ounce and are a source of good fats, making them a healthy snack choice in moderation. However, cashews can also have adverse side effects for those who have allergies or need to avoid magnesium-rich foods.
Too much of a good thing can be bad for your health. Unless you are diligent in seeking out unsalted cashews, you may be adding significant amounts of sodium to your diet when noshing on this salty treat. An adult only requires 1,500 mg of sodium per day, while the tolerable upper limit for adults is 2,300 mg. A single ounce of cashews contains 5 mg of sodium, if they are unsalted. However, salted cashews can add 87 g of sodium per ounce. High sodium intake can leave to high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and kidney disease.
Allergies to cashews are on the rise, according to a study published in the December 2003 edition of the journal "Allergy." The study points out that this is concerning because it affects young children who may have never previously been exposed. A further concern is raised in a 2005 article published in the journal "Archives of Disease in Childhood": Anaphylaxis, or constricting of the airways, was found to be more common in cashew allergies than in peanut allergies.
Possible Drug Interactions
Cashews have a high magnesium content, generally 82.5 mg of magnesium per ounce. The University of Maryland Medical Center notes a number of drug interactions with magnesium. Quinolone antibiotics, such as ciprofloxacin, and magnesium bind together, preventing adequate absorption of the antibiotic. Magnesium may also interact with blood pressure medications and calcium channel blockers, increasing the likelihood of adverse side effects from the medications, such as nausea and water retention. Magnesium from cashews may also interact with diabetic medications, thyroid medications, diuretics and penicillamine. Pay close attention to drug information and if medications list magnesium as a concern, be aware that cashews may contribute to drug interactions.
With a small 1-oz. portion packing a 163 calories and healthy unsaturated fats, this snack could help you tip the scale if you are not careful with portion sizes. Even healthy fats need to be consumed in moderation. Excessive weight gain puts you at risk for high cholesterol, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cancer, stroke, heart disease and many other medical conditions.