Cashews are a nutritious nut, but they aren't a weight-loss miracle food. Including them as part of a reduced-calorie weight loss diet, however, may make that diet more satisfying and make it easier for you to continue with the diet long enough to reach your goal weight.
Nuts and Weight
Some studies have shown potential weight-related benefits of nuts: Dieters who ate at least two servings of nuts per week were less likely to gain weight than those who eat nuts less often, according to a review article published in Nutrients in July 2010. Another review article, published in The Journal of Nutrition in 2008, notes that nuts tend to increase satiety so you eat less food overall and that not all of the calories from nuts are absorbed, which may be the reason why nuts eaten in moderation don't tend to cause weight gain.
Monounsaturated Fat Helps You Lose Weight
Although cashews are somewhat high in fat, like other types of nuts, most of this fat -- 8 of the 13 grams in an ounce of cashews -- is the healthy monounsaturated type. A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2003 reports that replacing saturated fat in the diet with unsaturated fat helped increase weight and fat loss even if the number of calories and the total amount of fat consumed stayed the same. Eating a diet high in monounsaturated fat may also be just as beneficial for weight loss as eating a diet high in carbohydrates but low in fat, according to another study published in Diabetes Care in February 2009. In fact, a moderate-fat diet is better than a low-fat diet for improving cholesterol and triglyceride levels during weight loss, notes a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2004.
Protein and Weight Loss
Cashews, like most other nuts, are relatively good sources of protein, with more than 4 grams of protein per ounce, which is almost 10 percent of the recommended 46 grams of protein per day for women. For men, the recommended daily protein intake is 56 grams. Eating diets higher in protein may help people lose weight by helping to increase feelings of fullness and satiety, according to an article published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2015. Meals containing at least 25 grams of protein seem to have the most weight-loss benefits, however, so you may want to include another, lower-calorie source of protein in your meals along with a serving of cashews, such as beans, seafood or skinless chicken breast.
Cashews Calorie Considerations
Each ounce of cashews has 163 calories, which is only 16 to 18 cashew nuts, so it's easy to eat multiple servings in one sitting if you aren't careful. You need to cut 500 calories out of your diet each day to lose one pound per week, and this will be hard to do if you eat too many servings of cashews in one sitting. Eating cashews along with an apple or other relatively low-calorie source of fiber will help you fill up without eating too many calories.
Other Alternatives to Cashew Nuts
Most other nuts are also good choices for those trying to lose weight. Almonds and pistachios have a similar amount of calories to cashews, with about 160 per ounce. Peanuts, although technically not a nut, are also a good choice for those trying to increase their protein intake as part of their weight loss efforts, as they have 7 grams per ounce. Skip the macadamia nuts and pecans if you're trying to lose weight, as they are a lot higher in fat and calories.
While the easiest way to add cashews to your diet is simply to snack on a small handful, they can be included in any number of main dishes or sides. Consider adding cashews to green beans as a side dish, sprinkling them on salads, or including them in stir-fries along with chicken or lean cuts of pork. Increase the protein content of your stir-fries even more by serving them over quinoa instead of rice. Another option is to use crushed cashews instead of a portion of or all of the breadcrumbs to coat chicken or fish to give it a delicious crust.
- British Journal of Nutrition: Substitution of Saturated With Monounsaturated Fat in a 4-Week Diet Affects Body Weight and Composition of Overweight and Obese Men
- Diabetes Care: One-Year Comparison of a High–Monounsaturated Fat Diet With a High-Carbohydrate Diet in Type 2 Diabetes
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Effects of Moderate-Fat (From Monounsaturated Fat) and Low-Fat Weight-Loss Diets on the Serum Lipid Profile in Overweight and Obese Men and Women
- AARP: Nuts Are Good for Us. So Why Aren’t We Eating More of Them?
- Nutrients: Health Benefits of Nut Consumption
- The Journal of Nutrition: Impact of Peanuts and Tree Nuts on Body Weight and Healthy Weight Loss in Adults
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Nuts, Cashew Nuts, Dry Roasted, Without Salt Added
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Dietary Reference Intakes: Macronutrients
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: The Role of Protein in Weight Loss and Maintenance