Cashews offer several health benefits, although many avoid eating them because of their fat content. The fact is that cashews contain less fat than many other nuts, and what they do contain is primarily unsaturated fat. Unsaturated fats can help lower cholesterol levels and improve heart health. Along with delivering healthy fats, cashews have a positive impact on your health in several other ways.
Provide Necessary Minerals
Cashews can help maintain your body's balance of minerals needed for optimum health, as they are high in mineral content, with copper being the most abundant. A 1-oz. serving of roasted cashews contains 0.6 mg of copper, which is more than 30 percent of the recommended intake set by the Institute of Medicine. Copper is needed by your body for the production of hemoglobin, collagen, elastin and the protection of nerve fibers. Other minerals in cashews include magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, zinc, iron, potassium, selenium and calcium. Cashews contain only a trace of sodium unless you purchase salted nuts.
Although the vitamin content in cashews is not as generous as their mineral content, they still contribute toward your recommended daily intake. The same 1-oz. serving that delivers several minerals gives you over 10 percent of your recommended daily vitamin K intake, which is necessary for your blood to clot properly. Cashews also provide the B vitamins, in smaller amounts, and a trace of vitamin E. Along with vitamins, cashews add fiber and protein to your diet.
Reduce Diabetes Risk
Cashews are beneficial for controlling blood sugar, according to a study in the December 2010 issue of "Molecular Nutrition and Food Research." In the study, researchers from the University of Montreal tested an extract from cashew nuts, which contains anacardic acid, on lab rats. The results of their study show that the anacardic acid improves the ability of sugar to enter cells, which decreases the amount of sugar circulating in the bloodstream. Cashews also may promote the metabolism of sugar into energy, a process called glycolysis. Controlling blood-sugar levels reduces the risk of developing diabetes, a condition often associated with obesity and heart disease.
Reduce Cancer Risk
Cashews contain several antioxidant compounds that are regarded as anticancer agents. The National Cancer Institute explains that free radicals, which are damaged molecules, attack healthy cells, altering DNA and potentially leading to cancer. Proanthocyanidins are some of the antioxidant compounds found in cashews. These beneficial chemicals may have the ability to stop the growth of certain cancer cells.
- NYU Langone Medical Center; Health Nuts: Eating Nuts May Be Healthful; Diane Voyatzis Norwood, MS, RD, CDE; April 2011
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs): Recommended Dietary Allowances and Adequate Intakes, Vitamins
- University of Maryland Medical Center; Copper; Steven D. Ehrlich; March 2009
- "Molecular Nutrition and Food Research"; Hydro-ethanolic Extract of Cashew Tree Nut and Its Principal Compound, Anacardic Acid, Stimulate Glucose Uptake in C2C12 Muscle Cells; L. Tedong, et al.; December 2010
- National Cancer Institute; Antioxidants and Cancer Prevention: Fact Sheet; July 2004