Cashews — a tree nut — are one of the most widely consumed nuts worldwide. These nuts can provide you with a variety of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants.
However, cashews may not be suitable for everyone; these nuts are rich in fermentable carbohydrates, which means they can cause gastrointestinal problems, such as bloating, in some people.
Cashews have the potential to make you feel bloated because they are high-FODMAP foods, meaning they contain carbs that are likely to cause stomach upset. However, for most people, cashews are a healthy snack that won’t cause any gastrointestinal problems.
Cashew Nut Nutrition Facts
A healthy serving of nuts is about one ounce (28 grams). An August 2017 study in the Indian Farmer journal explains that between 28 and 30 grams of cashews are equivalent to 14 to 18 cashew nuts.
The USDA states that an ounce (28 grams) of raw cashew nuts has 157 calories, 12.5 grams of fat, 5.2 grams of protein and 8.6 grams of carbohydrates. About 0.9 grams of these carbohydrates come from fiber, which means that each ounce of cashews has 7.6 net carbs. Each ounce of cashews also contains various vitamins and minerals, with:
- 69 percent of the daily value (DV) for copper
- 11 percent of the DV for iron
- 20 percent of the DV for magnesium
- 20 percent of the DV for manganese
- 13 percent of the DV for phosphorus
- 10 percent of the DV for selenium
- 15 percent of the DV for zinc
- 10 percent of the DV for vitamin B1 (thiamin)
- 5 percent of the DV for vitamin B5
- 7 percent of the DV for vitamin B6
- 8 percent of the DV for vitamin K
Cashews also contain small amounts of vitamin E, B-complex vitamins, and potassium and calcium. According to an August 2015 study in the Journal of Food Science and Nutrition, cashews also contain other nutrients, like lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants and other beneficial bioactive compounds.
Given their rich nutritional content, cashews are generally considered a healthy food. Their antioxidants are thought to help prevent cancer, while some of their nutrients, like copper and iron, are essential for your body to make blood cells. Like other tree nuts, eating cashews is thought to be good for your heart. Unfortunately, despite all these benefits, cashews have nutritional components that may cause gastrointestinal side effects, like bloating.
Fatty Foods and Bloating
Nuts are known for being rich in fat; in fact, fat is the primary micronutrient in cashews. Fatty foods are known to cause symptoms like bloating and nausea in certain people, like those with persistent indigestion (also called functional dyspepsia).
Eating fatty foods can delay gastric emptying, which leads to gastrointestinal side effects like bloating and changes in your bowel movements. Unfortunately, all fatty foods, including cashews, can cause these side effects in people with functional dyspepsia.
However, the chances of cashews causing bloating because of their fat content is unlikely unless they've been consumed in excessive amounts. According to an April 2016 study in the journal Advanced Biomedical Research, large meals tend to cause symptoms like bloating and nausea in people with functional dyspepsia. Because a 1-ounce serving is typically between 160 and 200 calories, cashews can still be okay to eat as long as you consume them in limited amounts.
In fact, cashews are considered a healthy snack. They're filled with healthy, unsaturated fats, rather than unhealthy trans or saturated fats. According to an August 2015 study in the Journal of Food Science and Nutrition, about 80 percent of the fat content cashews have comes from healthy, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Each ounce of cashews has 13 percent of the daily value for omega-6 fatty acids and small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.
Compared to other nuts, cashews may even be suitable for people with functional dyspepsia. Even when a diet requires you to limit your fat intake, consumption of healthy unsaturated fats, like linolenic and linoleic acid, is important for good health. Although cashews have more fat than other foods, they have less fat and more carbohydrates than other nuts, making them less likely to result in side effects like bloating.
Fermentable Carbohydrates and Bloating
Unlike most other nuts, cashews contain fermentable short-chain carbohydrates. Fermentable short-chain carbohydrates are typically referred to as FODMAPs, or fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols.
Not everyone can digest foods that are high in FODMAPs, including people with irritable bowel syndrome. The short-chain carbohydrates that make up FODMAPs aren't easily absorbed by the body. They ferment in the colon, so they can cause a variety of gastrointestinal symptoms, including bloating. To minimize such gastrointestinal side effects, consumption of foods that cause such symptoms may need to be infrequent or eliminated altogether.
If you eat cashews regularly and experience bloating, it might be because they're a high-FODMAP food. Your doctor may recommend a low-FODMAP diet to figure out what other foods are causing you to experience similar gastrointestinal side effects. When people remove high-FODMAP foods from their diets, they tend to experience less abdominal pain, bloating and gas.
If you're following a low-FODMAP diet and cashews are causing you gastrointestinal side effects, you may need to remove them from your diet. Fortunately, you can consume most other nuts, except pistachios, as an alternative. Low-FODMAP nuts include:
- Macadamia nuts
- Pine nuts
If you're following a low-FODMAP diet and are reluctant to eliminate cashews from your diet, know that it's not meant to be long-term. This diet is meant to help alter the microbes that live in your gastrointestinal tract, improving the types and amounts of good bacteria that reside there. Eventually, side effects like bloating should go away and you should be able to consume cashews again — at least in limited amounts.
- Journal of Nurse Practitioners: "Addressing the Role of Food in Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptom Management"
- Indian Farmer: "Nutritional Value and Health Benefits of Nuts"
- Food and Nutrition: "Nutritional Composition of Raw Fresh Cashew (Anacardium occidentale L.) Kernels From Different Origin"
- Advanced Biomedical Research: "Dietary Fat Intake and Functional Dyspepsia"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Nutrition: Nuts and Heart Health"
- MyFoodData: "Nutrition Facts for Cashews (Raw)"