Amazing Health Benefits of Cashew Nuts – Are You Eating Them?
The cashew nut is native to Brazil and was introduced to India in the second half of the 16th century as a crop to control soil erosion. Today it is a popular cash crop, grown on the slopes of the hilly regions of the east and west coasts of India.
All those pictures with the cashew nut perched on its parent fruit should tell you that cashews are seeds of the cashew plant, but with a difference. They grow OUTSIDE of the kernel or heart of the fruit!
Uses of Cashew Nuts
A handful of cashews or kaju is the tastiest snack. Cashews are used to garnish curries and sweets, and made into a paste and used to enrich sauces. Who hasn’t heard of or longed for kaju barfi or who hasn’t prepared the kaju garnish in strips on a halwa!
The nutritional value
One 100g. serving of kaju provides 553 calories. Nuts are high in fat, protein, and dietary fiber. They are rich sources of minerals, including iron, potassium, zinc, selenium, copper, manganese, phosphorus and magnesium. Kaju also contains thiamin, vitamin B6 and vitamin K.
100 grams of raw cashews contain 113 mg of beta-sitosterol which has considerable medicinal value.
Cashews are rich in nutrients. Eating a handful of cashews has many health benefits.
Rich in vitamins
The nutritional profile of cashew nuts shows us how rich they are in vitamins so essential to the functioning of our organism.
Vitamin B6 holds the key to over 100 enzymatic reactions in our body and is necessary for protein metabolism at the cellular level.
Thiamine or vitamin B1 is essential to prevent deficiency diseases such as beriberi, inflammation of the nerves or neuritis associated with pellagra or deficiencies during pregnancy. Thiamine is also beneficial for kidney health in people with type 2 diabetes and prevents memory loss, including that caused by Alzheimer’s disease. Thiamine is essential for the human body to make good use of carbohydrates.
Vitamin K is needed for blood clotting to prevent excessive bleeding. Recent studies have suggested it benefits bone health, particularly in the prevention of osteoporosis and steroid-induced bone loss.
A handful of kaju is really a vitamin supplement and tasty too!
Mineral wealth, a health benefit
Cashew nuts are a good iron supplement: the mineral is essential to fight against anemia.
Selenium is an important micronutrient necessary for the formation of antioxidants that support heart health.
Minerals such as copper, manganese, and zinc are needed for bone health, digestion, DNA synthesis, sexual functions, eyesight, and more. In fact, every function of our body is triggered and controlled by all of these essential minerals.
Benefits of beta-sitosterol
This vegetable ester found in cashew nuts is a boon from nature. It boosts the immune system, prevents colon cancer and is good for the gallbladder by stopping the formation of gallstones. It is also useful in the treatment of migraines, hair loss, bronchitis and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Cashews are also recommended for a pleasant night’s rest especially during menopause.
Some Common Misconceptions
Cashews are high in fat. But these are mostly unsaturated fats. You can get 67% of your daily fat intake from 100 grams of kaju. Cashews also contain 17% saturated fat; that’s more than the 6% found in walnuts and almonds, but not such a huge difference that they need to be put on a banned food list! If you have to choose between an equivalent amount of chips or any other type of fast food, and cashews, go for the latter! Kaju is nutritionally more beneficial: it is not an “empty calorie” type snack.
There are those who have allergies to nuts and peanuts. People with known allergic reactions should be careful.
Since cashews are so nutritionally dense, it would be a good idea to eat them as a replacement for empty calories like fried snacks rather than in addition to your regular calorie intake.
Cashews are best eaten raw, but no one should deprive themselves of the pleasure of the roasted and spicy variety once in a while.
How to store
Cashews typically stay fresh for up to a month. Store them in a bottle or container with an airtight lid.
If you have more than you can use, you can store them in the fridge for up to 4-6 months.
If you have a lot of them in some sort of Diwali bargain, it is best to keep them in the freezer.
Kajus can be bought everywhere, from your local grocery store to exclusive dried fruit shops. A good brand ensures that the cashews you are going to buy have been well stored and are free from pests.
Kaju is also available in different qualities. The larger the size of the nut, the more expensive it is. These nuts are also more popular and more expensive when whole. The problem with buying whole nuts is that you don’t know what they may be harboring inside. This is the reason why you need to buy from a reputable brand or store to get the best value for money.
Include cashews in your diet to supplement your nutritional intake. Add them to your morning cereal. Use kaju paste instead of cream to give your sauces that thick texture and creamy taste. Or just grab a handful and enjoy your day while snacking.