Are Cashews Good for You? 12 Science-Backed Effects of Eating Them
With a buttery smooth texture and ultra-rich flavor, it's not surprising that cashews are among the most popular and beloved nuts you can find on grocery store shelves. Cashews aren't just a convenient portable snack—they're incredibly versatile, too. In fact, these kidney-shaped nuts can be made into non-dairy milk, cream, and butter alternatives.
While you may already know that cashews are delicious, you may not be aware of the many effects eating cashews can have on your health. Not only are cashews high in protein, fiber, and healthy fats, but they also contain a wide range of vitamins and minerals that can benefit your body in many different ways. At the same time, those who are especially health-conscious might question the true extent of cashews' nutritional advantages. They may even be inclined to turn their noses up at this nut because of the oils and high-fat content.
So, are cashews good for you? Read on to find out—and for more science-backed information on a health food fave, be sure to check out 11 Science-Backed Benefits of Bananas.
A look at the nutrition content of cashews
Before jumping into how eating cashews can potentially affect your body and overall health in the short and long term, here's a breakdown of this nut's nutritional profile.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a one-ounce (28-gram) serving of raw cashews can supply your body with about:
- 157 calories
- 12.4 grams of fat
- 7.8 grams saturated fat
- 8.6 grams carbohydrates
- 0.9 grams fiber
- 1.7 grams sugar
- 5.2 grams protein
- 1.9 milligrams iron (11% DV)
- 82.8 milligrams magnesium (20% DV)
- 1.6 milligrams zinc (21% DV)
- 9.7 milligrams vitamin K (8% DV)
- 5.6 µg of selenium (10% DV)
12 effects of eating cashews
To help us get to the bottom of whether or not cashews are actually good for you, we consulted a few dietitians for their expert insight and did a little digging into the scientific research around this nut and its nutritional properties. From better blood sugar control to a healthier heart, here are some potential benefits of eating cashews.
1. Cashews can support a healthy immune function
"One ounce of cashews provides 10% of the daily recommended amount of iron. This mineral contributes to the normal function of the immune system," Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, FAND, award-winning nutrition expert and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Up Your Veggies: Flexitarian Recipes for the Whole Family, tells Eat This, Not That!
2. They may help reduce inflammation
"Cashews are high in polyphenols and carotenoids, [which are] antioxidants that help reduce inflammation and could ultimately reduce the risk of several chronic diseases," says Sarah Garone, NDTR, of A Love Letter to Food. "Research shows that roasted cashews are somewhat higher in antioxidants, so opt for a roasted variety for even more antioxidant potential."
3. They promote bone health
"Calcium and vitamin D are certainly important nutrients for bone health, but the Bone and Health Osteoporosis Foundation also lists vitamin K as a nutrient important for bone health and recommends eating sources of vitamin K at every meal or snack," adds Amidor.
4. Cashews can protect your cells from damage
Nuts and seeds are well known for their impressive antioxidant content. Antioxidants are compounds that can neutralize damage-causing free radicals in your body, thus shielding your body from disease and reducing inflammation overall. Cashews, in particular, are an excellent source of two types of antioxidants: polyphenols and carotenoids. Note, however, that roasted cashews appear to have greater antioxidant activity than raw ones.
5. They are good for your eyes
"Including cashews in your diet can help ensure that you are getting these essential nutrients for optimal eye health," explains Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD, at Balance One Supplements. "Cashews are good for eye health because they are a rich source of antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin. These antioxidants are important for maintaining healthy vision and protecting the eyes from damage caused by free radicals. Studies have shown that a diet rich in lutein and zeaxanthin can help reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and other eye diseases."
Additionally, research suggests that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of the polyphenols and carotenoids contained in cashews can also benefit eye health.
6. They support brain health
Cashews are good for brain health because they are rich in vitamin E, which is a potent antioxidant that helps protect brain cells from oxidative damage," says Best. "Studies have shown that vitamin E may help reduce the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease. Cashews are also a good source of magnesium, which is essential for healthy brain function and can help improve mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression."
7. They may actually help with weight loss
Many people wrongly assume that nuts are a no-no when you're trying to shed pounds since they're a calorie-dense, high-fat food. But a 2017 study in Nutrients revealed that people who regularly munch on nuts are more likely to maintain a healthy weight than those who don't. This could be because nuts are incredibly satiating—thanks to a powerhouse combo of protein, fiber, and fats—thereby promoting weight loss.
While cashews taste ultra-rich, you may be surprised to learn that they actually have slightly less fat and calories than many other popular nuts, like almonds, peanuts, and walnuts. One serving of cashews contains about 137 calories on average, but a 2019 study published in Nutrients found that the human body may only absorb around 84% of these calories—because some of the fat they contain remains sealed within the nut's fibrous wall.
8. Eating cashews could help improve your cholesterol
There are two types of cholesterol: LDL, the kind that causes harmful fatty buildups in your arteries, and HDL, the kind that can actually protect your heart by carrying LDL cholesterol away from the arteries and toward the liver.
Ideally, you want your ratio to show lower levels of LDL cholesterol and higher levels of HDL—that's where cashews come in. A 2017 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that incorporating cashews into your diet can decrease your "bad" LDL cholesterol. Not only that, but a 2018 study in the Journal of Nutrition showed that a diet rich in cashews increases levels of "good" HDL cholesterol.
9. They may help reduce your blood pressure
More than 100 million adults in America—or nearly half the adult population—have high blood pressure. According to a 2019 study in Current Developments in Nutrition, however, eating cashews is linked to lower blood pressure. Cashew consumption was also linked to lower levels of triglycerides—a type of fat in the blood that can increase your risk of stroke, heart attack, and heart disease when levels are high.
Keep in mind, though, that not all cashews are created equal in this regard. Many packaged cashews come salted, and foods with excess salt have been linked to high blood pressure.
10. They can give your heart health an overall boost
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S.—above stroke, respiratory diseases, diabetes, and Alzheimer's combined. Fortunately, a 2007 review published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that the risk of heart disease was 37% lower for those who eat nuts more than four times a week.
You may have already known that nuts can benefit your ticker, but cashews, specifically, may hold an advantage here. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that when people with type 2 diabetes ate 30 grams of raw, unsalted cashew nuts daily for 12 weeks, they experienced decreased cardiovascular risk factors, including reduced blood pressure and an uptick in HDL (or "good") cholesterol. The likely reason why cashews are associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease is that they're a good source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, which can help to reduce LDL cholesterol levels.
11. You'll get a healthy dose of copper
Copper plays an important role in various functions throughout the body, including the regulation of heart rate and blood pressure, the production of red blood cells, the development of bone, blood vessels, and connective tissue, and activation of the immune system. And guess what? One ounce of cashews contains a whopping 70% of your daily value for copper.
12. They can help regulate and control your blood sugar
It probably goes without saying that what you eat can play a significant role in your body's ability to keep your blood sugar levels in check. Adding cashews to your diet could significantly impact your blood sugar, whether you have diabetes or prediabetes.
In one 2019 study in the International Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, people with type 2 diabetes who consumed 10% of their daily calories from cashews had lower insulin levels than those who didn't eat any cashews—which is noteworthy given that keeping insulin levels down helps with blood sugar management. This may be due to the fact that cashews are so high in fiber, which can help to prevent blood sugar spikes by releasing glucose more slowly and steadily into the bloodstream.
A version of this story was originally published in September 2021. It has been fact-checked and updated with additional entries and information.
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