Cashew Nuts: Properties and Benefits
They are not very common in our country yet, but cashews nuts have a pleasant and delicate taste that goes well with different therapeutic properties. Their regular intake is beneficial to health, particularly to the heart
Cashew nuts are the fruit of the cashew tree, scientific name Western Anacardium. The plant is native to Brazil and belongs to the Anacardiacee family. Its dimensions are modest and on average it reaches a height of about 8 meters.
The cashew tree produces two fruits: the first, also called cashew apple, from the botanical point of view is not a real fruit, as it is nothing but an enlarged extension of the peduncle. Its appearance is that of a small pepper or a small apple, with colors ranging from red to yellow and green.
- Chemical Composition
- Blood Pressure
The real fruit is instead represented by cashew nut, a kind of walnut with a hard coating inside which there is an oily seed. The cashew shell contains an irritating oil, if it is broken the seed is irreparably contaminated and therefore it is no longer edible.
The seed must therefore be processed. The irritating oil is eliminated by a complicated procedure that uses heat.
Recently, this fruit has been used to produce alternative products to dairy products. Examples are cashew milk, cheese, sauces, creams and sour cream. The major producing countries of these fruits are India, Sri Lanka, Kenya and Tanzania.
In recent years the consumption of this type of fruit has increased considerably. The cause can also be found in the fact that scientific research suggests that nuts is one of the healthiest foods for our body.
Due to their high density of nutrients and minerals, cashew nuts, along with other types of shell fruit, are often recommended to improve heart health. One of the key factors of the cashew nuts consumption is the healthy fat content.
The fruits consist mainly of unsaturated fats in the form of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA that contain oleic acid), plus a smaller proportion of polyunsaturated fatty acids.
|Chemical composition for 100 grams of cashew nuts|
Amino acids: glutamic acid, aspartic acid, cystine, arginine, alanine, isoleucine, lysine, methionine, proline, serine, tyrosine, threonine, tryptophan, valine, histidine, glycine and phenylalanine.
100 grams of cashews have a caloric yield of 553 kcal.
Cashews: Properties and Benefits
Type 2 diabetes
The cashew nuts would possess properties that can bring benefits in patients with diabetes type 2. This is what emerges from some studies conducted by University of Montreal (Canada) and by University of Yaounde (Cameroon).
These fruits are rich in MUFA fats that slow the rate at which sugars are released into the bloodstream. Their main anti diabetic properties according to recent studies are due to anacardic acid that stimulates sugar control. ( 1 )
There is also scientific evidence to suggest that cashew nuts consumption prevents rapid changes in blood sugar and hypoglycemia. Such spikes are also responsible for headaches. ( 2 )
In a 2018 study, 300 different diabetes patients received two different diets. One based on cashews and one typical for diabetics. Patients who ate the cashew-enriched diet. After 12 weeks they had the lowest pressure and the highest good cholesterol levels. The fruits had no impact on blood sugar levels or on weight. ( 3 )
New research published in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research suggests that cashew nuts seed extract can play an important role in the prevention and treatment of diabetic problems.
The researchers found that cashew nuts extract increases the absorption of sugar by muscle cells. ( 4 )
According to a study of 2006 on a diet with 20% of calories derived from cashew nuts has improved pressure in patients with metabolic syndrome. In support of this thesis there is also another 2006 study that supports the effectiveness of magnesium, a mineral present in these fruits, however reduce pressure. ( 5 , 6 )
In a very recent study on Asian Indians the consumption of these fruits has reduced blood pressure significantly. ( 7 )
According to research by Harvard Medical School, dried fruit such as walnuts, almonds and cashews nuts can help reduce the risk of heart disease. This is because, as written below, their intake is useful in reducing bad LDL cholesterol. ( 8 )
Furthermore these fruits are rich in arginine, an amino acid which is converted into nitric oxide by the body and which relaxes blood vessels.
Due to the beneficial properties of MUFA and PUFA on metabolism, many studies associate the consumption of cashews nuts(and nut consumption in general) with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease.
A recent brazilian study states that the consumption of these fruits is beneficial for heart health thanks to the presence of fatty acids, vegetable proteins, fibers, vitamins, minerals, carotenoids and phytosterols with potential antioxidant activity. ( 9 )
Studies show that regular consumption of nuts and legumes can reduce the risk of developing diseases that can affect heart disease. For example, they help control cholesterol, hypertension and obesity. ( 10 )
According to the research the consumption of these fruits has beneficial effects on oxidative stress,on inflammation and vascular function. These factors are essential for keeping the heart healthy. ( 11 )
The latest scientific research suggests that the Mediterranean diet that is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids helps prevent heart-related diseases and stroke.
These fruits are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids such as oleic acid and palmitic acid. These components are very useful for reducing the bad HDL cholesterol level and for increasing the percentage of good LDL cholesterol. ( 12 )
In a 2015 study, the effects of consumption of some types of shelled fruit, including cashew nuts, on cardiovascular risk factors were studied. The results confirmed that the intake of nuts reduces the levels of LDL cholesterol and also triglycerides. ( 13 )
Some scientific studies have found that eating nuts every week is helpful to prevent the gallstones. According to the study, gallstones are associated with high levels of cholesterol present in bile. As we have just seen, regular consumption of these fruits is useful for reducing LDL cholesterol levels. ( 14 )
Cashews nuts contain zeaxanthin , an important pigment with antioxidant properties between the functions of which there is to filter the UVA rays at the level of the retina. In this way it helps to prevent the ocular degeneration typical of old age.
A 2007 study found that consumption of these fruits increased the antioxidant potential of the diet. As is known, antioxidants play an important role in our body. Their properties in fact contrast the activity of the much feared free radicals, a dangerous by-product of human metabolism. ( 15 )
The consumption of nuts is associated with a lower risk for some types of cancer. This property is especially true for cancers of the digestive tract, including those of the liver and colon. ( 16 )
Research has shown that the abundance of antioxidants in these fruits such as cardanol, cardiac and anacardic acids make this fruit effective for people subjected to anticancer treatments. ( 17 , 18 )
Taking these fruits during pregnancy accelerates the development of reflexes and memory in the future offspring. This is what an American study of 2017 suggests. In particular it seems that fatty acids contained in cashews are responsible for these benefits. ( 17 )
However, tests have been conducted in rats only for the time being and further tests are needed to be able to declare their effectiveness on humans.
Thanks to the presence of calcium, magnesium and potassium, these delicious fruits help keep bones healthy. In fact, scientific research attributes to these trace elements the ability to protect bones from demineralization. Thanks to vitamin K the fruits offer benefits for bone reconstruction. ( 18 )
They are rich in copper that helps metabolize iron and promotes the production of red blood cells. This property helps keep bones and the immune system healthy. ( 19 )
Also the phosphorus is present in good quantities in the cashew nut. This mineral is essential for the development of bones and teeth and promotes protein synthesis and maintenance of cellular health. ( 20 )
Use of Cashews
In Italy cashew nut is a little known and little used fruit. Instead it is widely used in oriental cuisine (in Thailand and China the cashew nut chicken is famous). The cashew nuts can be consumed in various ways. Toasted and salted as a snack, in the form of cream like peanut butter, or added to various types of dishes such as salads, rice and lean meats.
Excellent even if used for the preparation of desserts such as cakes and biscuits.
The recommended daily dose is 30 grams.
These delicious fruits can be a valuable aid for vegans. For those who still do not know, the high fat content, for most healthy fats benefits for the heart, making them an ideal substitute for whipped cream.
Take a cup of raw cashews, fill it with water and let it rest for a whole night. Then, with the help of a food processor, chop them until you obtain a homogeneous cream and add water to obtain the density you prefer. You will be amazed by the aesthetic similarity with the milk cream.
This sort of cream can be used indifferently with sweet and savory dishes as a vegan substitute for cooking cream. For example, you can sweeten it with a little sugar and pour it over a bowl of fresh strawberries.
In some sensitive people, especially in children, cashews can develop allergies. Symptoms can be represented by simple itching up to severe anaphylactic manifestations which include breathing difficulties, vomiting and diarrhea.
The cause of the allergy is due to anacardic acid, a substance found in other fruits belonging to the same family as mangoes and pistachios. Those who are allergic to cashews may also have problems with these other fruits of the same family.
The name anacardium comes from the Greek word kardia which means heart, just to indicate the shape of the fruit that recalls that of the heart.
The cashew shell contains an irritating resin that is used to produce paints and insecticides.
The cashew nuts should be stored in a tightly sealed tin, because if they are left to air rancid very quickly.
In recent years, the tastes of ice creams have multiplied, one of the most recent being just the cashew ice cream.
From the shell of the cashews a substance is extracted which is used to produce an indelible ink.
Maybe Not Everyone Knows That
A juice with refreshing properties is extracted from the cashew apple which is drunk after a short period of fermentation.
The cashew nuts have a fairly high cost due to the proceeding in which it must be subjected to become edible.
From the cashew seed an oil is obtained which, for organoleptic characteristics, is similar to almond oil.
In India, from the flowers of the cashew nut, a liqueur with a very strong taste and tonic properties is prepared.
The cashew tree is cultivated on a large scale for commercial purposes in Brazil, India and in many African countries. The plant is native to Brazil from where it has spread all over the world thanks to the delicate taste of its fruits and their health benefits.
These fruits can be bought raw, toasted and sometimes they are also seasoned with various aromas.
Cashew Nuts: Properties and Benefits
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