Cashews are a kidney-shaped seed sourced from the cashew tree — a tropical tree native to Brazil but now cultivated in various warm climates across the world.
Although commonly referred to as tree nuts, and nutritionally comparable to them, cashews are really seeds. They’re rich in nutrients and beneficial plant compounds and make for an easy addition to many dishes.
Like most nuts, cashews may also help improve your overall health. They’ve been linked to benefits like weight loss, improved blood sugar control, and a healthier heart.
This article reviews the nutrition, benefits, and downsides of cashews to determine whether they’re good for you.
Rich in nutrients
Cashews are rich in a range of nutrients. One ounce (28 grams) of unroasted, unsalted cashews provides you with around:
Protein: 5 grams
Fat: 12 grams
Carbs: 9 grams
Fiber: 1 gram
Copper: 67% of the Daily Value (DV)
Magnesium: 20% of the DV
Manganese: 20% of the DV
Zinc: 15% of the DV
Phosphorus: 13% of the DV
Iron: 11% of the DV
Selenium: 10% of the DV
Thiamine: 10% of the DV
Vitamin K: 8% of the DV
Vitamin B6: 7% of the DV
Cashews are especially rich in unsaturated fats — a category of fats linked to a lower risk of premature death and heart disease.
They’re also low in sugar, a source of fiber, and contain almost the same amount of protein as an equivalent quantity of cooked meat.
In addition, cashews contain a significant amount of copper, a mineral essential for energy production, healthy brain development, and a strong immune system. They’re also a great source of magnesium and manganese, nutrients important for bone health.
Contain beneficial plant compounds
Nuts and seeds are considered antioxidant powerhouses, and cashews are no exception.
Antioxidants are beneficial plant compounds that keep your body healthy by neutralizing damage-causing molecules known as free radicals. In turn, this helps reduce inflammation and increases your body’s ability to stay healthy and free from disease.
Cashews are a rich source of polyphenols and carotenoids — two classes of antioxidants also found in other tree nuts.
Studies link antioxidants in nuts like walnuts, pecans, and almonds to lower levels of oxidative cell damage.
Due to their similar antioxidant profile, cashews may be expected to offer similar oxidation-fighting benefits. This may be particularly true of roasted cashews, which appear to have an increased antioxidant activity compared with their raw counterparts.
That said, the number of cashew-specific studies are limited and more research is needed before strong conclusions can be made.
May help you lose weight
Nuts are rich in calories and fat. Hence, people wishing to lose weight have traditionally been advised to limit the amount of nuts in their diet.
However, research is starting to link nut-rich diets to greater weight loss and overall lower body weights than nut-free diets.
This may in part be explained by the fact that cashews appear to provide the body with fewer calories than once thought.
According to the FoodData Central database of the Unites States Department of Agriculture (USDA), cashews provide 157 calories per 1-ounce (28-gram) serving.
However, recent research suggests that the human body may only digest and absorb around 84% of these calories. This is likely because a portion of the fat they contain remains trapped within the cashew’s fibrous wall rather than being absorbed during digestion.
On the other hand, roasting or grinding nuts may increase your body’s ability to fully digest them, thereby increasing the number of calories absorbed.
As a result, weight loss benefits may be strongest for whole, raw cashews, although more research is needed to confirm this. And you may be sacrificing the antioxidant benefit that comes with roasting cashews.
In addition to providing fewer calories than expected, nuts are also rich in protein and fiber, which are known to reduce hunger and promote feelings of fullness, both of which can further promote weight loss.