Cashews have a buttery, sweet, and salty taste, and are an excellent source of several vitamins and minerals. They grow on cashew nut trees, native to Brazil. The nuts grow inside the seeds that hang from cashew apples.
Cashews contain a lot of vitamins and nutrients, but they also contain a lot of fat.
Not all fats are bad for you, and some types of fat can actually help your heart health. The fat in cashews is “good” fat, which is believed to help prevent heart disease and reduce the risk of stroke. The fat also helps you feel full and satisfied and may help in managing your weight.
Cashews contain the heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, including oleic and palmitoleic acids. These are essential fatty acids that have been associated with lower levels of LDL cholesterol and higher levels of HDL cholesterol. As a result, consumption of the monounsaturated fats in cashews is associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Cashews are an excellent vegetarian source of copper, providing more of the mineral than most other non-meat sources. In fact, eating a quarter-cup of cashews every day gives you 98 percent of your recommended daily intake of copper, which may decrease your risk of chronic disease. The copper and iron in cashews work together to help the body form and use red blood cells. This in turn keeps blood vessels, nerves, bones, and the immune system healthy and functioning properly.
Research shows that eating more nuts, such as cashews, can lower your risk for cardiovascular disease by reducing blood pressure and cholesterol levels. In one study, cashews reduced blood pressure and raised “good” cholesterol levels.
Cashews contain high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, which act as antioxidants. When consumed daily, these antioxidant compounds can protect the eyes from the type of damage that can lead to blindness as we get older. Cashews can also help decrease the risk of cataracts.
According to Harvard research, two servings of nuts a day (two handfuls) is helpful in fighting against cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer.
How to Buy
Look for dry-roasted cashews and unsalted, meaning the nuts were cooked without any added oil or sodium.
Cashews are offered in bulk and prepackaged containers. When purchasing from bulk bins, make sure the cashews are covered, and that the store has good product turnover to maintain freshness. You will find packaged cashews in a variety of containers – resealable and non-resealable bags, plastic jars, and foil-lined cans. When buying packaged cashews, choose vacuum-packed jars or cans over cellophane packaging as they will stay fresh longer. Whether in bulk or packaged, check to make sure there is no evidence of moisture or insects. Also look to see that the cashews are not shriveled, as this is a sign that they are past their prime. If possible, smell the cashews to ensure they are not rancid.
How to Store
Cashews have high levels of two things: oleic acid and oil. The oleic acid gives cashews an edge over other nuts by boosting shelf life; cashews last longer than almonds and peanuts, for example. The high oil content, however, makes them perishable and they can turn rancid quickly. Store cashews in a cool, dry place in an airtight container to avoid absorption of other food odors. At room temperature, they will not last long, but if you refrigerate them, they can last up to six months. Cashews may also be stored in the freezer for up to one year.
How to Cook
Cashews are versatile and can be used both raw and cooked in your favorite dishes as protein boosts or garnishes. Add them to chicken dishes, salads, in home-made or store bought granola.
Make cashew butter in a high-speed blender. It takes time so be patient because its rich creaminess is worth the effort.
Cashew Caesar Dressing is great drizzled over roasted potatoes or as a sub for mayo on any sandwich.
Cream of Cashew Pea Soup is dairy-free but wonderfully creamy!
Crunchy Cashew-Sesame Bars are energizing breakfast/snack bars you can make at home.
I use cashews often in baking. I soak a gallon jug of cashews covered in water overnight and store them in 1/2 cup portions in the freezer.
Rose Cardamom Chocolate Cheesecake is both vegan and grain-free – totally delicious.