Are cashews good for you?

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Cashews are a popular nut known for their sweet, creamy flavor. But beyond being a tasty snack, are cashews actually good for you?

There are many potential health benefits linked to eating cashews. Cashews contain key nutrients like healthy fats, plant protein, and antioxidants that may boost heart health, stabilize blood sugar, aid weight loss, and support brain function.

However, some downsides exist as well. The high calorie, fat, and oxalate content of cashews can be problematic in some cases. Those with nut allergies also need to be cautious with cashew consumption.

Overall, cashews can be a nutritious part of a balanced diet for most people when eaten in moderation. Let’s explore the nutrition, benefits, and downsides of cashews in more detail.

An Overview of Cashew Nutrition

Cashews are loaded with important vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds. Here is an overview of the nutrition found in a 1-ounce (28-gram) serving of raw cashews:

  • Calories: 157
  • Fat: 12 grams
  • Protein: 5 grams
  • Carbs: 9 grams
  • Fiber: 1 gram
  • Vitamin K: 7% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Copper: 25% of the DV
  • Magnesium: 20% of the DV
  • Iron: 11% of the DV
  • Zinc: 10% of the DV

Cashews get the majority of their calories from fat, mostly in the form of oleic acid, the same heart-healthy monounsaturated fat found in olive oil. Almost two-thirds of their fat content is unsaturated fats.

Cashews are also a good plant-based source of protein and fiber. Plus, they contain vitamin K, copper, magnesium, and other trace minerals.

Some key plant compounds found in cashews include:

  • Anacardic acid – antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent
  • Gallic acid – antioxidant with anticancer effects
  • Flavonoids – antioxidants that protect cells from damage

Now let’s explore some of the top evidence-based health benefits associated with cashew consumption.

Benefits of Cashews for Heart Health

Consuming nuts like cashews may promote heart health in several ways.

First, cashews contain mostly unsaturated fats. A study in Circulation found that eating unsaturated fats instead of saturated and trans fats was associated with lower rates of coronary heart disease.

Cashews also have significant amounts of the amino acid arginine. A study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition gave participants cashew kernels daily and saw improvements in some cardiovascular disease risk factors compared to controls.

In addition, cashews contain antioxidants like anacardic acids. Research in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research indicates that anacardic acids can help lower oxidative stress and blood lipid levels, reducing risk factors for cardiovascular diseases.

Furthermore, multiple studies link higher nut consumption to lower LDL “bad” cholesterol. A review in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that consuming 67 grams of nuts daily, including cashews, significantly decreased LDL cholesterol in the blood.

By boosting good fats, providing antioxidants, and lowering LDL, cashews may help maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels, reducing your overall risk of heart disease.

Cashews May Help Control Blood Sugar

With their combination of healthy fats, plant protein, and fiber, cashews may help regulate blood sugar spikes after meals.

Fiber slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, preventing surges in blood glucose levels. Research shows that higher dietary fiber intake is associated with lower fasting blood sugar levels and a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The plant protein and fat in cashews can also promote steady blood sugar. One study in Metabolism: Clinical and Experimental gave people with diabetes cashew nut meals. It found the cashews significantly reduced blood sugar spikes compared to control meals.

Additionally, studies demonstrate that consuming nuts like cashews at least twice a week is linked to a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

So snacking on cashews or adding them to meals may help stabilize blood sugar, especially for those already diagnosed with diabetes. More stable blood sugar can reduce diabetic complications.

Cashews May Aid Weight Loss

Obesity continues to be a major health concern worldwide. Could cashews support healthy weight management? The evidence indicates they may.

First, cashews are rich in plant protein, providing over 5 grams per ounce. Research shows higher protein diets promote feelings of fullness and lead to decreased belly fat and body weight.

Cashews are also loaded with fiber. Adequate fiber intake is associated with increased weight loss and reduced body fat.

One study in Nutrients had participants eat cashews daily for 12 weeks. The cashew group lost significantly more body fat and weight compared to the control group not eating nuts.

Furthermore, research indicates that regularly eating nuts is linked to better weight management over time and a lower risk of obesity.

So with their hunger-busting protein and fiber, cashews can be a filling, nutritious snack for those trying to reach a healthy weight.

Potential Brain Health Benefits

Your brain uses a tremendous amount of energy and is highly susceptible to oxidative damage. Could loading up on antioxidant-rich cashews help boost brain health?

Some early research indicates this may be the case. For one, cashews are high in vitamin E. Multiple studies link higher vitamin E intake to a lower risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.

Additionally, animal studies report that cashew nut extracts improved memory and slowed cognitive impairment. This effect is attributed to cashews’ abundance of antioxidants like anacardic acid.

More human research is needed. But the antioxidant content of cashews may help protect cells from damage and preserve cognitive function as you age.

Downsides and Concerns with Eating Cashews

While cashews offer some nutritional upside, there are a few downsides to be aware of:

High in Calories and Fat

At over 150 calories and 12 grams of fat per ounce, cashews are one of the higher calorie and fat nuts.

This isn’t necessarily bad, given most of the fat is unsaturated. However, consuming cashews in excess can easily lead to unwanted weight gain.

To keep calories in check, stick to a 1-ounce portion of cashews at a time. You can also limit how often you eat them each week.


Tree nut allergies are one of the most common food allergies. People with a tree nut allergy often have to avoid cashews entirely due to the high risk of an allergic reaction.

Allergic reactions to nuts can range from mild swelling and hives to the life-threatening condition anaphylaxis. Those with any nut allergy should use extreme caution with cashews.

High in Oxalates

Cashews contain moderate amounts of oxalates, which are plant compounds that bind to calcium during digestion. In some cases, this can contribute to kidney stones in those predisposed.

If you’ve had kidney stones or are at high risk for them, you may want to limit high-oxalate foods like cashews. That said, for most people, oxalates in cashews should not be a major concern.

Can Trigger Migraines

There are some indications that cashews may be a trigger food for migraine headaches in susceptible people.

Compounds in cashews like tyramine, phenylethylamine, and tannins may cause blood vessels in the brain to dilate and provoke migraines in those prone to them.

If you frequently get migraines, you could try an elimination diet removing cashews for a period to see if symptoms improve. Reintroduce them later to check for any effect.

Are Cashews Good for You? The Bottom Line

Overall, cashews can be a healthy part of most diets when eaten in moderation. Their stellar nutrient profile provides antioxidants, minerals, plant protein, and healthy fats that offer benefits for heart health, blood sugar control, weight management, and possibly even brain function.

Still, those with nut allergies, kidney issues, or migraine disorders may want to exercise more caution with cashew consumption. And everyone should be mindful of portion sizes given the high calorie density.

Aim to stick to no more than a 1-ounce serving, about 18 cashews, a couple times per week. You can also substitute cashews for less nutritious snacks like chips or crackers.

Cashews pair well with both sweet and savory flavors. Consider eating them raw, roasted, in trail mixes, stirred into oatmeal or yogurt, blended into sauces and dips, or as a crunchy salad topper.

So are cashews good for you? Incorporating a moderate amount of cashews into your eating pattern can be beneficial for most people. But those with specific health concerns may need to be more selective with cashew consumption. Ultimately, cashews can be a tasty addition to an overall balanced and nutritious diet

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