Some things are worth the effort!
A tropical evergreen, the Cashew is derived from an indigenous Brazilian tree that made its way from South America to India and Africa around the 1400s. It was used for its erosion control, wood, food and even its toxic resin. It has since spread into other areas such as Australia, the Caribbean and Central America and can be found both wild and farmed for cultivation.
The cashew is not a true nut but a drupe fruit that is made up of 2 parts, a bean like seed that can grow as large as an inch long, and what is referred to as a cashew apple. The seed, or nut is surrounded by an inner shell which is then surrounded by layers of very toxic resin and then yet, another shell. The cashew apple grows attached to, but separate from the seed pod. The apple does not encase the seed and therefor isn’t considered a true fruit but an accessory fruit. Although the cashew is the golden nugget of this pod, the cashew apple is edible as well and can be used for juice, liquor and preserves such as jams. It isn’t often eaten raw as it is quite fibrous and more often than not it is used for livestock feed.
The middle layer of resins is extremely toxic, causing skin irritation, blisters and damage to the eyes and lungs if not handled with special care. Gloves and proper ventilation are essential for the extraction of the cashew seed. The acid found contained within this resin is the same as the irritating compound found in Poison Ivy or Sumac. More sophisticated practices of seed extraction have developed but it is important to understand that free trade cashews protect cashew harvest workers from less desirable working conditions so when purchasing cashews, consider their source.
Benefits to adding cashews to your diet:
- High in minerals such as magnesium, copper, zinc, iron, selenium, manganese and phosphorus
- Rich in anti-oxidants such as carotenoids and polyphenyls
- May help with depression and anxiety as cashews contain Tryptophan, which converts to serotonin, a known essential neurotransmitter of the brain.
- May protect against neurogenic disease such as Alzheimer’s
- May decrease cancer risk
- Contains Vitamins B1 (Thiamine), B6 and Vitamin K
- High fiber, protein and mono-unsaturated fat
- May help with healthy blood lipid profile, reducing bad cholesterol and raising HDL’s
- May reduce risk of gallstones
- May help regulate diabetes due to balance in protein and fat content
- May help reduce blood pressure due to minerals such as magnesium and potassium
- Low on the glycemic index
- May reduce oxidative stress and inflammation
- May help protect against damage to the eye from disease such as Macular Degeneration due to its high level of zeaxanthin, a strong anti oxidantf
- Cashew oil is good for hair and skin
- Gluten free, safe for celiac
- Dairy free, safe for lactose intolerant
- Great vegan alternative for animal ingredients
A note on Copper:
Cashews have a notably high amount of copper compared to many plant based foods. Its copper content compares best to seafood and beef, making it a great vegetarian source of this mineral. It may help with improving anemia as copper works with iron to carry oxygen in our system, along with improved fertility in men and increased melatonin production for hair and skin health. Copper is also essential in bone and collagen production in the body.
- This seed can still be a significant food allergy for many, if a tree nut allergy is suspected, test carefully
- Cashews have a high nutritive profile but are still high in calories. Add them to your diet but keep the calorie intake checked
- Excessive intake may cause constipation, bloating and gas
Adding Cashews to your diet:
Cashews are often eaten as a specialty nut in western society but other regions, such as South Asia and Southern India, use cashews regularly in savory dishes. They also create a dreamy, creamy replacement for dairy and thus make an amazing alternative in vegan dishes. Try cashews in trail mix, granola, stir-fries, salads, energy bites, like these Coconut Lemon Energy Bites, and desserts such as this Vegan Lemon Cheesecake. Or step right out of your comfort zone and try my Dreamy, Creamy Cashew Sauce or this incredible Cultured Cashew Spread. You’ll be amazed at how rich and satisfying the flavours are in cashew recipes!
You can also find cashew milk and creamer substitutes and cashew butter, which you can use like any nut butter such as almond or peanut butter.
Keep stored in a air tight container or in a cool area or freezer. Has a good shelf life.