If you are searching for a snack which is both tasty and nutrition packed then look no further than the cashew nut, the fruit of the cashew tree, native to Brazil. Cashew nuts are not only eaten as a snack but used extensively in Chinese, Thai and Indian cooking and have enough health benefits to warrant more than the few lines to be sung in their praise here. But are cashews fattening or can they help in weight loss? Let’s start by looking at the health benefits of cashews.
Health Benefits of Cashew Nuts and Nutritional Information
It it hard to believe that so much goodness can be crammed into so small a food source but cashews, along with almost every other nut, have a whole list of things going for them from a nutritional and health point of view.
1.) Protein – along with all other nuts, cashews are a rich protein source. Protein is an essential dietary requirement for maintaining performance and energy levels, bolstering our immune system to keep disease and illness at bay and for building new cells and repairing tissue.
2.) Fiber – cashews also provide our bodies with digestible fiber which is necessary for maintaining bowel and intestinal health and ensuring these systems work to their optimum. Fiber also plays a part in maintaining healthy blood glucose levels by regulating the rate at which carbohydrates are absorbed. This process is helpful for anyone on a weight restriction diet as fiber foods make you feel full for longer.
3.) Vitamins – a ¼ cup or 34 gram serving of cashew nuts will provide more than 10% of our recommended daily intake of vitamin B1 or Thiamine and vitamin B6. Cashew nuts also contain vitamin C but in very low levels.
4.) Minerals – essential as part of a health promoting diet to maintain many of our physiological functions.
Cashew nuts are particularly high in copper, giving us 38% of our recommended daily dietary intake in one serving of 34 grams. Copper plays a part in utilizing iron, the maintenance of healthy bone and soft tissue and for melanin production, our skins natural protection from the harmful rays of the sun. Copper is also a necessary part of the process which produces collagen and elastin and it has been suggested therefore that cashews have anti-aging properties.
Cashews are also high in magnesium, which plays a part in reducing blood pressure, reducing asthma severity and preventing muscle cramps and fatigue Phosphorus, in high levels, as well as zinc, potassium, iron and calcium are also present.
5.) Tryptophan – this is one of the essential amino acids which the body can only source through dietary intake. Tryptophan is essential in the production of the hormone serotonin which is responsible for positive mood enhancement, good memory function, stress relief and healthy sleep.
6.) Anti-oxidant – cashews are one of the highest carriers of antioxidants amongst all the plant food sources. Anti-oxidants play a significant role in maintaining heart health along with helping to maintain many other bodily processes.
Are Cashews Fattening?
As previously mentioned, nuts are often avoided by those trying to lose weight but recent studies have shown that the fear of nuts contributing to weight gain are unfounded. Findings from these studies show that individuals who eat nuts at least four times a week, compared to those who ate no nuts or very few, were 31% less likely to gain weight.
Additionally, the fibre content in cashews makes them a good choice for anyone looking to lose weight as they satiate appetites for longer.
There are 196 calories in a 34 gram serving of cashews.
Healthy Fats in Cashews are Not Fattening
Many nuts are avoided by those on weight loss diets as they assume nuts are fattening. However, most of the fat contained within cashew nuts is the heart disease fighting, cholesterol lowering, healthy type of fat – mono-unsaturated and polyunsaturated – and cashews are less fattening than most other types of nuts. Of the overall fat content of cashews, 54% is of the mono-unsaturated variety, 18% of the polyunsaturated variety and only 16% of the ‘bad’ fat or saturated variety. Much of the healthy fat is oleic acid, the same substance found in olive oil.
It is recommended by nutritionists and medical professionals that anyone with a history of kidney or gallbladder problems avoid cashew nuts and it probably goes without saying that all the information contained here refers to unsalted and unsweetened cashew nuts.