Cashew Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Cashew annotated
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

The cashew nut is grown in Vietnam, Nigeria, India, and on the Ivory Coast, but it is native to Brazil. The nut is a product of the evergreen cashew tree (Anacardium occidentale) that produces both a fruit (also called an apple) and a nut (also called a seed) that hangs beneath the fruit.

Cashews are consumed as a snack on their own, are commonly used in nut mixes, and can also be processed into cashew butter, cashew milk, and other products. Cashews can be a healthy addition to your diet when consumed in moderation. 

Cashew Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 1 ounce (28g) of raw, unsalted cashews.

  • Calories: 157
  • Fat: 12g
  • Sodium: 3.4mg
  • Carbohydrates: 8.6g
  • Fiber: 0.9g
  • Sugars: 1.7g
  • Protein: 5.2g

Carbs

A single serving of cashew nuts is 1 ounce—or about 18 nuts. One serving contains 157 calories and just under 9 grams of carbohydrate. Most of the carbohydrate in cashews is starch. A small amount is fiber (just under 1 gram) and the rest (about 1.7 grams) is sugar. 

The estimated glycemic load of cashews is 3 if you consume a 1-ounce serving. Glycemic load takes serving size into account when estimating a food's impact on blood sugar. Foods with a glycemic index of 10 or less are considered low glycemic.

Fats

Most of the calories in cashews come from fat. There are 12 grams of fat in a serving if you consume the full ounce. Most of the fat is monounsaturated fat (6.8g) or polyunsaturated fat (2.2g). Unsaturated fats are considered to be healthier forms of fat. There are also about 2.2 grams of less healthy saturated fat in a serving of cashews.

Protein

Cashew nuts provide just over 5 grams of protein per serving. As a basis for comparison, cashews provide less protein than peanuts, which provide over 7 grams per one-ounce serving.

Vitamins and Minerals

Cashew nuts provide vitamin K (about 12% of your daily needs). You'll also benefit from thiamin and vitamin B6 when you consume cashews.

Cashews are an excellent source of magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and manganese and a good source of zinc and iron.

Health Benefits

Consumption of nuts in general—and cashews, in particular—is associated with certain health benefits.

Aids Weight Control

Nuts can make a smart snack if you are trying to lose weight. The healthy fat, protein, and fiber in nuts may help you to feel full and satisfied after meals or at snacktime. But since nuts are high in calories, it's important to consume them in moderation.

One study investigating nut consumption found that regularly eating nuts (approximately one handful daily) over the long term can be incorporated as a component of a healthy diet for the prevention of obesity and type 2 diabetes. But the study investigated nuts as a replacement for less healthy foods. It is unclear from this study whether nuts themselves provide any unique benefit.

May Help Decrease Cholesterol

Cashews may help lower LDL cholesterol in some adults, according to a study published in a 2017 issue of the journal Nutrients. Researchers found that when adults with mildly high cholesterol consumed 28 to 64 grams of cashews per day, they saw an average 24% decrease in LDL cholesterol when compared to a control diet.

Study authors noted that the fatty acid profiles, vegetable proteins, fibers, vitamins, minerals, carotenoids, and phytosterols in cashews and other nuts are responsible for nut health benefits.

May Reduce Risk of Gallstones

There is some limited evidence that eating nuts can reduce the incidence of gallstones in both men and women.

Authors of one large research review on nut benefits wrote that "because of the richness of nuts in bioactive components, particularly unsaturated fatty acids, fiber, and minerals, a protective effect of nut intake on gallstone disease is biologically plausible." The authors went on to cite two large observational studies where increased nut consumption was associated with a decreased incidence of gallstones.

Independent clinical trials investigating gallstone risk and nut consumption in humans have not been conducted.

May Aid Diabetes Management or Prevention

Several studies have investigated the relationship between nut consumption and diabetes.

One research found that nut consumption may decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes in women. Authors of a large research review summarized data from the widescale Nurses Health Study, the large Iowa Women’s Health Study, the Physicians’ Health Study, and other published reports.

They found that in some cases, women who consumed nuts demonstrated a decreased risk for type 2 diabetes when followed over long periods of time. But not all findings were able to support that conclusion and the benefit was only supported in women.

Other studies have found that patients with type 2 diabetes may gain health benefits from consuming nuts. Research has shown that cashew consumption by people with diabetes is associated with better insulin control and cholesterol ratio, and increased HDL cholesterol and lower systolic blood pressure.

Promotes Better Heart Health

Cashews, like all nuts, are a high-fat food, but they provide both poly- and monounsaturated fats—a healthy form of fat that helps boost heart health and reduce cholesterol levels when consumed in moderation. Cashews also provide diet-friendly fiber which is associated with a heart-healthy diet.

Studies also show that plant-based diets that include healthy fats and protein from nuts and seeds (rather than meat products) can boost heart health.

Studies have even shown that nut consumption is significantly associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, especially in those with type 2 diabetes.

Allergies

If you have a tree nut allergy, you should avoid cashews. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, however, just because you are allergic to one tree nut doesn't necessarily mean that you are allergic to another. That said, some nut allergies are closely related, such as cashew and pistachio.

The organization advises that symptoms of a tree nut reaction may be severe. They advise that those with a known tree nut allergy carry epinephrine at all times.

If you suspect an allergy to cashews or other tree nuts, speak with your healthcare provider to get personalized advice. 

Adverse Effects

Those who harvest and process cashews need to be careful as the inside of the cashew shell contains a caustic liquid related to poison ivy. Farmers wear gloves and face shields to protect themselves from exposure, and the liquid is removed long before cashews hit the shelves.

The nuts themselves are safe to eat, however, some people notice that they are bloated the day after eating nuts in a bar or at a party. You probably won't get bloated from the nuts themselves, but if they are heavily salted, you may experience a temporary increase in water weight from the increased sodium intake.

Varieties

There aren't different cashew varieties, but there are different cashew grades—based on nut color, shape, and size. Only a few grades make it into stores for sale as a whole nut.

Cashews are often found in canned nut mixes in the snack food aisles of the grocery store. When you buy nut blends or nut mixes, the nuts may be roasted in oil or seasoned with high sodium or sugary ingredients. Be sure to check nutrition facts, as it will vary substantially from that of cashews alone.

Cashew Nut Butter

Some people also enjoy cashew butter, which is a spread made from blended roasted cashews. If you are choosing nut butter for a boost of protein, peanut butter is a better bet. But some people prefer the milder taste of cashew butter.

Ultimately, the nutrition in your nut butter depends on the ingredients added during processing. Look for nut butter that contains just nuts. Some may also include added oil. Try to avoid nut butter with added sugars or excess sodium.

Cashew Milk

Cashew milk is also available and may be a smart choice, especially for those that need to avoid the lactose found in dairy products. However, keep in mind that many nut milks such as cashew milk may contain other ingredients like added sugar, and they may not provide as many micronutrients (like calcium) as dairy milk.

Be sure to check the nutrition facts label and the ingredients list on the nut milk you're thinking of trying before you make your decision.

When It’s Best

Cashews are harvested about two months after the fruit (the apple) has set. The nut forms below the apple. This usually happens in the winter. But cashews are available all year long in most stores.

Storage and Food Safety

The best way to store nuts is to keep them in an airtight container at room temperature. They should stay fresh for about three months. If you keep them in the refrigerator, you can prolong their lifespan to up to six months, and if you freeze them, you can use them for about one year.

How to Prepare

Cashews can be eaten raw or roasted. Many people describe them as having a creamy, sweet texture that pairs well with savory and salty foods. 

Sprinkle roasted or raw nuts on a salad for a boost of protein, or add them to the top of a small serving of ice cream. Chop them up and use them as a coating for fish or even add them to oatmeal in the morning.

Recipes

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