Cashews, known scientifically as Anacardium occidentale, belong to the same family as the mango and pistachio nut. The name Anacardium, originally from the Greek, actually refers to the nut, core or heart of the fruit, which is outwardly located (ana means “upwards” and cardium means “heart”).
Its English name derives from the Portuguese for the fruit of the cashew tree, caju, which itself is derived from the indigenous Tupi name, acajú.
Is It A Seed Or A Fruit?
The fruit, called cashew apple is an accessory fruit (sometimes called “false” fruit) and added in refreshing drinks in Brazil and the Carribean. The actual fruit (the one we know as cashew nut) is a kidney or boxing-glove shaped drupe that contains a single seed and grows at the lower end of the cashew apple.
In the 16th century, Portuguese explorers introduced the cashew trees in Brazil and later in tropical colonies such as India and Africa. The cashew nut did not gain popularity until the beginning of the 20th century. Today, the leading commercial producers of cashews are India, Brazil, Mozambique, Tanzania and Nigeria.
What we get in stores are fruits without the shells, since the inner part of the shells contain a caustic resin (a toxin), known as cashew balm, used to make varnishes and insecticides.
Top 14 Health Secrets Of Cashew Nuts
- Keeps the Heart Happy: Rich in “heart-friendly” monounsaturated-fatty acids like oleic, and palmitoleic acids, which help lower harmful LDL-cholesterol while increasing good HDL cholesterol. It prevents coronary artery disease and strokes by favoring healthy blood lipid profile.
- Aids Weight Loss: 75% of the fat, contained in cashew nuts are unsaturated fats or “good” fat. In addition, cashew nuts provide a high amount of fiber, energy, and trigger the body’s metabolism.
- Prevents Cancer: High copper content and proanthocyanidins, a class of flavonols, fight against tumor cells restricting cell division, especially in colon cancer. Cashew nuts help our body to utilize iron properly and eliminate free radicals.
- Great Magnesium Source: Protects against high blood pressure, muscle spasms, migraine headaches, tension, soreness and fatigue. Magnesium also works with calcium to support healthy muscles and bones in the human body.
- Nourishes the Hair and Skin: Helps the body utilize iron, eliminate free radicals, develop bone and connective tissue, and produce the critical skin and hair pigment, melanin.
- Strengthens Bones and Nerves: Magnesium, by balancing calcium, helps regulate nerve and muscle tone. Also serves as nature’s own calcium channel blocker, preventing calcium from rushing into the nerve cell and activating the nerve, keeping the nerves relaxed.
- Sharpens Brain: The brain relies on two types of fat, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated, for the production of brain cells. Cashews also speed up oxygen flow to the brain.
- Prevents Gallstones: Daily intake of cashew nut can reduce the risk of developing gallstones up to 25%.
- Anti-oxidant: Contains Copper, which is an essential component of the enzyme superoxide dismutase, vital in energy production and antioxidant defense, producing greater flexibility in blood vessels, bones and joints.
- Aids Digestion: Cashew nuts help in growth and development, nucleic acid synthesis and digestion.
- Rich Vitamins Source: Cashew nuts are rich in vitamins like pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), riboflavin(B2), thiamin (B1) and niacin(B3). These vitamins keep you safe from sideroblastic Anemia, Pellagra (Dermatitis), etc.
- Lowers Diabetes Risk: Monounsaturated fats, present in cashews, can reduce triglyceride levels (amount of fats carried in the bloodstream), lowering the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.
- Fortifies Gums and Teeth: Magnesium gives healthy teeth as well as strong gums to hold them. Chemicals in cashew nuts kill gram positive bacteria, a pervasive mouth affliction that causes tooth decay, acne, tuberculosis and leprosy.
- Enhances Vision: Contains a small amount of zea-xanthin, an important pigment flavonoid antioxidant, which is selectively absorbed into the retinal macula lutea in the eyes. It provides antioxidant and protective UV ray filtering functions and helps prevent age-related macular degeneration (ARMD).
Side Effects And Precautions
- High in Oxalates: Cashews are among a small number of foods that contain measurable amounts of oxalates, which may lower calcium absorption and not recommended for patients suffering from kidney and gall bladder stones.
- Allergic Reactions: Cashew nut allergy is a common hypersensitivity condition in some individuals, especially in children. The reaction symptoms may range from simple skin itching (hives) to severe form anaphylactic manifestations, including breathing difficulty, pain abdomen, vomiting, and diarrhea.