– by Joanna Beujekian-Steven
Many raw foodists and western dieters love cashews for their smooth creaminess. They are an invaluable ingredient in raw vegan desserts, nut cheeses, Asian inspired dishes, etc. But there is more to cashews than their delicious taste; they are also powerhouses of nutrition, providing a wealth of important minerals and amino acids. While some may deplore their fat content, it is important to look at cashews within the scope of a healthy, varied diet. When you eat a variety of vegetables, fruits and leafy greens, cashews will not hinder your health and could in fact fill in the gaps and significantly raise your nutrient intake – not to mention enrich your diet with healthy desserts, creamy nut milks, and more!
Protein: Cashews, like most nuts, are rich in protein, but cashews are a bit different in that they are also a very good source of quality amino acids. The website Nutrition Data lists cashews as a “complete or high-quality protein” due to their high amino acid score.
Iron: Iron is a very important mineral, and deficiencies will lead to dizziness, fatigue, and even anemia. Cashews are rich in iron, and they satisfy 10% of our daily requirements in just a single ounce.
Magnesium: Magnesium is such an overlooked nutrient, and the wide majority of the U.S. population is thought to be magnesium deficient due to soil depletion and generally poor eating habits. But just one ounce of cashews will satisfy 20% of our daily needs, making it a delicious way to get enough magnesium.
Phosphorus: One ounce of cashews fulfills nearly 20% of our daily needs. But what is the purpose of phosphorus in our diet? According to the National Institutes of Health, “The main function of phosphorus is in the formation of bones and teeth. It plays an important role in the body’s utilization of carbohydrates and fats and in the synthesis of protein for the growth, maintenance, and repair of cells and tissues. It is also crucial for the production of ATP, a molecule the body uses to store energy. Phosphorus works with the B vitamins. It also assists in the contraction of muscles, in the functioning of kidneys, in maintaining the regularity of the heartbeat, and in nerve conduction.” Another reason to include cashews in our food rotation!
Copper: Copper is an important mineral similar to iron in some ways, as it plays a crucial role in the formation of red blood cells and is important for the health of our circulatory, nervous, and skeletal system. Cashews will satisfy in just one ounce more than 30% of our copper requirement for the day! According to the National Institutes of Health, “Lack of copper may lead to anemia and osteoporosis.”
Manganese: Did you know that the word ‘manganese’ comes from the Greek word for magic? Indeed, manganese is a somewhat mysterious chemical, but it is absolutely crucial for brain health, sexual well-being, and skeletal health; it serves important anti-oxidant purposes as well. One ounce of cashews will fulfill nearly one quarter of our magnesium needs.
Raw? Not Raw? Some have argued that cashews cannot possibly be raw, and that they are even poisonous in their raw state. Nothing could be further from the truth! Cashews themselves are not poisonous; only the shell is (and you would not want to eat it anyway!). Also, while nearly 100% of cashews sold in stores are indeed heated at high temperatures during the shelling process, ethical raw food stores will only sell hand cracked, hand polished cashews, which are indeed raw.
Nutrition Data: Retrieved February 3, 2010 from: http://www.nutritiondata.com/facts/nut-and-seed-products/3095/2
National Institute of Health – Phosphorus: Retrieved February 3, 2010 from: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002424.htm
National Institute of Health – Copper: Retrieved February 3, 2010 from: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002419.htm