You might be surprised to learn that cashews are actually seeds that grow on the bottom of the cashew apple, which comes from the cashew tree. These kidney shaped seeds that we culinarily refer to as nuts have a rich, buttery taste, and creamy, spongy texture. The standard serving of nuts and seeds is 1/4 of a cup, 40g, 1.3oz or around 16-18 cashews–approximately the amount that fits in the palm of your hand. Just one handful of these mineral rich nuts packs a healthy punch. You can get your cashew fix from cashew cheese, milk, spreads, or in other forms, but here is what one serving of raw cashews provides:
Copper: One serving provides nearly 100% of the recommended daily value of copper. (The US and Canada both recommend twice the daily amount of copper that one serving of cashews provides, however recent recommendations have been made to lower the DV from 2.0mg to 1.0mg.) Copper is an essential trace mineral, used by the body in a host of functions. Copper helps with iron absorption; aids in the elimination of free radicals; builds and maintains collagen; helps to make red blood cells; contributes to healthy bones, blood vessels and nerves; assists in energy production; and is important for antioxidant defense and immune function. Just one serving of cashew nuts a day can help do all that!
Healthy fats: Nuts get a bad rap for being fatty, but it’s a common misconception that all fat is bad for you. There are 17.5g of fat in one serving of cashews, with the majority of the fat (more than 80%) consisting of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats–A.K.A. the good fats. The body needs monounsaturated fats to lower the bad LDL cholesterol and raise the good HDL cholesterol, as well as lowering blood pressure, which works together to reduce the risk of heart disease. Polyunsaturated fats are required for normal body functions, but our bodies can’t make them, so we need to get what we need from the food we eat. These are the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids we need to maintain a healthy heart, build cell membranes, and reduce inflammation, among other things.
Magnesium: One serving of cashews yields nearly ⅓ (29% to be exact) of the recommended daily dose . Magnesium is essential to bone health. Most of the magnesium in our bodies is stored in our bones; some used for building bone structure and some stored to be used by the body for other functions. Magnesium balances out the job that calcium does, ensuring proper nerve function.
Manganese: The trace mineral manganese is vital for brain and nerve function, neutralizing toxic free radicals, boosting metabolism, and reducing inflammation. Our bodies don’t need much, just 2.0mg daily, and we get just under one third of this amount from one serving of cashews.
Phosphorus: Found in every single cell, phosphorus is the second most abundant mineral next to calcium in our bodies. One serving of cashews yields ⅓ of the recommended daily intake, which is mainly used by the body to form bones and teeth. It’s also needed to make protein required for growth, maintenance and repairs of cells and tissues and plays a role in energy production.
Zinc: A handful of cashews contain around a quarter of the recommended daily value of zinc, which is used by the body to fight off invading bacteria and viruses. Our bodies also use zinc to make protein and DNA, and during pregnancy the body needs it to grow and develop a fetus properly.
Iron: Most importantly, red blood cells need iron to make hemoglobin, which is used to transport oxygen from our lungs throughout our bodies. We also need iron to maintain healthy cells, hair and skin. A serving of cashews yields 15% of the average amount needed daily, with pregnant women needing a slightly higher amount to ensure a healthy pregnancy.
Protein: There is approximately 7g of protein in a handful of cashews (about 12% of the recommended daily intake), which isn’t an excellent source for protein, but it’s a lot for just a small handful of nuts.
Fiber: Most of us don’t have enough fiber in our diets, and even though one serving of cashews only contains 5% of the fiber you need daily, that can go a long way to helping prevent heart disease, diabetes, weight gain and lower blood cholesterol.
Vitamin K: One serving of cashews has 15% of the daily value of Vitamin K, which serves the role of regulating normal blood clotting, which is important in the body’s response to injury. It also helps to transport calcium throughout the body.
Selenium: We need small amounts of the mineral selenium to ensure proper thyroid gland function, DNA production and when combined with Vitamin E, it works as an antioxidant to fight against damaging free radicals. One handful of cashews has 14% of our daily requirement.
Cashew nuts are jam packed with the nutrients we need to maintain a healthy lifestyle. When combined with other nutrient dense foods in the form of spreads or dips, you can optimize the amount of nourishment you give to your body. Remember that all individual bodies have different needs, and the values listed above are based on data gathered for the average adult and, as such, there will some variation when it comes to your own body’s specific requirements.