Oh my yes, let’s please talk about cashews today. In the world of nuts, few seem to be a universally loved and universally expensive as the cashew. Something about them just seems fancy and can be consumed at a rapid pace if you’re not careful due to their delicious and almost creamy taste and texture. They may look silly, but they pack a ton of flavor into their little curved selves. Is there any nutritional value to these specialty nuts? Let’s find out on today’s nutrition facts article as we take a look at the cashew!
Cashew Culture and History
For the beginnings of cashew trees, we need look to Brazil, specifically its coast. That’s where they all began, growing there and in northern South America in general. As with all good human intervention, we came upon some native trees and thought, “Nah, these would look better somewhere else.” Therefore, Portuguese explorers arrived in the 16th century and did just that, deciding that cashew trees would be far better suited for growth in more tropical and balmy locations, specifically India and parts of Africa.
Strangely, it seems that cashews trees were popular, but nuts were not. Everyone grew them for the tree’s useful wood, the cashew’s useful balm, and the cashew apple’s useful…apple. I’m just having a hard time imagining that cashews are contained within an apple and that this strange thing was actually the more popular use for a cashew tree until the beginning of the 20th century. That’s like yesterday in terms of history! We only figured out last week that cashew nuts are tasty! What a weird world.
Now we find it to be hugely popular all over the US and the world at large, particularly in Indian cuisine (which makes sense as it was transplanted specifically to India and is produced rather heavily there). Can you even imagine back before the 20th century when you want to a party and wouldn’t find a bowl of cashews just sitting there? Or even a bowl of peanuts for that matter. Perhaps this currently world really is crazy because now we have all of the nuts!
…Okay that was a bad joke, so let’s move on.
Health Benefits of Cashews
Cashews are indeed a fatty food, as are all nuts, but they aren’t actually as bad as you may initially assume. Turns out they’re slightly less fatty than their compatriots and that their fat content is roughly 75% unsaturated fatty acids with a further 75% of said saturated fatty acids being oleic acid, which we all know quite well as a the same monounsaturated fat found within olive oil that promotes healthy hearts and a more moderated diabetic diet thanks to lower triglycerides. Wait, you just learned that, too? Okay good, I’m not the only one.
Stranger still, cashews and nuts in general get a reputation for causing weight gain, but unsalted nuts, cashews included, actually lower the risk of weight gain, purely by being eaten twice a week. It’s the sodium that’s the sodium that’s the problem, so reduce that and you’re left with a food that’s high in copper, magnesium, iron, manganese, zinc, and even phosphorus, which always makes the food sound like it’s explosive and flammable.
However, things aren’t all peachy in the world of the cashew. They are loaded with oxalates, which can cause health problems in with kidney or gallbladder problems. Furthermore, cashew allergies are unfortunately higher than most. Strangely, you can even have a serious cashew allergy even if you aren’t allergic to any other nuts like peanuts. Bummer!
Eating More Cashews
My advice is the same here as it will be in every nut article: go to your grocery store’s bulk foods section and fill a bag with unsalted cashews, then start eating them as you see fit. They’re perfectly delicious all by themselves and make for a good vegging-out snack during movies and TV shows (or radio shows if you’re cool like that).
In the same vein as eating them plain, they can very easily be added to dishes like salads, ice creams, cakes, pies, soups, pastas, sandwiches, cereals, Bar mitzvahs, and- wait, I may have got one of those wrong. The point is, cashews go good in everything, so it’s not a surprise whatsoever when you end up finding them in everything, assuming peanuts haven’t already snuck in there as the classy nut that they are. Whatever Mr. Peanut, cashews are for sirs!
For me, I much enjoy a good cashew sauce to add to rice and vegetable dishes as it is mild but rather savory in that rich, nutty way. Though, if the sauce isn’t what you’re looking for but rather the “sauce,” there are quite a few ways to use the cashew apple to make alcoholic beverages. India knows of a handful of methods, one that involves a single distillation process called Urrac and a double distillation process known as Feni. Tanzania has a method of drying the cashew apple and reconstituting the fermented water to make something called gongo. In Mozambique, a strong liquor can be made called “agua ardent,” also known as “burning water.” Even the Dutch have a version made in the West Indies that is considered superior to brandy even. The point is, you can use cashews for a healthy snack, or you can use their fruits to get sloppy. Either way you’re having a good time!
With all the wonderful ways to eat a cashew, I’m a bit overwhelmed on my own. That’s where I need your help! Who has some yummy cashew recipes to share? Who else is a significant fan of cashews like myself? Leave a comment and let’s get some serious cashew love going here. If it’ll help things along, I’ll bring the gongo!