Monday, January 9, 2012

Food Worship #7: The Cashew

For some reason, nuts get a bad rap.  People stay away from all sorts of nuts just because of their caloric density and high fat content.  While I'm sure I've gone over this in previous articles, I might as well say it again.


Why is this?  Well first of all, sure they're high in calories, but nearly every single one of those calories is derived from some of the greatest stuff around: Heart healthy unsaturated fat, and protein.  In their raw form, nuts are extremely low sodium, low carb, and therefore also very low in sugar.  And it'd do you well to remember this mantra:  Fat doesn't make you fat.  The unsaturated fat in nuts is actually shown to reduce the risk of obesity.  Many people eat handfulls of nuts, hundreds of calories, and continue to shed weight.  So let's get over our fear, shall we?

Now, let's discuss my favorite nut of all time:  The cashew.  I love almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, walnuts, pecans, brazil nuts, and just about any other nut you can think of, but for some reason I always come back to the cashew for its rich, powerful flavor and chewy, yet somehow creamy texture.  Even the smell of cashews is enough to drive me bonkers.  They're just so good!

Here's the nutritional information for cashews:

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
1 oz (28.3 g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat
% Daily Value*
Total Fat
Saturated Fat
Polyunsaturated Fat
Monounsaturated Fat
Total Carbohydrates
Dietary Fiber
Vitamin A 0%Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 1%Iron 11%

But obviously, being a health food and fitness blog, let's explore a little further as to why exactly the cashew is so good for you, and why you should definitely make some room in your diet for a few of these little pieces of heaven:

Healthy Fat Content:  All right, we just went over this.  Cashews, like most nuts, have an extremely desirable composition of healthy fats.  In fact, cashews have one of the greatest "fat ratios" of all nuts in existence.  This means the ratio of the different types of fats that exist in cashews is the most optimal for health and weight loss. Read here:

Diet and Weight Management

Cashew nuts do have a relatively high fat content (12 grams per ounce, 2 grams saturated fat), but it is considered “good fat.” This is due to the agreeable fat ratio in the nut, 1:2:1 for saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated, respectively, which scientists say is the ideal ratio for optimal health.

In fact, people who eat more cashews (and other nuts in general) are actually at a lower risk of weight gain/obesity because they maintain a better dietary fat ratio, and in turn crave less of the nasty processed stuff.  In fact, good, healthy, unsaturated fats can keep you full for longer, and subdue those cravings for the food you really shouldn't be eating.

Zero Cholesterol:  That's right, this little nut is as heart healthy as can be!  It tastes so good it's amazing that it has zero cholesterol, and that the unsaturated fats it contains actually help support HDL cholesterol (commonly referred to as "good" cholesterol.)  Have a few cashews and keep that heart beating strong!

Protein Content:  I won't lie, nuts aren't the greatest protein source.  But they're definitely not bad!  Especially cashews.  As you can see by the nutritional facts, cashews have about 5 grams of dense protein per ounce, which can definitely help support muscle mass.  On a side note, not only will the protein in cashews help to rebuild those muscles after a hard workout, but the fat content in the nut will slow the digestion of ingested protein in order to feed your muscles for a longer period of time.  This means a handful of cashews is a great pre-bedtime snack, especially for those looking to pack on some serious lean muscle mass.

Vitamins/Minerals/Antioxidants:  Cashews are absolutely PACKED with all the other little good things your body needs, like magnesium and manganese for bone strength, copper for your immune system.  Cashews are also rich in phosphorus, biotin, and vitamin K.  These things are power packed for such a small little package.

Low Sodium:  That's right, when you don't get salted nuts, they're actually one of the lowest sodium snacks you could ever munch on.  Only 3 mg of sodium per ounce!  That's insanely low!  And believe me, you don't need that added salt to love cashews, their flavor is perfectly delicious when eaten just roasted.  Try a few!

So there you have it.  You can decrease your risk of obesity, increase your vitamin intake, help your heart to beat nice and strong, and rebuild those tired muscles all with one little EXTREMELY tasty snack.  Instead of those Tostitos, try a handful of cashews.  Your body and taste buds will thank you; that I can guarantee.

Embrace the nut, love the cashew, and as always, good luck!


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