They’re crunchy, rich, slightly sweet and the best part of trail mix. We’ll shamelessly pick them out of a roasted nut mix and leave the rest behind for another sorry snacker. They’re cashews, and they’re at the top of our list of best nuts of all time. (Ahem, they’re technically a seed but referred to as a nut in the culinary world.) But are cashews healthy? Because once we eat one, we just can’t stop there. And we have a feeling we’re not alone (hi!).
Are Cashews Healthy?
The short answer? Yes, cashews are healthy…but there are a few caveats.
All nuts and seeds are packed with essential nutrients—namely fiber, protein and healthy fats—cashews included. This makes them a relatively healthy snack choice, since they’ll keep you satisfied longer than a candy bar or handful of potato chips. (Sorry, but it’s true.) They’re naturally low in sugar, salt and cholesterol, with the exception of roasted salted nuts, but more on that later.
However, it’s important to keep portion size in mind when noshing on these crunchy guys, since they’re also calorically dense. According to the USDA, one serving of cashews is equivalent to one ounce or 28 grams—about a handful, give or take.
Here are the nutrition facts for a one-ounce serving of raw cashews, per the USDA:
- 156 calories
- 12 grams fat
- 9 grams carbohydrates
- 5 grams protein
- 2 grams sugars
- 1 gram fiber
But what do those numbers mean? The amount of protein found in an ounce of cashews is equivalent to that in a similar-size serving of meat. They’re also low in carbs and sugars. If that whopping 12 grams of fat seems like it’s a lot, know that it’s mostly mono- and polyunsaturated fats. Those are the “good” fats, or the ones that are beneficial to your heart health and cholesterol levels.
As much as we love our cashews roasted and salted, they do contain added oil and salt, which knocks the health factor of a handful of these guys down a few pegs. If you want the same toasty flavor, try buying raw cashews and dry-toasting them at home. (Just preheat the oven to 350°F, spread the nuts out on a baking sheet and roast until golden, about 10 minutes—just don’t walk away.) You can still sprinkle on a little flaky salt at the end, but at least this way, you’re ditching the oil.
What Are the Health Benefits of Cashews?
In addition to being a good source of fiber and heart-healthy unsaturated fats, cashews pack a punch when it comes to certain vitamins and minerals. One serving contains:
- 20 percent of the recommended daily value of magnesium, which supports muscle and nerve function and energy production, and can reduce the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes (per the Mayo Clinic)
- 20 percent of the daily value of manganese, which is essential for strong bones, reproduction, blood clotting and a strong immune system (per National Institutes of Health)
- 15 percent of the daily value of zinc, which supports your immune system and metabolism (per the Mayo Clinic)
- 13 percent of the daily value of phosphorus, which aids in the growth, maintenance and repair of cells and tissues and helps the kidneys filter waste (per Mount Sinai)
- 11 percent of the daily value of iron, which is essential for your red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body (per Harvard Medical School)
- 10 percent of the daily value of selenium, which supports the thyroid and reproductive system and protects against free radicals (per NIH)
- 10 percent of the daily value of thiamin, which helps the body generate energy from nutrients (per the Mayo Clinic)
- 8 percent of the daily value of vitamin K, which is important to bone health and wound healing (per Harvard School of Public Health)
- 7 percent of the daily value of vitamin B6, which helps the body use and store energy and form hemoglobin in red blood cells (per the National Health Service)
That’s a lot of information to take in! The TL;DR? Cashews are full of good-for-you nutrients and essential vitamins and minerals, as long as you stick to the recommended serving size to avoid a calorie-bomb of a snack.
Why We Love Cooking with Cashews
Aside from being crunchy, rich and downright delicious, cashews are super versatile in the kitchen. You’re so not limited to a handful of roasted nuts or trail mix. When toasted, cashews add welcome texture to salads, stir-fries and pasta dishes. Soak them in water, blitz in a high-speed blender and add a splash of lemon juice, and suddenly you’ve got cashew cream—a tasty vegan substitute for ricotta cheese, sour cream, Parmesan and myriad other dairy ingredients. Loosen that cashew cream with a little more water and you’re looking at a luscious salad dressing. Cashews also punch above their weight in desserts (cashew frosting, anyone?).
Tasty Recipes to Make with Cashews
- Radicchio, Lentil and Apple Salad with Vegan Cashew Dressing
- Macadamia, Brown Butter and Cashew Cookie Dough
- Old-Fashioned Vegan Banana Cake with Creamy Cashew Frosting
- Creamy Sweet Corn Pappardelle
- Creamy Vegan Cauliflower Corn Chowder
- Spring Roll Bowls
- Zucchini Noodle Pad See Ew
- Creamy Vegan Lentil and Roasted Vegetable Bake