The cashew (Anacardium occidentale L.) is a plant that is native to Brazil, but is now grown widely in tropical climates for both cashew nuts and cashew apples. ‘What are cashew apples?’ you ask. I found this very interesting 🙂 The cashew tree actually produces a soft, juicy fruit known as a cashew apple which bears a single-seeded nut, contained in a hard shell, from its bottom. If you don’t believe me take a look here and read a bit more about the cashew plant here.
The processing of cashew nuts is relatively expensive due to the specific characteristics of the shell. In fact, processing of cashew nuts is quite labour intensive, and the shells need to be softened by steam before they can be cracked open by hand and the kernel can be removed. Those who work in cashew processing need to wear gloves or coat their hands with oil in order to limit exposure to skin-irritating toxins that can make it really uncomfortable to remove the nut from its shell. Despite all of the effort it takes to obtain cashews, it doesn’t stop the nut from being the third most produced nut worldwide!
Fat is the major macronutrient found in cashew nuts, of which the majority is composed of unsaturated fatty acids. Breaking it down a bit further, a total of fourteen different fatty acids have been identified in cashews, including:
- Oleic acid (60.7%)
- Linoleic acid (17.77%)
- Palmitic acid (10.2%)
- and Stearic acid (8.93%)
Phenolic components contained in cashew nuts, such as anacardic acid and its analogues have gained significant attention from scientists due to their potential activity against tooth abscesses, as well as their antimicrobial, anti-tumor, and antioxidant activity. The consumption of tree nuts, including cashews, as part of a healthy diet, has been associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality, as well as a decreased risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes. For a little bit more information on some of the fat-soluble bioactive components in nuts, as well as their potential health benefits as part of a balanced diet take a look at this review article, which summarises some of the most current information quite well.
- Phenolic lipid ingredients from cashew nuts
- Nutritional composition of raw fresh cashew (Anacardium occidentale L.) kernels from different origin
- Cashew prices are about to go nuts
- Antioxidant and antiproliferative activities of common edible nut seeds
- Fat-soluble bioactives in nuts