The cashew plant is native to Brazil and was introduced to India in the second half of the 16th century as a crop to control soil erosion. Today it is a prized cash crop grown on the hillsides of the hilly regions of the east and west coasts of India.
All those pictures with the cashew nut on the mother fruit should tell you that cashews are seeds of the cashew plant—but with a difference. They grow OUTSIDE the core or heart of the fruit!
Use of cashew nuts
A handful of cashews or kaju is the tastiest snack. Cashew nuts are used to garnish curries and sweets and are made into a paste and used to enrich sauces. Who hasn’t heard of kaju barfi or longed for it or spooned the side dish of splintered kajus onto a halwa!
A 100gr. Portion of kaju provides 553 calories. The nuts are rich in fats, proteins and fiber. They are rich in minerals such as iron, potassium, zinc, selenium, copper, manganese, phosphorus and magnesium. Kaju also contains thiamin, vitamin B6 and vitamin K.
100 grams of raw cashew nuts contain 113 mg of beta-sitosterol, which has considerable medicinal value.
Cashew nuts are nutrient dense. Consuming a handful of cashews has many health benefits.
Rich in vitamins
The nutritional profile of cashews tells us how rich they are in vitamins that are so important for the functioning of our bodies.
Vitamin B6 is the key to more than 100 enzyme reactions in our body and is required for the metabolism of proteins at the cellular level.
Thiamine or vitamin B1 is essential to prevent deficiency diseases such as beriberi, nerve inflammation or neuritis associated with pellagra or deficiency during pregnancy. Thiamine is also beneficial for kidney health in people with type 2 diabetes and prevents memory loss, including that caused by Alzheimer’s. Thiamine is essential for the human body to properly utilize carbohydrates.
Vitamin K is necessary for blood clotting to prevent excessive bleeding. Recent studies have shown its beneficial effects on bone health, particularly in preventing osteoporosis and steroid-induced bone loss.
A handful of kaju really is a vitamin supplement – and a tasty one at that!
Mineral wealth a boon to health
Cashews are a good iron supplement: the mineral is important for keeping anemia at bay.
Selenium is an important micronutrient necessary for the formation of antioxidants that ensure heart health.
Minerals like copper, manganese and zinc are necessary for bone health, digestion, DNA synthesis, sexual functions, vision, etc. In fact, every function in our body is triggered and controlled by all of these essential minerals.
Benefits of Beta Sitosterol
This plant ester contained in cashew nuts is a boon of nature. It boosts the immune system, prevents colon cancer and is good for the gallbladder by inhibiting the formation of gallstones. It is also useful in treating migraines, hair loss, bronchitis and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Cashew nuts are also recommended for a good night’s sleep, especially during menopause.
Some common misconceptions
Cashew nuts are high in fat. But these are mostly unsaturated fats. You can get 67% of your daily fat value from 100 grams of Kaju. Cashew nuts also contain 17% saturated fat; That’s more than the 6% found in walnuts and almonds, but not a big enough difference to put them on a banned food list! If you have to choose between an equivalent amount of chips or another type of fast food and cashews, go for the latter! Kaju is more nutritionally beneficial: This is not an “empty calorie” snack.
There are a select few who have tree nut and peanut allergies. People with known allergic reactions need to be careful.
Because cashews are so nutrient dense, it would be a good idea to eat them replacing empty calories like fried snacks rather than adding them to your regular calorie intake.
Cashew nuts are best eaten raw, but no one should be denied the roasted and spiced variety even once.
How to store
Cashew nuts usually stay fresh for up to a month. Store them in a bottle or container with a tight-fitting lid.
If you have more than you can use, you can store them in the fridge for up to 4-6 months.
If you have a whole lot in some sort of Diwali bonanza, then it’s best to keep them in the freezer.
Kajus can be bought anywhere from your local grocery store to upscale dried fruit stores. A good brand will ensure that the cashews you are going to buy are well stored and pest free.
Kaju is also available in different qualities. The larger the nut, the more expensive it is. These nuts are also more valuable and expensive when they are whole. The problem with buying whole nuts is that you don’t know what they can hold inside. This is why you need to buy from a reputable brand or store to get the best value for your money.
Include cashews in your diet to supplement your nutritional intake. Add them to your morning cereal. Use kaju paste instead of cream to add thick texture and creamy flavor to your sauces. Or just grab a handful and enjoy your day nibbling.
Thanks to Karthik Guduru