Nutritional values of cashew
Magnesium in cashew helps regulate nerve and muscle tone. Calcium is necessary for strong bones, but magnesium is also vital for healthy bones.
Fr Anselm Adodo
Cashew, known scientifically as Anacardium occidentale, belong to the same family as the mango and pistachio nut. Native to Brazil, cashews are crescent-shaped nuts with a sweet flavour and a plethora of uses in the kitchen. Considered third in consumption among all the tree nuts in the world, they’re great when mixed with raisins, dried cranberries, shredded coconut, sunflower seeds, and other nuts, such as almonds and walnuts, to make a fantastic homemade trail mix.
The cashew tree is native to coastal areas of Brazil. In the 16th century, Portuguese explorers took cashew trees from this South American country and introduced them into other tropical regions such as India and some African countries, where they are now also cultivated. The cashew tree has always been a prized resource owing to its precious wood, cashew balm and cashew apple, but the cashew nut itself did not gain popularity until the beginning of the 20th century. Today, the leading commercial producers of cashews are India, Brazil, Mozambique, Tanzania and Nigeria.
Cashews are the number one crop in the world (after almonds), cultivated in more than 30 countries. They require a hot, humid climate to proliferate, which is why India, Brazil, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Nigeria are the largest raw cashew producers.
The first lesson you gain from the cashew tree is patience. Cashew plants don’t begin to bear nuts for three to five years, and then another eight to 10 weeks is needed to develop them to full maturity. They can produce for as long as 60 to 100 years after that.
A great mineral source, cashews contain 31 percent of the daily recommended value for copper, along with 23 percent for manganese, 20 percent for magnesium and 17 percent for phosphorus, as well as 12 percent of the daily recommended value for Vitamin K.
Studies show that magnesium helps diminish the frequency of migraines, improve cognitive ability, and also lowers blood pressure, which can prevent heart attacks. Copper contains antioxidants that render free radicals harmless. This protects against heart disease and cancer. Enzyme components like tyrosinase convert to the pigment melanin, which provides not just our skin and hair colour, but protects our skin from UV damage. Magnesium works with copper to provide bone strength, and with melanin and elastin to provide joint flexibility, giving the nerves just the right tension.
Another ingredient in cashews is proanthocyanidins, which contain flavanols that inhibit the ability of cancer cells to divide and multiply, reducing incidences of colon cancer. Cashews do not contain cholesterol, which makes it a perfect fruit for those suffering from high Cholesterol. All but a small amount of the fat in cashews is the good kind – oleic acid – also found in olive oil. It’s the high or low density lipoprotein cholesterol conversation that explains what “good fat = HDL; bad fat = LDL” actually means. It’s just another way of saying it makes a difference what fats you eat. That’s because HDL cholesterol travels through your body, picking up bad bits of LDL cholesterol along the way, leaving it off at the liver, which breaks it down and gets rid of it.
On the other hand, when you eat foods containing LDL fats (like lard, egg yolk, pork and liver for example), the liver distributes it throughout your body, often attaching to the cells, which become clogged with plaque.
To lower your risk of cardiovascular and coronary heart disease, enjoy a handful of cashews or other nuts, or a tablespoon of nut butter, at least four times a week.
Cashew is rich in copper. An essential component of many enzymes, copper plays a role in a wide range of physiological processes including iron utilization, elimination of free radicals, development of bone and connective tissue, and the production of the skin and hair pigment called melanin. For example, copper is an essential component of the enzyme, superoxide dismutase, which is important in energy production and antioxidant defences. Copper is also necessary for the activity of lysyl oxidase, an enzyme involved in cross-linking collagen and elastin, both of which provide the ground substance and flexibility in blood vessels, bones and joints. Low dietary intake of copper may also be associated with increased faecal free radical production and faecal water alkaline phosphatase activity, risk factors for colon cancer.
Numerous health problems can develop when copper intake is inadequate, including iron deficiency anaemia, ruptured blood vessels, osteoporosis, joint problems such as rheumatoid arthritis, brain disturbances, elevated LDL (bad) cholesterol and reduced HDL (good) cholesterol levels, irregular heartbeat, and increased susceptibility to infections. Since prevention is better than cure, take cashew regularly to stay healthy.
Magnesium in cashew helps regulate nerve and muscle tone. Everyone knows that calcium is necessary for strong bones, but magnesium is also vital for healthy bones. About two-thirds of the magnesium in the human body is found in our bones. Some help gives bones their physical structure, while the rest is found on the surface of the bone where it is stored for the body to draw upon as needed. In many nerve cells, magnesium serves as Nature’s own calcium channel blocker, preventing calcium from rushing into the nerve cell and activating the nerve. By blocking calcium entry, magnesium keeps our nerves, blood vessels and muscles relaxed.
Insufficient magnesium can thus contribute to high blood pressure, muscle spasms (including spasms of the heart muscle or the spasms of the airways symptomatic of asthma), and migraine headaches, as well as muscle cramps, tension, soreness and fatigue. Given these effects, it is not surprising that studies have shown magnesium helps reduce the frequency of migraine attacks, lowers blood pressure, helps prevent heart attacks, promotes normal sleep patterns in women suffering from menopausal sleep disturbances, and reduces the severity of asthma. Next time when you see a cashew fruit, do not take it for granted. It is a wonder fruit.