Cashews are a type of seed with a soft consistency and a sweet flavor. They can be a good source of protein and minerals as part of a balanced diet.

Cashews are native to South America, specifically Brazil. Colonists introduced them to Africa and India. They are a good source of nutrients such as copper, magnesium, and phosphorous and can make a healthy snack.

Cashews are also part of many dairy alternatives, such as cashew milk, cashew-based cheeses, and cashew cream.

This article explains the nutritional value of cashews and their possible health benefits. We also share some tips on how to include cashews in the diet and discuss possible health risks.

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Cashews contain substantial amounts of essential nutrients, particularly copper. They are also a source of protein, magnesium, iron, and zinc.

The following table shows the main nutrients in 1 ounce (oz) — or 28.35 grams (g) — of unsalted cashew nuts, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). A 1 oz serving of cashews is about 18 whole cashews.

NutrientAmountNutrient reference value for adults (%)
calories166 kilocalories (kcal)
carbohydrates8.99 g3.2%
protein4.21 g8.42%
fiber0.82 g2.9%
total fat13.6 g17.4%
calcium12.5 milligrams (mg)1%
copper0.61 mg67.7%
iron1.65 mg9.1%
magnesium71.4 mg17%
phosphorous135 mg10.8%
potassium155 mg3.3%
sodium4.54 mg0.2%
zinc1.54 mg14%

The NRV for pregnant or lactating people, older adults, and children will differ from these figures.

Eating nuts as part of a nutritious and balanced diet may have several health benefits.

Heart health

A 2023 review of previous research states that there is a “substantial amount of evidence” that eating nuts can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Studies have shown an association between higher nut intake and the following:

However, it is important to note that this review received funding from many companies that sell nut products. Additionally, the research focuses on various types of nuts. The studies focusing only on cashews have had more mixed results.

For example, a 2019 study of 42 people found that 1.5 servings of cashew nuts did not reduce markers for CVD risk over 4 weeks.

Another 2019 study analyzing previous research found that while cashews lowered triglyceride levels and blood pressure, they did not affect cholesterol levels.

Cashews may be a heart-healthy addition to the diet in combination with other nuts and seeds, but more research is necessary.

Joint health

Cashews may have benefits for the joints. A 2022 animal study of degenerative joint disease found that rats who received cashews daily had lower rates of inflammation and pain-like behavior. The authors suggest this could be due to the antioxidants they contain.

However, larger trials in humans are necessary to confirm whether cashews have this effect on people with joint conditions such as arthritis.

People can eat roasted or unroasted cashews straight from the bag or container as a snack. They can also season them with:

Alternatively, people can add cashews to other foods, such as:

  • trail mix, along with other nuts and dried fruit
  • stir-fries
  • curries
  • biryani
  • salads
  • meat dishes, such as cashew chicken or Sichuan pork

Some use cashews to make their own nut butter or dairy product alternatives, such as milks or cheeses, too.

When buying cashews, check the label for ingredients. Some options have high amounts of salt or fat as part of their coating or seasoning. Others may be sweetened with added sugars.

How to store cashews

Nuts have a high fat content, and they can become rancid. Rancid nuts are not unsafe, but they have a sharp flavor most people find unpleasant.

Keeping cashews in a cool, dark, and dry place may improve their shelf life. Once opened, store them in a ziplock bag or airtight container, and eat before the expiration date.

The main risk of cashew nuts, for those with allergies, is having an allergic reaction. For some, the symptoms of a reaction may be mild, but in other cases, they could be serious.

Severe allergic reactions can lead to anaphylaxis, which is a medical emergency.

Anaphylaxis: Symptoms and what to do

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can be life threatening. The symptoms develop suddenly and include:

  • hives
  • swelling of the face or mouth
  • wheezing
  • fast, shallow breathing
  • a fast heart rate
  • clammy skin
  • anxiety or confusion
  • dizziness
  • vomiting
  • blue or white lips
  • fainting or loss of consciousness

If someone has these symptoms:

  1. Check whether they are carrying an epinephrine pen. If they are, follow the instructions on the side of the pen to use it.
  2. Dial 911 or the number of the nearest emergency department.
  3. Lay the person down from a standing position. If they have vomited, turn them onto their side.
  4. Stay with them until the emergency services arrive.

Some people may need more than one epinephrine injection. If the symptoms do not improve in 5–15 minutes, or they come back, use a second pen if the person has one.

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Raw, unprocessed cashews can also cause skin irritation. They contain a substance known as urushiol, which is also in poison ivy and mango stones. Contact with urushiol can trigger a skin reaction known as contact dermatitis in some people.

However, most cashews that people purchase in stores are roasted or steamed.

Cashews are a type of seed with a sweet, mild flavor. They are a source of protein, as well as several minerals, including copper, magnesium, zinc, and iron.

Some research suggests that they may have health benefits, such as reducing blood pressure. In combination with other nuts, they may reduce the risk of CVD.

People can enjoy cashews as part of a balanced diet as a snack or as part of a main meal. When purchasing seasoned cashews, though, it is important to check the label for high levels of salt or other additional ingredients.