Mildly sweet and crunchy, cashew nut also known as ‘caju’ is rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. It is most commonly consumed as a between-meal snack, made a part of both sweet and savory dishes worldwide. It makes great nut butter and greatly enhances salads and stir fried dishes. All about the taste? Let’s sneak a peek how cashew benefits our health.
Rich in Good Fats
Cashew nuts have lower fat content than most of the nuts. Out of total fat present 82% is unsaturated and 66% is specifically heart healthy monosaturated fats. These fats are similar to ones found in olive oil. Monosaturated fatty acids, oleic, and palmitoleic acids help lower low density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol) and increases high density lipoprotein (good cholesterol). This prevents plaque formation in the arteries that can cause severe heart problems and stroke that may lead to paralysis.
Full of Essential Vitamins
Cashew nut is rich in vitamin B1 (thiamin), B5 (pantothenic acid) and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine). Lack of each of these vitamins causes various deficiency diseases. Sufficient amount of pyridoxine reduces risk of homocystinuria and sideroblastic anemia. Homocystinuria is a complex disease involves many systems and represents with multiple symptoms including impaired learning, bone and vision disorders. Sideroblastic anemia is due to abnormally structured RBCs produced by bone marrow due to lack of vitamin B6. All these vitamins are absolutely essential for metabolism of protein, fats and carbohydrates at cellular level.
Rich Source of Minerals
Lack of minerals can cause various kinds of deficiency disorders. Minerals work as a co factor for many enzymes. Co factors are basically a substance required by enzyme for the enzyme to function. Different minerals are responsible for different enzyme functions. Selenium functions as a cofactor for an antioxidant enzyme called glutathione peroxidase. This enzyme is the most powerful antioxidant in the body. Another important co-factor is zinc. It is required for many enzymes that control growth and development, digestion, gonadal function and DNA (nucleic acid) synthesis.
Copper: Another Important Mineral
It plays a role in a wide range of physiological process including development of bone and connective tissue, iron utilization, elimination of free radicals, and synthesis of the hair and skin pigment called melanin. Copper is an important constituent of the enzyme, superoxide dismutase, and is important in antioxidant defenses and energy production. Copper is crucial for the function of lysyl oxidase, an enzyme engaged in cross-linking collagen and elastin, both of which compose the ground substance and provide elasticity in bones, joints and blood vessels. Insufficient intake of copper may also be associated with raised fecal free-radical production and fecal water alkaline phosphatase both of which are risk factors for colon cancer.
Loaded with Magnesium
We often hear about calcium in bones, another important mineral found in cashew nut for bones is magnesium. It helps in physical structure formation of bone and is stored on the surface of the bone for future usage. Magnesium plays an important role in balancing calcium in nerves and muscles that helps regulate nerve and muscle tone. Lack of magnesium can cause free entry of calcium through protein channels and lead to over contraction of muscles. It also causes migraines, muscle spasm (including myocardium), tension, soreness and fatigue.
You can enjoy cashew nuts in unique ways according to your taste. It can be used for breakfast as nut butter on bagel, simply toss some nuts as a snack or garnish your oatmeal cereal, salad and steamed vegetables. More desi way of having it is as an ingredient in your favorite gajar ka halwa (keep in consideration the calorie count while enjoying it!)