Introduction to Cashews
Cashews grow in tropical locations around the world like India, Vietnam, Ivory Coast, and Sri Lanka. The tree belongs to the same family as poison ivy and cashew plants contain a toxin called urushiol. The toxin is found in the plant itself and the brown oil inside the nut’s shell. It can cause burns, itches, and blisters. Therefore, unprocessed cashews are considered dangerous to eat or even touch. This is also why they require more rigorous processing than any other nuts.
Definition of “Raw” Cashew Nuts
Many people think that cashew products selling on the market is as raw as they are from the tree. In fact, every single cashew went through a very complex process before they reach consumers and consider as edible.
Each cashews fruit bears only one shelled nut (drupe), hanging at the bottom of each fruit. Workers have to separate the drupe from the cashews fruit by hand. The nuts must then dry under the sun to draw out caustic liquid from the shell. The most dangerous and critical step is to split open the nut since toxic oil coats the drupes. Factories used to do this step manually by hand because cashews are brittle to avoid machines breaking the nuts. Todays, advance technology helps machine to crack the shells while keeping most of the nuts intact and helps to minimize risks to workers. Not only that, even the following steps in the process will highly depending on workers, who have to do them by hand. The nuts are roasted to ensure the toxic substance inside is destroyed. Workers will need to peel off the husk and the dry outer covering that covers each nut because it is high in tannins and could irritate one’s throat. Removing the outer covering of each nut requires skills and practice. This step is the most difficult and has the most impact on price of cashews.
The truly raw cashews are still in their shell (drupe), which are not edible. Even raw cashews sold in the market have been carefully harvested and slightly roasted to remove the toxic oil in the nuts. In general, raw cashew nuts sold in the market have been processed and slightly roasted.
Can you eat raw cashew nuts and is it safe?
Is it OK to eat raw cashew nuts? You are not recommended to eat raw cashew nuts fresh from the tree. The toxic substance Urushiol presence in the shell of cashews can cause damage to the skin which could cause painful rash, blisters, and itching. However, do not be confused with the “raw” cashew nuts that have been processed and sold in the stores. Those “raw” cashews have been processed and slightly roasted.
Are cashews better raw or roasted?
Raw and roasted cashews have very similar nutritional value and health benefits. Roasted cashews are preferred due to its enhanced flavour and crunchier texture.
Raw and roasted cashews have very similar nutritional values. Raw cashews usually have slightly more nutrition (e.g. mineral content like iron and selenium) compared to roasted cashews, however the numbers are insignificant. Thus, the health benefits for both raw and roasted cashew nuts are very similar. However, if you are buying roasted cashew nuts from the stores, make sure you take note of the additional seasonings and ingredients added for the processed roasted cashews. Excessive salt or oil (used for roasting cashew nuts) is not good for people with high blood pressure or with coronary heart diseases.
Roasting cashews generally enhances the flavour of the nuts. Raw cashews have a mild, buttery flavour that can easily be overpowered by other foods. The light, natural taste of the cashew nut is enhanced when it is roasted. Roasting cashews brings out the sweet, buttery flavour of the nut, especially when eaten warm. Roasting cashews also slightly reduces the moisture content of the nuts, thus a crunchier texture to be expected.
Do you have to cook raw cashews?
Yes, it is recommended to cook raw cashews. The easiest way is to lightly roast them in an oven. Here is our recipe on how to roast cashew nuts in an oven. Check it out!
What is cashew nuts good for?
Cashews are low in sugar and rich in fiber, heart-healthy fats, and plant protein. They are also a good source of copper, magnesium, and manganese. These nutrients are important for one’s energy production, brain health, immunity, and bone health.
Is eating too much cashew nuts bad?
Eating too many cashews is not recommended. Although cashews have a lot of benefits, you need to control the amount of cashews you consume. Cashews have a relatively high oxalate content. When eaten in large quantities, it can lead to kidney damage and other chronic health problems. Also, nutritionists suggest limiting cashews consumption to up to 5 cashews a day to avoid unnecessary calorie intake that could lead to weight gain.
Cashew Nuts Nutrition Information
How many calories in raw cashew nuts? A serving size of 100g cashew nuts contains 552 calories, with 43.9g of total fats, 30.2g of total carbohydrate and 18.2g of protein, 12mg of sodium, 37mg of calcium, 660mg of potassium and 7mg of iron.