Information About Cashew Tree (Anacardium occidentale) And Its Medicinal Importance

The cashew tree (Anacardium occidentale) is a tropical evergreen tree belongs to Anacardiaceae family that produces the cashew seed and the cashew apple pseudo fruit the tree can grow as high as 14 m (46 ft), but the dwarf cultivars, growing up to 6 m (20 ft), prove more profitable, with earlier maturity and greater yields.

By Khansa, Masood Ahmad, Athar Mahmood

The cashew tree is large and evergreen with a short, often irregularly shaped trunk. The leaves are spirally arranged, leathery textured, elliptic to obovate, 4–22 cm (1.6–8.7 in) long and 2–15 cm (0.79–5.91 in) broad, with smooth margins. The flowers are produced in a panicle or corymb up to 26 cm (10 in) long; each flower is small, pale green at first, then turning reddish, with five slender, acute petals 7–15 mm (0.28–0.59 in) long. The largest cashew tree in the world covers an area around 7,500 m2 (81,000 sq ft) and is located in Natal, Brazil.

Origin

In 2017, Vietnam, India, and the Ivory Coast were the major producers. The species is native to Central America, the Caribbean, and northern South America, including northeastern Brazil. Portuguese colonists in Brazil began exporting cashew nuts as early as the 1550s. The cashew tree is native to northeastern Brazil, but the Portuguese took it to Goa, India between 1560 and 1565. From there, it spread throughout Southeast Asia, and eventually Africa.

Cashew Fruit

The fruit of the cashew tree is an accessory fruit (sometimes called a pseudocarp or false fruit). What appears to be the fruit is an oval, round or pear-shaped structure, a hypocarpium, that develops from the pedicel and the receptacle of the cashew flower. Called the cashew apple, better known in Central America as marañón, it ripens into a yellow or red structure about 5–11 cm (2.0–4.3 in) long. It is edible and has a strong “sweet” smell and taste. The true fruit contains a single seed, which is often considered a nut in the culinary sense. 

Uses of Cashew Nuts

 The cashew seed is often considered a nut in the culinary sense; Cashews are consumed as a snack on their own, are commonly used in nut mixes, used in recipes, or processed into cashew cheese, cashew milk or cashew butter. Like the tree, the nut is often simply called cashew. Culinary uses for cashew seeds in snacking and cooking are similar to those for all tree seeds called nuts.

Cashew Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 1 ounce (28g) of raw, unsalted cashews.

Carbs

A single serving of cashew nuts is 1 ounce—or about 18 nuts. One serving contains 157 calories and just under 9 grams of carbohydrate. Most of the carbohydrate in cashews is starch. A small amount is fiber (just under 1 gram) and the rest (about 1.7 grams) is sugar. 

Fats

Most of the calories in cashews come from fat. There are 12 grams of fat in a serving if you consume the full ounce. Most of the fat is monounsaturated fat (6.8g) or polyunsaturated. Unsaturated fats are considered to be healthier forms of fat.

Protein

Cashew nuts provide just over 5 grams of protein per serving. As a basis for comparison, cashews provide less protein than peanuts, which provide over 7 grams per one-ounce serving.

Vitamins and Minerals

Cashew nuts provide vitamin K (about 12% of your daily needs). You’ll also benefit from thiamin and vitamin B6 when you consume cashews.

Health Benefits

Consumption of nuts in general—and cashews, in particular—is associated with certain health benefits.

Aids Weight Control

Nuts can make a smart snack if you are trying to lose weight. The healthy fat, protein, and fiber in nuts may help you to feel full and satisfied after meals or at snack time. But since nuts are high in calories, it’s important to consume them in moderation.

 May Help Decrease Cholesterol

Cashews may help lower LDL cholesterol in some adults, according to a study published in a 2017 issue of the journal Nutrients. Researchers found that when adults with mildly high cholesterol consumed 28 to 64 grams of cashews per day, they saw an average 24% decrease in LDL cholesterol when compared to a control diet.

May Reduce Risk of Gallstones

There is some limited evidence that eating nuts can reduce the incidence of gallstones in both men and women.

May Aid Diabetes Management or Prevention

studies have found that patients with type 2 diabetes may gain health benefits from consuming nuts. Research has shown that cashew consumption by people with diabetes is associated with better insulin control and cholesterol ratio, and increased HDL cholesterol and lower systolic blood pressure.

Promotes Better Heart Health

Cashews, like all nuts, are a high-fat food, but they provide both poly- and monounsaturated fats—a healthy form of fat that helps boost heart health and reduce cholesterol levels when consumed in moderation. Cashews also provide diet-friendly fiber which is associated with a heart-healthy diet. Studies have even shown that nut consumption is significantly associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, especially in those with type 2 diabetes.

Adverse Effects

Those who harvest and process cashews need to be careful as the inside of the cashew shell contains a caustic liquid related to poison ivy. Farmers wear gloves and face shields to protect themselves from exposure, and the liquid is removed long before cashews hit the shelves.

Cashew Nut Butter

Some people also enjoy cashew butter, which is a spread made from blended roasted cashews. If you are choosing nut butter for a boost of protein, peanut butter is a better bet but some people prefer the milder taste of cashew butter.

Cashew Milk

Cashew milk is also available and may be a smart choice, especially for those that need to avoid the lactose found in dairy products. However, keep in mind that many nut milks such as cashew milk may contain other ingredients like added sugar added sugar and they may not provide as many micronutrients (like calcium) as dairy milk.

When It’s Best

Cashews are harvested about two months after the fruit (the apple) has set. The nut forms below the apple. This usually happens in the winter. But cashews are available all year long in most stores. The best way to store nuts is to keep them in an airtight container at room temperature. They should stay fresh for about three months. If you keep them in the refrigerator, you can prolong their lifespan to up to six months, and if you freeze them, you can use them for about one year.

Authors: Khansa, Masood Ahmad, Athar Mahmood Univeristy of Agriculture Faisalabad, Pakistan

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