Among the home vegetable milks, the cashew milk is undoubtedly the one whose flavor is the most delicate. It is an ultra-creamy milk (moreover, after filtering there remains almost no fiber in the nut milk bag). Incredibly good for your health, the cashew is very rich in phosphorus and iron as well as zinc, manganese, selenium, but also a lot of vitamins and minerals. Cashew is really a great nut. And all these nutrients are transmitted to the milk when it is prepared by yourself!
The fruit of the cashew tree is an achene (dry fruit that doesn’t open spontaneously), which has the distinction of having one stalk that hypertrophies itself as the fruit matures. This magnification gives the stem a pear shape, called cashew apple, its hue ranging from yellowish to reddish. This is a sort of a false fleshy fruit whose vinous flavor is popular to natives including Brazil. But it is not the stalk, succulent as it is, that we are interested in today but the nut that is suspended to it. This is the actual fruit, cashew nuts contained in its hard shell and smooth gray or sepia. Each false fruit called “cashew apple” has at its end a single nut which explains the high price of cashew nuts.
History of cashews
There are eight species of Anacardium, all from tropical America. The species Western Anacardium is by far the most important economically. It is native to northeastern Brazil. This region lies between the rainforests of the Atlantic and Amazon.
There are 33 900 km² of these plantations in the world. Basically, 0.0227% of the land surface on the planet is covered with cashew. This figure is not negligible. The main reason is that each tree yields only 200 to 300 nuts per year. The yield is very low, and especially in some countries, including India, that dedicates a huge surface to it.
The Tupi, therefore, left their Acaju grow in peace when Portuguese sailors landed, who have tasted and loved it, and then introduced them into their second home in India, Goa, after a stop in Mozambique in 1578. From there, cashew spread itself throughout the Asian continent, that found it very suitable, and in Africa as well.
Cashews were domesticated long before the arrival of Europeans. The Portuguese found the cashew tree (the tree that produces nuts) in 1538. They introduced cashews in their colonies in India and Africa not long after. In India, the first cashew tree was planted for erosion control. Its culture to produce nut and false fruit came much later.
International trade for these little nuts dates from before 1920, when the Indians found an effective technique to remove the caustic oil hull. Cashew then became an essential food in Indian cuisine.
Cashew is now produced in 32 countries worldwide, with the top ten, in order of importance, Vietnam, India, Nigeria, Brazil, Tanzania, Indonesia, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mozambique and Benin. It now ranks first in the production of nuts, which has exceeded almonds in 2003.
Cashew nuts and health
Cashew is made of 49% fat, 19% protein and 21% carbohydrates. The rest is distributed in water and fiber. Contrary to popular belief, this is not one of the fattest fruit husk and oilseeds: except chestnuts and pistachios, with lower fat content, and sunflower seeds, with equivalent fat content, cashews are less fat than almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, Brazil nuts, macadamias and pecans. With their richness in protein, fiber and fat, cashews are actually a low glycemic index food, and as well a high satiating power food. Therefore, it iserfect as part of a diet because it can, in moderate amounts, avoid leaving you hungry.
In addition to its complete protein, making it a very interesting food in a vegetable diet, cashew nut is rich in monounsaturated fats or omega-9. It is therefore not part of the “essential” fatty acids such as omega-3 and omega-6, because the body cannot produce these itself. However their effect on health is not less important. These are the “good” fatty acids that are also found in olive oil and most oilseeds. They are beneficial to cardiovascular health by lowering LDL, or ‘bad cholesterol’.
Cashew nuts are extremely rich in magnesium, a mineral that plays a key role in neuromuscular transmission of nerve impulses – a natural anti-stress, a large part of the Western population is sadly deficient in it. The relaxing and normalizing action of magnesium on the muscles, vessels and nerves, relieves pain – including those associated with PMS and migraines. Besides cashews, it is mainly found in plant foods: whole grains and legumes, seeds and nuts, wheat germ and brewer’s yeast and finally cocoa and green leafy vegetables.
Cashew is also very rich in copper and phosphorus, two important minerals for our body as they are both necessary for the formation and repair of our tissues. Phosphorus is also essential to the health of our bones and our teeth, to maintain a normal pH in the blood (which allows us to fight against osteoporosis).
But that’s not all … cashew is also rich in iron and zinc, two minerals that are often lacking in Western populations – mainly women. Iron is essential for red blood cell formation: vegetable-based, it will ensure the support of a vitamin C source (citrus fruits, vegetables, etc.) to absorb vitamin C well. Zinc is also an important mineral involved in immune reactions and tissue healing. For women again, it plays a vital role in enabling the development of the fetus and the thyroid hormones.
Add to that a richness in antioxidants and vitamin E, essential to enable our cells to fight against free radicals.
Beware, however: like all oilseeds, cashew has a strong allergenic potential, due to its content of oleoresin and toxins. Please, pay attention not to introduced it too early in the diet of children.
The extract of cashew nuts, an effective anti-diabetic
Cashew contains many virtues under its shell to begin with a high vitamin E intake and calories with 500 calories per 100g approximatively. In India, cashew consumption is even recommended to replenish energy, mixed with milk and brown sugar. Cashew is also known for its oil which is introduced in many pharmaceutical products for psoriasis, eczema or ulcers. Cashew nuts have less fat. They are rich in copper, magnesium, vitamin C and potassium.
New scientific articles show that cashew extracts could be effective and promising antidiabetics, according to a recent study from the University of Montreal published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research. This study analyzed the benefits on diabetes that show the effect on the body from the different products of cashew trees. In particular, the authors investigated whether cashew extracts could improve the response of the body to its own insulin1.
Diabetes is characterized by high blood sugar due to the inability of the body to respond or produce enough insulin. This disease, which affects about 220 million people worldwide, can cause heart or kidney disease. The objective of the study was to examine the impact of leaves, bark, nuts and cashew apples from the north-east Brazil and other countries of the Southern hemisphere on cells that respond to insulin. “Of all the extracts tested, only cashew extract significantly stimulated blood sugar absorption by muscle cells, said the director of this research, Pierre S. Haddad, Professor of pharmacology at the Faculty of medicine of the University of Montreal. Extracts of other elements of this plant did not have the same effect, suggesting that the cashew extract contains active substances with potential antidiabetic properties. “
The cashew tree products have long been known to have anti-inflammatory effects, to counter the rise of blood sugar and prevent insulin resistance among diabetics. “Our study validates the traditional use that is made of the cashew tree products in diabetes and has discovered that some of its natural elements could be used to create new oral therapies,” said Professor Haddad who is also director of research Team in Aboriginal antidiabetic medicines, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the University of Montreal.
Certainly the cashew benefits are well proven, and it would be a shame to miss them!
How to make homemade cashew milk?
For 1 litre of cashew milk
- 1 litre of water
- 100 g of cashew nuts
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1 tsp of sweet (agave syrup, maple syrup) or 2 dates
- Soak nuts in a bowl of water 2 to 6 hours in advance.
- Take a colander and rinse cashew nuts well by passing them under the water. Drain them.
- Add the water, salt and sweetener and mix until obtaining a perfectly homogeneous liquid.
- Pour your cashew milk in a clean bottle of glass.
This cashew milk will be good to drink for 3-4 days in the refrigerator. Its flavor is very sweet and allows you to perfectly replace cow’s milk with almond milk for your breakfast, cake recipes or other savory preparations. The great advantage of this milk compared to other homemade vegetable milks (like hazelnut milk or chestnut milk), is no need to filter it! Cashews don’t have skins like almonds or hazelnuts and they have only a small amount of pulp. The advice is to shake the bottle before drinking this cashew milk.
- University of Montreal. (2010, July 14). Cashew seed extract an effective anti-diabetic, study shows. ScienceDaily.