Cashews are unique among nuts. They bear characteristics of both tree nuts and legumes, but they are not, botanically, either of these. They hang from fruits that look like pears but are actually a kind of apple, and the cashew is found outside the fruit, not in it! In fact, you’ll never see a cashew “in the shell,” and today you’ll find out why.
In the kitchen, cashews can be used like nuts – ground into meal, chopped, roasted, made into butter, etc. – or soaked in water to make a dairy substitute. Cashews are a most amazing and versatile “non-nut”!
So what are cashews, exactly, and what is the best way to use them? Most importantly, how do they fit into a bone-healthy diet?
Today we’re going to look at the cashew, including its place in building bones through nutrition. Also, I share a deliciously simple no-bake cashew recipe that makes an excellent snack, dessert, or party food. So let’s take a closer look at this versatile, bone-building nut, which isn’t really a nut at all, as you’ll soon learn.
Have you ever wondered how cashews got their name? It’s a funny-sounding word in English, but the Portuguese word for these nuts, caju, makes sense – it’s derived from a word that means “nut that produces itself.” The genus name, Anacardium, is no less interesting: ana means “backward” or “again,” and cardium means “heart.”
Yet the kidney-shaped cashew is the first part of the fruit to develop on the tree, and then the pedicel (flower stalk) grows into the cashew apple. Clearly, the topsy-turvy nature of the cashew caught people’s attention early on.
Botanical classification helps clarify things a bit. Cashews are actually drupes, which refers to a fruit with a fleshy exterior surrounding a pit or central seed. Apricots, peaches, and plums are drupes, as are pecans, almonds, and walnuts. So humans eat the flesh of some drupes and the pits of others. In the case of cashews, the seed or pit is consumed, although the sweet flesh of the cashew apple is enjoyed locally in areas where the tree grows, such as Brazil and India. But the delicate skin of the fruit prohibits export, so the cashew “nut” is the part most familiar to Westerners.
So why isn’t the cashew a nut or a legume? True nuts are composed of a hard shell surrounding a central seed, such as hazelnuts, chestnuts, and acorns. While cashew meats are enclosed in a hard shell, they are technically part of the cashew apple itself; they are not an independent fruit like acorns, for example.
A note about the cashew’s shell – it is different from the shells of nuts also in that it contains a toxic resin known as cashew balm, which must be removed from the cashews before they are fit to eat. The cashew balm is then used to make products like furniture varnish. This is why you will never see cashews in the shell for sale in the grocery store.
Cashews are not a legume, either. Legumes are dry fruits inside pods that split in two, like peanuts and beans. To make things a bit more confusing, cashews do split in half, but they lack other botanical characteristics of a legume.
So now that we’re clear on just what a cashew is, you might be wondering why – or if – it can help you build your bones.
Cashews And Bone Health
If you have the Osteoporosis Reversal Program, then you know that cashews are acidifying. But you’ll also be aware that cashews are a Foundation Food for their exemplary content of bone-nourishing nutrients and healthy fatty acids.
Cashews are a prime example of the role acidifying foods play in bone-smart nutrition – it’s easy to presume that a food is to be avoided entirely if it’s acidifying, but that’s not the case. There’s no need to eschew the cashew!
The pH-balanced diet described in the Osteoporosis Reversal Program is about balancing your intake of alkalizing and acidifying foods, not eating only alkalizing foods. So as you plan your meals, snacks, and desserts around the 80% alkalizing and 20% acidifying foods, make sure to include plenty of nutritious foods in that 20%, because there are many such foods that contain nutrients your bones need. Cashews are a good example.
Cashews’ Nutritional Profile
The cashew contains many valuable nutrients, but we’re going to focus primarily on the ones that support bone health.
Chances are slim that your doctor ever talked to you about getting enough copper in your diet! Nonetheless, this trace mineral is vital for bone rejuvenation. It’s found in all body tissues, and while you don’t need large quantities of it, without adequate copper, many body systems simply can’t function properly.
Cashews are extremely rich in copper – 100 grams (about ½ cup) contain 2.2mg of copper, which is well over 100% of the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance).
This trace mineral is best known for its role in boosting immunity and fending off colds and flu – hence the zinc lozenges that show up in stores when cold and flu season starts. But zinc plays a myriad of roles in building bone, including fracture repair by enhancing the production of bone-building cells (osteoblasts). Research shows that increased zinc ingestion via zinc-rich foods actually increases bone mass.
To read more about this study and the role of zinc in building bone, please read this article on zinc:
One hundred grams of cashews contain almost 6mg of zinc.
Your bones require boron to absorb calcium, and a deficiency in boron can result in a corresponding decrease in calcium and magnesium as well. Boron also influences estrogen, one of the key hormones in maintaining and recovering youthful bone density.
Cashews offer 1.15mg of boron per 100 grams.
With .66mg (33% daily value, or DV) of manganese per 100 grams, cashews are a fairly good source of this trace mineral, which is necessary for the synthesis of connective tissue in cartilage and bone. Manganese is indispensable for your bones, forming part of a trio of minerals (copper, zinc, and manganese) that compose Superoxide Dismutase, a crucial antioxidant your bones must have. This antioxidant is particularly effective at quelling bone-damaging inflammation via dismutation (a reaction between two molecules where one is reduced and the other oxidized) – hence its name.
Cashews contain all three of these key minerals.
Two-thirds of a cup of cashews (100 grams) offer nearly 117mg of magnesium (about 30% of daily value), making this “nut” a valuable means of combating magnesium deficiency, a widespread problem. Magnesium works synergistically with calcium, so without adequate amounts of magnesium, your bones simply can’t absorb the calcium they need.
Cashews are actually lower in fat overall than other nuts, and more than 80% of their fat content is unsaturated fatty acids. Over 65% of these fatty acids are monounsaturated fats, known for their role in preserving and promoting heart health and lowering cholesterol.
Cashews are delicious to eat out of hand; they have a sweet, meaty flavor and soft texture. But they are also scrumptious in recipes like this one, which includes other bone-building ingredients as well as cashews.
Chocolate Cashew-Apricot Clusters
Makes 20 clusters
Because these delicious, nutritious, no-bake treats are mostly acidifying, enjoy them with a glass of plain almond milk or with some fresh fruit. They can also replace granola, when crumbled and sprinkled over alkalizing, plain yogurt.
- 2 cups dark chocolate chips
- ¼ cup coconut milk or almond milk
- 1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups raw cashews, coarsely chopped
- 2 cups dried, unsweetened apricots, chopped
- In a medium-sized, heavy saucepan or double boiler, combine the chocolate chips, milk, and honey or maple syrup. Melt over low heat, stirring occasionally.
- When chocolate mixture is thoroughly melted, stir in the cashews and dried apricots.
- Drop spoonfuls of the mixture onto cookie sheets lined with waxed paper; refrigerate for at least 3 hours before consuming. Store in the refrigerator.
Acidifying Foods Can Be Bone-Healthy Too!
I hope today’s article helped clarify not only the definition of cashews, but also the very important role that healthful, acidifying foods can and do play in bone health. Some Savers find it surprising that Bone Appétit, the companion cookbook to the Osteoporosis Reversal Program, contains recipes that are acidifying and should be consumed with other alkalizing foods; but that’s the beauty of an 80/20 pH-balanced diet: balance, not prohibition, is the key element for success.
This “balance factor” also makes eating your way to healthy bones a fun, creative, and enjoyable experience. Bone Appétit enlivens the whole process, with more than 200 recipes for bone-smart breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and even desserts. Plus, to simplify your bone-building endeavors, it also includes clear guidelines, explanations, and a 30 Day Meal Planner.
Eat Your Way to Stronger Bones!
Discover over 200 mouth-watering bone healthy recipes for breakfast, smoothies, appetizers, soups, salads, vegetarian dishes, fish, and plenty of main courses and even desserts!
Do you have a favorite way to enjoy cashews? If you’d like to share your recipe or idea with the community, or if you have any other comments about today’s article topic, please feel free to share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.
Till next time,
Comments on this article are closed.
Hello Vivian !
I want to tell you how much I enjoy your program and the articles you share. I am a “post-polio” survivor – afflicted at the age of 3 (left side of my body)along with a brother at the age of 10 and a sister the age of 13 and have recently been diagnosed with “Dystonia” – “torticollis”. Both have been challenges for me – however – I always remember GOD doesn’t give you more than you can handle. Any advice you could share with me regarding food choices or exercises. Any advice would be much appreciated. Helen
What kind of nuts are the best for reversing osteoporosis and any kind of osteo effects ?
What kind of nuts are the best for reversing osteoporosis
and any other type of osteo effects?
What is the best way the nuts should consumed: raw, roasted or how?
Hi Vivian, I have purchased your program and feel great. My one concern is in the morning I have very loose bowels. I’m thinking it is from all the veggies. I don’t want to lose the benefits. I also take algaecal & strontium. Thinking I should reduce the amount?
Anne, I too was taking strontium and having very loose bowel movements. I stopped the strontium and bowels returned to normal. The doctor also told me that strontium works in your body the same way the osteoporosis drugs work. Something to think about.
Thanks for all the valuable information. I, too, would like to know what form of cashews to eat (raw or cooked) and also, as someone else asked, are cashews toxic to humans or animals? Thx.
I find your column so informative, Thanks
Two issues: 1) Dr Gundry at Loma Linda University Hospital claims that cashews are full of lectins (Plant poisons, called phytoalexins, designed to stop animals – mostly insects – from eating the reproductive seeds of plants, but toxic to other animals as well).
2) Some views that roasting cashews destroys these poisons, but that raw cashews are toxic.
Would welcome your input on these concerns.
Agreed. Avoid cashews to avoid the lectins (which cause leaky gut, inflammatory diseases) and follow Dr. Gundry’s Plant Paradox Diet.
Hi Vivian, can I substitute soy milk for the almond milk in the recipe? Thanks. Can’t wait to try.
Oh, I wish I liked cashews. I honestly hate the taste of them. What should I substitute for them in the chocolate cashew apricot recipe?
Thanks, this is quite educative and helpful, looking forward to reading more of these articles.
I wonder if you can please comment on what form of cashews to eat? I typically eat raw cashews because the roasted ones usually have canola or other kinds of unhealthy oils listed as ingredients. Is there any reason not to eat raw ones?
Really appreciate your articles. ‘Food’ for the mind, as important as nourishment for the body IMHO. Wow how interesting are cashews (as well as being delicious). It makes eating them even more satisfying knowing how good for the bones, nutrient dense they are. Thank you
How do I unsubscribe? No offense meant. Just want to get this computer under control and spend more time outside.
Dear Vivian – Can you please let me know the potassium contain of cashews? I am determined to keep my potassiun level under control without meds even though my Doc.advises me otherwise. So many bone building foods you recommend are high in potassium! Thank you – Nicole
I like to snack on raw cashews that have been refrigerated combined with prunes. I did not know prunes were acidic. I also like the cashews with dried go G berries. Are those acidic too? What are some other dried fruits that are alkaline? I have zero tolerance for any sweetener including honey and even molasses. I will get hot flashes and burning sulfur smelling urine if I eat sweeteners. I don’t like the taste of Stevia either. I use Dandy-blend some time as a sweetener which has dandelion root, beet root and Chickory and tastes like coffee only better! Also Mesquite flour is outstanding and has a nutty light chocolatey taste. Basically I only use sweeteners that are ground up foods like even date sugar so it has the fiber and other components to reduce the sugar rate of digestion.
Good morning Vivian,
Thank you very much for sharing and updating us on
different topics and info. not only for our bones but, also
things that will affect our bone health.
We purchased unsalted cashews from Costco ( Kirkland ).
Have a wonderful day.
Please tell me what the carbohydrate total is for one serving of the cashew/chocolate recipe. Am diabetic and I adjust my insulin intake according to carb content. Much thanks.
The cook book looks great! How can you purchase a hard copy not a digital copy? Thanks
Di you recommend soaking nuts?
Glad to hear cashews are healthy since I eat them when buying groceries (buy them in the bulk food section and eat them before going to the checkout). I was wondering your thoughts on macademia nuts and regular dry roasted peanuts. Thanks.
You must be being your bag of cashews from the bulk aisle and they believe you as to the weight? In Whole Foods anyway they ask the code for the item but they weigh it at the checkout. The only thing I eat while I shop are packaged things, which I don’t buy except veggie sushi when I’m really desperate. I ADORE CASHEWS but can’t stop eating them. I’m addicted to them!
I meant to say “you must be weighing your bag of cashews.”
Thanks Vivian for this recipe. Can’t wait to try it. I make something similar to this, except there is no milk in the recipe. I use dark chocolate chips, melted, then stir in some healthy crushed cereal flakes and any of your favorite chopped nuts. You could also stir in some chopped dried fruit and any extract you like for added flavor. Drop by teaspoonful’s onto a baking sheet and let sit in the refrigerator until firm. They keep well stored in a covered container either in or out of the refrigerator.
Vegan Cream of Mushroom Soup with Cashew Cream
Makes about 6 cups. 629 calories total recipe
For the Soup:
2 tablespoons olive oil.
1 medium yellow onion, chopped.
3 garlic cloves, minced.
1 pound cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced ( I used button mushrooms).
1/2 tbsp soy sauce low sodium
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
about 1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
3 cups chicken broth – organic-
salt – taste soup when done and add if needed
For the Cashew Cream: soak overnight / rinse and use fresh water for soup
1/2 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup water
In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions to hot oil and saute until translucent and slightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, stir, and cook for 1 minute more. Add the mushrooms, soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce and cook until mushrooms are cooked and broken down, about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally. Add cracked pepper and vegetable stock and cook at a simmer until mushrooms are completely soft. This took me about 30 minutes on a very gentle simmer.
While the soup simmers, prepare the cashew cream. Drain cashews and In a blender, combine raw cashews and 1/2 cup fresh water. Blend on high until smooth.
I just left the cashew mixture in the blender and added the mushroom mixture when it was done.
When mushrooms are cooked through, add about one third of the soup to the blender. Hot soup rises high in the blender so definitely be careful how high you fill the blender. Blend soup on low, increasing the speed to high, until no large mushroom chunks remain. Pour blended soup into a clean pot or large bowl. Blend the remaining soup in batches
Really need help. Have 10 spinal fractures already and 91% cyrvature of thoracic spine. Can no longer access Strontium Citrate in South Africa. I wish to stay on the natural way and NOT biphosphonates etc
Am taking Aquamin Calcium 2 daily and diet at present. Also walking a fair amount.
I was almost sorry I down loaded the program, my husband will have questions when he sees the visa. but once I read the 1st 3 chapters, i cant put book down. Iam at -2.9 osteo. And no way im going to take mefication. THANK YOU