On the whole, nuts have proven to be cardio-protective. The research includes cashews, almonds and walnuts (botanically considered seeds), peanuts (which are legumes) and hard-shelled true nuts such as hazelnuts. Women who consume one ounce of nuts five times per week cut their risk of heart disease by one third. Even eating nuts once a week can significantly reduce mortality rates. These protective effects are thought to be linked with these facts:
- The fat in nuts is mainly oleic acid (as in olive oil) and primarily unsaturated.
- Nuts provide plenty of protective antioxidants.
- As snacks, nuts are an ideal replacement for “junk food” (high in trans fats or sugar).
- In entrees, (such as the stir-fry below), nuts replace meat and poultry.
- In creamy sauces, nuts replace dairy products.
The English name for the cashew nut derives from the Portuguese name for the fruit of the cashew tree, caju, which in turn derives from the indigenous Tupi name, acajú. The trees originated in Brazil and were taken by Portuguese sailors to Goa, India, in the middle of the 16th century. From there, they spread throughout India and to tropical regions such as the Philippines.
During the four years I lived in India, I recall joining some lovely women for lunch on a beach in Goa. While they spoke only the native language Konkani, they invited me with welcoming gestures. They picked these delicious nuts from a nearby tree and removed the sweet “cashew apple” fruit that was attached above and the potentially toxic shell. They then roasted the cashews over a beach fire.
Each cashew nut is surrounded by a double shell containing anacardic acid, a resin that is a skin irritant and chemically related to the toxin in poison ivy. This shell is totally removed from the cashews we consume. On the other hand, it turns out that anacardic acid is a valuable antibacterial agent, useful against tooth abscesses.
The stir-fry below, rich in vitamins and minerals, features cashew nuts in the sauce and as part of the stir-fry mix.
Vesanto Melina is a dietitian and co-author of nutrition classics Becoming Vegetarian, Becoming Vegan, Becoming Raw, Raising Vegetarian Children, the Food Allergy Survival Guide and the Raw Food Revolution Diet. For personal consultations, phone 604-882-6782 or visitwww.nutrispeak.com
Cashew & vegetable stir-fry
Makes 4 cups
For this stir-fry, you may use the vegetables listed below or others such as asparagus, cauliflower, Chinese greens, daikon radish, mushrooms or mung bean sprouts. In a stir-fry, the denser vegetables such as onion are added at the beginning for longer cooking. The leafy or watery vegetables such as bok choy are added at the end. Chili garlic sauces can be found at Asian stores and many supermarkets; these can be hot so use more or less as you prefer. Serve over brown rice. To serve 3 or 4 people, double this recipe.
2 Tbsp. cashew butter
1-2 tbsp. Chinese or Thai chili garlic sauce
1 tbsp tamari, Bragg Liquid Soy or soy sauce 1 tbsp. water
1 large red or white onion, sliced
1-2 tsp. olive oil or coconut oil
1 large carrot, sliced diagonally
1 cup broccoli florets, chopped
1 red pepper, diced
1 cup bok choy or Chinese cabbage, chopped
1 cup snow pea pods 1/4 cup cashew nuts
In a small bowl, stir together the cashew butter, chili garlic sauce, tamari and water to make a smooth paste. In preheated hot wok or skillet, cook the onion in oil over medium high heat for 3 minutes or until beginning to brown. Add the carrot and cook for 1 minute; add the broccoli and cook for another 30 seconds; then add the red pepper, bok choy and snow peas, cooking just long enough to heat through. Add the sauce, stir to combine, sprinkle with cashews and serve over rice.
Per half recipe: calories: 312; protein: 11 g; fat: 19 g; carbohydrate: 30 g; dietary fibre: 8 g; calcium: 157 mg; iron: 4.8 mg; magnesium: 134 mg; sodium: 889 mg; zinc: 2.5 mg; folate: 122 mcg; vitamin C: 147 mg; vitamin E: 4 mg.