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Cashews – Bad for You

Posted by cavewomanrunner on November 17, 2008

So I have heard from some Paleo folks that cashews are bad for you. Cashews are not nuts, they are not legumes (beans and peanuts), they are in a category all of their own. So what category is that? Here it is in a nutshell (well, more like a  toxic seed).

The cashew tree is a fast-growing evergreen that produces a fruit and a nut. The fruit, or cashew apple, is usually discarded since it ferments rapidly. The nut, which is actually a seed, is surrounded by an outer shell that contains urushiol, a skin irritant toxin also found in poison ivy. There is also a toxic resin in the shell layer that can get on the cashew nut itself, making it inedible. To make the cashew seeds edible, most manufacturers use heat, steaming the shell at high temperatures. Some companies have developed a special tool that they claim opens the shell without ever letting the toxin get on the cashew.

Cashew Apple and Nut

I doubt that our cavemen ancestors had the expertise to open these shells without getting toxins on the seeds. And since cashews cannot be eaten in their raw form, that makes them non-Paleo.

I have put cashews on my “foods to avoid” list anyway, and I haven’t really missed them. I much prefer the taste of almonds and pistachios. I’m going to leave cashews in the category to avoid – just like poison ivy!

If you want even more details on the cashew processing, check out this interesting article.

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30 Responses to “Cashews – Bad for You”

  1. Dr Dan said

    Hey thanks for the post. Very helpful.

    • The information above is NOT correct. Cashew fruits can be eaten raw (I have it). They are delicious, with a very strong flavor and full of vitamin C, more than mosst citric fruit. Additionally, it has protein, fibers, iron, Vitamin A, and other nutrients. The fruit is specially good for soretroat.
      Cashew fruit tastes very different from it’s nut (the NUTcannot be eaten raw, like peanuts). However, since the fruit is very sensitive to touch (like figs, it can bruise easily), you’ll only find fruits for sale around where the trees grows.
      Otherwise, you can taste the fruit thru its juice (found in most Latin stores), or thru the dried fruit (found mostly in countries that grows cashew).
      One more information: cashew trees are very beautiful. Its branches get very heavy with the weight of the fruits, and touches the ground, forming new roots there. Old trees are very large, and you can do a “tour” inside of them.

      Again, be careful about information on the net. Not everybody knows what they are talking about.
      See pictures here: http://www.portalsaofrancisco.com.br/alfa/arvore-cajueiro/arvores-cajueiro-11.php

      • charly said

        Ms Marsullo Dove i find your argument very interesting, though honestly you lost me in the part where you mentioned that the branches get very heavy…..forming new roots. Are you sure that they are cashew trees, i gots to see that!! but again i only have about a hundred trees in our property, perhaps you have lots more?

      • Marzull-Dove said

        Charly,
        If you follow the link I posted, you’ll see the huge tree I am talking about. Of course it would take hundreds of years for the cashew tree to reach that level of maturity.

  2. theorytopractice said

    I think that’s the right reasoning. I’m a little more inclined to put them, though, in the gray area of, say, cheese.

  3. Fixed Gear said

    I don’t know about this one. It’s NOT that they can’t be eaten raw. The seed is not poisonous. It’s that the shell has toxins. I think it’s conceivable primal man was able to get the shell off and get to the seed inside without eating the poison. ….I mean by this rationale you wouldn’t eat anything with a protective shell. Like pineapple, or lobster, etc…

    But would primal man go through all the trouble for one small seed when he could just go pick an apple or some berries??? I don’t know.

  4. ms said

    This is nuts. Cashews are actually quite a healthy source of monosaturates and can improve heart health.

    This is just nutty.

    • cavewomanrunner said

      Thanks for everyone’s comments. It sounds like many people are on the fence about cashews. However, if you strictly follow the Paleo theory then if something cannot be eaten raw and without processing, then it really shouldn’t be eaten. The fact that cashews are really not nuts and can be toxic makes me personally want to not eat them. As one article puts it: “He who cuts the wood or eats cashew nuts or stirs his drink with a cashew swizzle stick is possibly subject to a dermatitis.”
      The cashew “nuts” we buy in stores today may in fact be non-toxic and healthy for us. Many people enjoy them. Yet the fluid that is from the cashew is quite nasty: “From the shells or hulls is extracted a black, acrid, powerful vesicant oil, used as a preservative and water-proofing agent in insulating varnishes, in manufacture of typewriter rolls, in oil- and acid-proof cements and tiles, in brake-linings, as an excellent lubricant in magneto armatures in airplanes, and for termite proofing timbers.” For me, that does not make cashews appetizing at all. I haven’t eaten one in almost a year, and can’t say that I miss them with all of the other nuts and great foods I eat. It really comes down to a personal choice – just like all of the foods you eat.

  5. Princess said

    Seriously folks y’all thinking way to much. This article make no sense….Cashews R great 4 u!

    • Mike said

      It makes perfect sense, which is why the masses won’t listen and continue to eat them and continue to be full of diseases, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, etc.

      Cashews are not great for you. Just because you eat one and don’t drop dead, doesn’t make it good for you in the long run.

  6. [...] found this article on cashews. What’s your take? I love cashews and eat them a lot for the fat and protein. I want [...]

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  8. peter said

    my god, rhubarb you cant eat the leaves, isn’t pulling the leaves of the stalk “processing” most nuts were toxic at one point but through the evolution and domestication of tree species that has diminished to negligible. Shellfish are poisonous through red tide….. evolution has given us a brain, why don’t you use it to discern for yourself what is safe…. we have the scientific method now to determine what is poisonous to us or causes allergies…
    I can understand that food reactions are frustrating but this methodology doesn’t hold water. Sorry the only thing

  9. terry green said

    rattlesnake venom can easily kill you. eating rattlesnake meat is not bad for your health. not anymore so than eating chicken.
    mmmmm Im gettin hungry. Who wants cashew rattlesnake?

  10. Diandi Ben said

    Cashews are in no way dangerous, the seed contains toxens if eaten RAW they will stain your teeth and burn your mouth. The process for extraction the nuts from the seeds is very dangerous and is usually done in remote locations or under very stringent regulations…. The finished product though is harmless. Here in Belize its one of our most enjoyed foods or snacks. The fruit or apple can be eaten directly from the tree and has no poisens what so ever. Here we make wines, stewed cashew, jams and jellies all from the fresh fruit.
    So enjoy all the cashew you please I grew up on the stuff and we even have an annual cashew feast here in a little village….the Crooked Tree Cashew Feast!!!

    • Sounds wonderful! I love cashews.. all very interesting, just was eating one and realised I didnt know what a cashew tree looked like or where one grew, now I know lots of cashewy things, next stop, belize cashew festival!

  11. Paul R said

    There is a flaw in your article I think. There are plenty of indigenous tribes that until very recent times have lived a lifestyle and diet indistinguishable from paleo ancestors (think kalahari bushmen, Australian aboriginals, congolese pigmys, Amazon jungle dwellers). All these people have foods that require special handling or preparation to avoid toxic reactions from their casings or other sections. I was in the middle east and was shown a prickly plant by bedouin that required gentle roasting on coals before discarding the skin and eating the flesh. If you didn’t do this you’d get stomach cramps. So, I’m sorry, I don’t think your logic holds. I think it’s highly likely our ancestors would have eaten a plant as nutritious as cashews.

  12. Paul said

    Actually cashews carry an ethical dilemma as well, if that matters. The processing of them creates a lot of toxic waste and it is really powerful stuff. It does not take much to kill the Earth and all the fish in the river. And they are grown and processed by hand right across the developing world and everyone who does this work gets burns and blisters from doing it. It is very unhygienic work.
    I love cashews but am trying to wean myself off them.

    As a replacement I would like to suggest the malabar chestnut. Not common in the west but should be. An easily grown tree that produces freely and abundantly. They fall to the ground when ready and the hardest part of the process is cracking them out of a peanut like shell that is just a bit tougher. They can be eaten raw or cooked which gives them a flavour mildly reminiscent of cashews and I think they are even better. Possibly even the best nut I have ever had.

  13. Scott said

    Wow…it all sounds confusing…are nuts really Healthy for humans…to consume…you don’t see many animals cracking open nuts to eat the so called high protein, hard meat inside..even so, all nuts are difficult to digest…I’d imagine if our cave men brothers & sisters really ate Cashews or Nuts they had a way of opening them up & processing the inner hard protein. Possibly pounded into a pulp before eating…I’m here in Thailand & watch people when choosing food, certainly not Healthy here at all. Dead rooting animal flesh…Pig, Cow, Chicken, Fish, Snake, Rat, Dog, Monkey…you name it, it’s here. Humans have lost there way when it comes to food. We never evolved into what we are today by killing another centient being. Remember: You are what you Eat…Let food be thy Medicine & Medicine be thy Food. Man doesn’t die he kills himself, Eat now suffer later. So many people suffer with Health issues. Some foods at highly toxic & Cancerous, these have certain side effects on your body, take note: read these signals. Remember: Worship your body…you only get one in your life time. Balance Acid, Alkaline foods…20% Protein (acid) & 80% Greens (alkaline) our blood in mostly alkaline…eat Clean food…this leads to a clean healthy body…wake up my friend you are sleep walking…The Truth.

  14. rod said

    Im from st kitts in the Caribbean and growing up i couldn’t wait to see the fruit ripen.
    They were in two colours. once ripe we would pick them ring the cashew nut out and start munching right into it. oh what a lovely delight, right there next to the mango.
    I couldnt say which was sweeter, the red or the yellow.
    We didnt discard the nuts, infact the boys would compete to see who could gather the most, and because there was a shortage of marbles who ever loses a pitching match would pay with the cashew nuts. we used to call the Cherry Nuts. These nuts we would then put on a metal sheet to dry then we would roast them on a metal sheet on three stone wood fire in the open. after roasting we would crack the shell open and have a feast onthat great nut we later found out was the same cashew nuts. i cant say how mush ive eaten, but it was a lot, now i dont have to roast or crack i go to the store and buy. i love those things. We also made a stew with the fruit oh what a love stew.

  15. solar kits said

    solar kits…

    [...]Cashews – Bad for You « Woman + Runner + Fighter[...]…

  16. [...] for orange sesame pancakes. Not a big fan of orange pancakes and having recently given up cashews (here’s why), I made some concessions and what turned out was a tasty, five-minute snack that makes enough to [...]

  17. irockmylife said

    We actually have a cashew tree in our neighbourhood and I’ve actually picked up a ripe cashew apple and eaten it. It was easy to crack it open to reach the nut, all you need is a mortar and pestel (or a large stone). If I were a caveman, this task would not have been terribly difficult for me to do as it’s worth the rich and nutritious nut inside!

    Cashew nuts have an impressive array of trace minerals such as zinc, copper and potassium in them, even more so than other nuts! Cashews are great for your heart and actually alleviate depression. Cashews have numerous health benefits, just Google it!

    I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to let some paleo-fanatic blogger dictate whether or not to eat a nutritious and healthful nut like cashews…it’s up to you, see how you feel after eating cashews…of course, like everything else, you must not pig out on a bucket load of cashews. Make sure you aren’t allergic to cashews, because like peanut allergy, some people can have cashew nut allergy.

    I’m not going to stop eating a handful of organic cashews up to three times a week. Why should I deprive myself of this nutrient packed food? It’s absurd to avoid this nut based on the thought that it would’ve been difficult for cavemen to extract! Hello, I think hunting down a wooly mammoth, killing it and slicing off it’s hide would be much more difficult, lol, people! It’s not like cavemen were dumb and had IQs of 20 points, please!

    I know the author is entitled to her opinion and I respect that…but as a reader you should be able to assess various sources and come to your own conclusions, just saying.

  18. charly said

    Hey yall! cashews are addicted. you just can not eat one yall. you stop eating them until the bag its empty yall!! seriously i use gloves to open or crack the seed yall. I is in central america, and i gots tons of seeds, my uncle has dozens of cashews trees and since i dont have a job, i collect the seeds in the summer time, next i put them in a pan on a outside fire and heat them until they come on fire, let them burn for about 30 seconds, and then let them cool off. after that its all downhill yall. get some gloves and hit them softly untol you hear a crack!! and voila!!!!! only heat as many as 10 yall or yall going to get burn!!! is highly flamable, careful yall, dont do it indoors, only outdoors, please yall.

  19. [...] or not they or are they not good for you. If you are interested you can read about the debate here. The comments are interesting. I personally have found that certain things will cause certain [...]

  20. [...] or not they or are they not good for you. If you are interested you can read about the debate here. The comments are interesting. I personally have found that certain things will cause certain [...]

  21. CH said

    Pistachios are one of the worst nuts for mold thus aflatoxins. Walnuts and Almonds are somewhat better.

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