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CASHEW NUT, nature's vitamin pill
(from Latin "Anacardium occidentale")
 
 

 
 

Cashew nut 
Cashew nut, mature

History: India is nowadays the largest producer of cashew nuts in the world though the plant is native to Northeast Brazil. Here goes the story how the cashew plant arrived in India.

The Portuguese discovered the plant in Brazil in 1578 and brought it to India (and also to East Africa). They planted cashew trees in India initially to reduce erosion not for fruit production; the uses for the nut were developed much later. The trees adapted very well to their new home, especially in the Kerala region, and became naturalized.

On the outside wall of the Orthodox church of Kottayam, Kerala, you can see a high relief showing an exotic bird (probably one also brought from Brazil by the Portuguese) with a cashew nut in its beak.

 

Orthodox church of Kottayam, Kerala, India    Orthodox church of Kottayam, Kerala, India

Origin of the name: The word "acaiu" comes from the tupi language and means nuts produced. In the people's oral tradition "acayu" ou "aca-iu" refers, however, to the year, since the Indians of Brazil used to estimate their age by the number of flower bloomings elapsed.

How to enjoy: Cashew nuts are widely used as appetizers, especially when roasted and/or salted. They are also used covered with chocolate, and their delicate flavour gives a pinch of exotic to desserts and even to main dishes. But it's mainly their health benefits that matter to us.

Health benefits of cashew nuts: they have a delicate flavour and are a very good source of monounsaturated fats and dietary minerals like iron, copper, zinc, magnesium and phosphorus. With their high copper content, cashew nuts are a good antioxidant and help eliminate free radicals, develop bone tissue and produce melanin, the skin and hair pigment.

But cashew nuts provide the human body with much more than that; they protect our heart against the risk of cardiovascular and coronary heart disease: cashew nuts have no cholesterol, which is not the case of most dried fruits. And the high content of monounsaturated fatty acids help support healthy levels of low good cholesterol (HDL).

Recent clinical trials have shown that cashews also bring health benefits to patients with diabetes or at risk for diabetes.

It is also said that when eaten moderately, cashew nuts may be effective against tooth decay, acne, and even in case of tuberculosis and leprosy, due to chemicals they contain that kill gram-positive bacteria.

So, if you’re crazy about your heart, go nuts and enjoy a handful of cashews (or other nuts) at least 4 times a week. And when eaten at a moderate level, cashew nuts may even have a good effect on weight management! After I travelled to India in February 2010, I learned to like these fruits even better.

One more useful advice though. Be sure of their freshness!

© Dulce Rodrigues

 

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