Cashews are a nut that grows on a tree native to South America, and are an excellent source of unsaturated fats, fiber, and protein.
They’re a good snack food to replace processed foods like chips and sweets, which are high in sugar and refined carbohydrates. Cashews can be eaten raw, which makes them a favorite snack for those on the paleo diet or the whole30 diet.
Looking to add a health snack to your pantry? Cashews are a great option. Our researchers have ranked the ten best cashew brands of the year, plus taken a detailed look at the nutritional research on the health benefits of regular cashew consumption.
1. Terrasoul Superfoods Raw Whole Cashews
Terrasoul Superfoods Raw Whole Cashews come in a 32 ounce resealable bag and are both organically grown and totally raw.
That means there are no additional oils added, and no salt added either. They’re an excellent option whether you are trying to reduce the sodium in your diet, or whether you are looking for a source of healthy fats and protein to replace unhealthy, processed snack foods.
Thanks to its organic certification, you don’t need to worry about synthetic pesticides or herbicides, either. With all of these benefits, Terrasoul Superfoods Raw Whole Cashews are our top pick.
2. Jiva Organics Raw Organic Cashews
Jiva Organics Raw Organic Cashews makes a minimally processed raw and organically certified cashew, which comes in a simple two-pound bag.
The bag isn’t resealable, so you’ll have to find your own airtight container to store these after you’ve opened the packaging, but they’re still a favorite among low-carb, paleo, and whole 30 dieters.
3. Sunshine Nut Company Cashews
Sunshine Nut Company Cashews are a rare find among roasted cashews—these cashews are peanut-free and are carefully processed to avoid cross-contamination with other allergens like gluten.
The sodium content is also notably lower than many other competitors, making them a great option for people who are trying to reduce their salt intake but who don’t like the taste of raw unsalted cashews.
The only downside to these cashews is that they are not organically grown, but if that does not bother you, this is an excellent product.
4. NOW Foods Organic Whole Raw Cashews
NOW Foods makes an excellent raw cashew product that’s certified organic. There’s no added sodium or extra vegetable oils.
The ten ounce bag is great for occasional snacking on the go, though if you are going to be eating cashews on a regular basis to take full advantage of their health benefits, you may want to opt for something that comes in a bigger container.
5. Sincerely Nuts Cashews
Sincerely Nuts Cashews is a super-simple bulk option for cashews that comes in a resealable three pound bag.
These cashews are organically certified and have no extraneous ingredients, though (perhaps because of the spartan packaging) aren’t as popular among health enthusiasts.
6. Nut Harvest Whole Cashews
Nut Harvest Whole Cashews are a great solution if you need pre-packaged snack-sized bags of cashews. Each of these 2.25-ounce packets makes for two 180 calorie servings of cashews, which are roasted with peanut oil and flavored with sea salt. If you want a raw option, or something with less sodium, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
7. Happy Belly Fancy Whole Cashews
Happy Belly, Amazon’s in-house brand, makes a roasted whole cashew that comes in a simple 44 ounce plastic bag, and is a solid choice for snacking and serving at dinner parties.
Like many of the other roasted cashews on the market, it also includes a blend of different vegetable oils from the roasting process, which may include peanut oil—that means it’s a no-go if you have a peanut allergy.
That aside, the use of sea salt for flavoring adds some trace minerals, though people looking to keep their sodium intake low should still opt for an unsalted variety.
8. Planters Fancy Whole Cashews
Planters is a major player when it comes to nuts of all kinds, so it’s no surprise they are a heavy hitter when it comes to cashews.
Their fancy whole cashews are roasted and salted, and use peanut oil to assist with the roasting process. The use of peanut oil is problematic for people with peanut allergies, because cashews (and other tree nuts like almonds) are a popular replacement—a peanut allergy is not the same thing as a tree nut allergy.
However, because Planters uses this additional oil, these nuts are off the table for both types of allergies. That issue aside, it’s a solid two-pound container of cashews.
9. Jaybee’s Whole Cashews
Jaybee’s Whole Cashews come in a small 16 ounce plastic tub, which makes them a good option for people who are only occasional snackers.
Bulk users will definitely want to go with a different option. As with most roasted cashews, these cashews contain vegetable oils including peanut oil, and these nuts in particular are processed alongside many other allergens, so they may not be the best option for people with sensitivities to soy, dairy, or eggs.
10. Member’s Mark Cashews
Members Mark Cashews are roasted and salted, and come not as whole cashews, but a mix of whole and half-cashew nuts.
The roasting process introduces peanut oil, and while the sodium content is fairly low, the large plastic 46 ounce tub is a bit unwieldy for some people.
Despite that, if you want a bulk source of cashews that are already roasted and salted, and don’t mind the presence of peanut oil, Member’s Mark is still a solid choice.
Cashews benefits and side effects
Cashews are a tree nut, meaning they belong to the same family of foods as almonds, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, and pecans.
The combination of high fat, fiber, and protein content, plus low carbohydrate and sugar content, makes them a great replacement for processed snack foods.
If you opt for raw and unsalted cashews, as many people on the paleo and whole30 diet do, they also help keep your sodium intake low. On top of this high nutritional value, there’s good scientific evidence to back up the health benefits of cashews.
Regular consumption of cashews reduces the risk of heart disease. A few decades ago, the prevailing wisdom among nutritional epidemiology researchers was that consuming a diet that was low in fat was the best way to prevent heart disease.
This hypothesis was based on nutritional studies that found that high-fat diets were related to a greater risk of heart disease.
However, when researchers began to examine the composition of high-fat diets, they found that not all fats were equal.
According to an article published in 1999 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, regular consumption of nuts, such as cashews, is actually associated with a substantial decrease in heart disease risk (1).
The author cites a study done on Seventh-day Adventists, who are an ideal population to examine the relationship between nut consumption and heart disease, because most adherents are vegetarian to begin with. This removes the potential for the confounding effects of meat consumption.
This study, along with another women’s health study conducted in Iowa, concluded that regular consumption of nut had a marked protective effect on risk for heart disease. Other research found that these benefits extended to people who are not vegetarian as well.
These broad-scale studies don’t provide evidence on why cashew are so beneficial for heart health, but the authors of these studies hypothesized that the benefits had to do with the high unsaturated fat content, or the antioxidant powers of nuts.
Cashews can help lower your cholesterol. One potential explanation for the benefits of cashews on heart disease may be their ability to lower cholesterol levels.
Because of the epidemiological evidence, researchers suspected a link between cashews and risk factors for heart disease, but strong evidence for a protective mechanism comes from a study published in 2017 that tested the effects of cashew consumption on cholesterol levels in a clinical trial (2).
The experimenters recruited 51 men and women and randomly assigned them to either a cashew snack or a potato chip snack (representing a typical processed-food snack found in the standard American diet).
The researchers then tracked the subjects for one month, then switched the groups in a crossover design. After analyzing the data, the researchers found that the cashew diet was associated with significant decreases in both LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and total cholesterol, compared to the potato chip diet.
The results of this study provide strong evidence that replacing typical snack foods with cashews is a better way to achieve strong long-term health.
Cashews can help control blood sugar. One of the problems with traditional snack foods that are high in sugar or high in refined carbohydrates is that they contribute to the development of insulin insensitivity, and eventually metabolic syndrome and type two diabetes.
Several published studies have demonstrated the ability of tree nuts such as cashews to help people with type two diabetes better control their blood sugar.
A meta-analysis published in 2014 in the journal PLoS ONE pooled the results of twelve different studies with a total of 450 subjects (3).
The results found that consumption of tree nuts such as cashews was associated with improved glycemic control, which indicates that they can be included in a diet to reduce or perhaps even prevent type two diabetes.
As a tree nut, cashews can cause allergic reactions in people whose immune system is sensitive to any kind of tree nut. According to a systematic review of the scientific literature that was published in 2015 in Current Allergy and Asthma Reports estimates the prevalence of true tree nut allergies at approximately 2% (4).
In addition to systemic allergic reactions, some people are prone to a condition called oral allergy syndrome. In this syndrome, tissue in the mouth, throat, and lips get itchy or irritated after exposure to certain foods. The reaction can be worse during the allergy season, and seems to be linked to pollen allergies (5).
Though it is usually more mild, it can in rare cases be severe. Cashews, like all other tree nuts, can also cause oral allergy syndrome.
The prevalence of this syndrome is higher than systemic allergic reactions; its prevalence has been estimated at between eight and 11%. Finally, like other nuts, whole cashews should not be eaten by small children, as they can cause choking.
As a natural food, cashews do not necessarily need a particular “dose” for optimal effects. Clinical research has used a range of daily intake levels, some of which are surprisingly high.
This translates to about 28 to 64 grams of cashews per day. Other research, particularly epidemiology studies, have found that consuming nuts like cashews at lower levels is beneficial, too, so massive amounts of cashew intake aren’t necessary to harness the health benefits of this tree nut.
Cashews are a tree nut that makes and excellent healthy snack. They are high in healthy fats, protein, fiber, and antioxidants.
Moreover, they have demonstrable long-term health benefits: cashew consumption has been consistently associated with a decreased risk of heart disease, and clinical research has shown that regular consumption of cashews can reduce LDL cholesterol levels, which leads to a decreased risk of heart disease.
Outside of people who have a tree nut allergy and small children, cashews are a great snack food for just about anybody.
They can be incorporated into paleo, whole30, and low-carb diets easily, and research supports beneficial effects even at very high intakes—over ten percent of your calories can come from cashews if you’d like. Compared to a standard snack food like potato chips, cashews are a hands-down winner.