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We’re all about being gentle on your blood glucose levels here at GI News. There are a variety of dietary strategies to achieve this, and one way is to follow a low carb diet however this can have down-sides for your overall health because it requires restricting healthy, nutritious plant-based foods such as wholegrains, legumes, starchy vegetables and most fruit. A good middle path is choosing moderate amounts of carbohydrate and smarter carbohydrate containing foods, as well as choosing healthy protein and fat-rich foods to eat alongside them. Nuts fit the bill nicely.

Nuts are nutrient-rich healthy foods to enjoy on their own or in combination with higher GI staples such as rice, bread and potatoes to reduce the overall glycemic response of a meal or snack. For example, the glycemic response of rice with cashews is lower than rice alone. The glycemic response of toast with almond or peanut butter is lower than toast alone. Potato with pine nut pesto has a lower glycemic response than the potato alone. Nuts do this with their healthy fats, protein and fibre that slows down the digestion and absorption of the carbohydrates eaten with them. This an amazing example of combining foods for both enjoyment and health benefits.

A favourite nut of many, the cashew is a fascinating food. The cashew nut is actually the seed of the cashew apple, and they grow on the outside of the fruit. The fruit can also be eaten, usually made into a tart juice and then possibly fermented into an alcoholic drink. You never buy cashews in their shell because their shells are high in natural acid. The cashew plant grows well in the tropics and is native to South America although the biggest producers today are Ivory Coast, India and Vietnam.

Nutritionally, cashews have a relatively high proportion of carbohydrate compared to other tree nuts at just under 17% of energy, beaten only by chestnuts at 34%. Their characteristic sweet flavour comes from their starches and sugars. The glycemic index of cashews is (GI) is low at 22. They are rich in healthy monounsaturated fats, magnesium and copper; a good source of plant protein and also contain fibre, iron, zinc and an array of phytonutrients such as antioxidants. Like all nuts, regular consumption as part of a healthy eating pattern protects against heart disease and weight gain. Yes, you read that right; eating nuts regularly is associated with a healthy weight, probably due to their ability to satisfy appetite.

In a bowl of mixed nuts, cashews are always the first to disappear in my family; they’re very more-ish just as they are but their culinary applications are many and varied in either savoury or sweet dishes. Stir fry chicken and cashew nuts is an Asian classic, and they are a delicious garnish atop any Asian inspired dish. Indian style dishes include cashew nut curry, spiced rice with cashews, roasted spiced cashews and cashew fudge (kaju katli). Cashew nut butter is a decadent topping or filling, and cashew ‘milk’ is a healthier alternative to regular cream or coconut cream in creamy sauces. Cashews have taken on even greater status with the proliferation of vegan food products, especially in sweet treats. They work well in energy balls, truffles, cookies and cakes. There’s even cashew cream cheese. Enjoy cashews anyway you like, ideally unsalted. Aim for a handful of nuts a day for good health and enjoyment.

Cashews, raw  
4.5 Health Stars  
Glycemic index 22
Serving size – 1 small handful, around 15 nuts (30 g or 1 oz)  
Kilojoules 765
Calories 180
Protein (g) 5.1
Fats (g) – total 14.5
Includes: – Saturated fat (g) 2.5
– Monounsaturated fat (g) 9.5
– Polyunsaturated fat (g) 2.3
Saturated : unsaturated fat ratio 0.2
Carbohydrates (g) – Total 8.7
Available (Includes): 6.9
–Natural sugars (g) 1.7
–Natural starches (g) 5.2
–Added sugars (g) 0.0
–Added starches (g) 0.0
Unavailable (Includes): 1.8
–Dietary fibre (g) 1.8
Sodium (mg) 3
Potassium (mg) 165
Glycemic load (g) 1.5
Diabetes exchanges 0.5
Ingredients: Cashew nuts  

Source: Australian Food Composition Database and

Nicole Senior is an Accredited Practising Dietitian, author, consultant, cook and food enthusiast who strives to make sense of nutrition science and delights in making healthy food delicious.
Contact: You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram or check out her website