Cashew vs Peanut - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison
Peanuts and cashews are often interchangeably used as a snack. Both are a great source of fats, proteins and minerals, with numerous positive effects on health. In this article, we will delve deeper into these as well as other similarities and find what sets them apart.
Peanuts and cashews are often considered to be nuts: categorized and used as such in the kitchen. However, technically, in a botanical sense, both of these foods are not actually nuts.
Peanuts (Arachis hypogaea) are legume crops, belonging to the Arachis genus and the Fabaceae family. Other names of peanuts include groundnut, monkey nut, earthnut goober and pindar.
Cashews (Anacardium occidentale) are trees belonging to the Anacardium genus and the Anacardiceae family. This tree produces the cashew seed, as well as the cashew apple. Cashews are often categorized as tree nuts.
Peanuts and cashews are easy to discern from each other based on appearance. Peanuts are shaped as oblong pods with rounded ends, usually containing two seeds within. These seeds are oval or round and, depending on the variety, can be beige, red or dark purple.
Cashew seeds, on the other hand, are kidney or bean shaped and hang from the bottom of the cashew apple.
Taste and Use
Cashews and peanuts can have similar flavours: buttery, salty, sweet and sometimes bitter.
These foods are also often used in similar ways. Both are commonly consumed snacks and can also be used as an ingredient in the making of pastries, chocolates and sauces. Peanuts and cashews can also be produced into butter, oil and flour. Peanut products are overall more popular.
Depending on variety, peanuts and cashews can have varying tastes, nutritional values, textures and physical properties.
Among dozens, the most common varieties of peanuts are Runner, Virginia, Spanish and Valencia. Each variety contains several cultivars with distinct characteristics. The Runner is the most widely used variety in the US. Peanuts of the Virginia variety are large and often sold as snacks. Spanish variety peanuts are smaller with brown skins and are usually used in sweets (1).
There are eight main, well known varieties of cashews which include Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharstra, Orissa, West Bengal and Goa. All of these varieties have commercial use.
The nutritional values below are presented for cashews and peanuts of all types.
Macronutrients and Calories
Peanuts and cashews are both exceedingly dense in nutrients. Peanuts consist 6.5% of water, while cashews contain only 5% water.
Cashews and peanuts have the same average serving size, equal to one ounce or 28.35g.
These nuts are very high in calories. One hundred grams of peanuts contain 567 calories. Cashews are slightly lower in calories, containing 553 in a 100g serving.
Protein and Fats
Peanuts are higher in both fats and proteins, when compared with cashews.
Both contain high levels of all essential amino acids. Peanuts are richer in threonine, isoleucine, leucine, phenylalanine and histidine, while cashews contain more of tryptophan, lysine, methionine and valine.
Peanuts and cashews are rich in healthy fats, containing large amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Even though peanuts are higher in fats, cashews contain more saturated fatty acids.
Both of these foods do not contain cholesterol.
Cashews contain almost twice the amount of carbohydrates peanuts do. However, peanuts are richer in fiber.
The main components of the carbohydrates found in cashews, other than fiber, are starch and sucrose. Cashews also contain very low amounts of glucose and fructose.
Peanuts are overall richer in vitamins, being higher in vitamin E, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, vitamin B5 and the folate form of vitamin B9.
On the other hand, cashews are richer in vitamin C, vitamin B6 and vitamin K. Peanuts are absent in vitamin C and vitamin K.
Both of these foods completely lack vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and the folic form of vitamin B9.
Whilst both of these nuts are abundant in minerals, cashew is the winner in this category. Cashews are richer in iron, magnesium, copper, zinc, phosphorus and selenium.
At the same time, peanuts contain larger amounts of calcium, manganese and potassium.
Cashews are lower in sodium.
Most nuts tend to have low glycemic indices. Peanuts and cashews are not exceptions.
According to The International Tables of Glycemic Indices, the glycemic index of peanuts from Canada falls within the range of 13±6 (2). Peanuts from Mexico have a slightly higher glycemic index of 23. Crushed peanuts from South Africa have a very low glycemic index of 7±4 (3).
The mean of the glycemic indices of five kinds of cashews, including roasted and salted, has been calculated to be 25±1. Another study puts the glycemic index of cashews around 22 (4).
While the glycemic index of cashews is slightly higher, both of these foods have very low glycemic indices and can be recommended as part of a healthy diet for people with diabetes.
Depending on thermal processing and added ingredients the acidity of nuts can change.
Raw peanuts have a nearly neutral pH value of 6.9, while the pH value of roasted peanuts, equal to 6.3, is more acidic (5).
Salted and dried cashews both have a slightly acidic pH value of 6 (5).
The Potential Renal Acid Load or PRAL is a different way of calculating the acidity of a food. The PRAL looks at and measures how much base or acid the given food produces in the organism.
The PRAL values for peanuts and cashews have been calculated to be 6.2 and 8.9, respectively. The higher this number is the more acid the food produces, meaning cashews are more acidic than peanuts.
Weight Loss & Diets
Peanuts and cashews are very high calorie foods. However, they are also high in proteins and healthy fats, and can be included as part of a healthy and balanced diet.
Between these two nuts, cashews are the better choice for a low carb and a low fats diet, whilst peanuts fit better into a low carb and a low glycemic index diet.
Consistent scientific literature has suggested that nuts, such as peanuts and cashews, can be added to diets, in moderation, as additional sources of nutrition, without posing a risk for weight gain. Furthermore, epidemiological studies suggest an inverse association between nut intake and body mass index (6).
Other studies have also shown nut consumption to be associated with a lower risk of weight gain and obesity (7).
Subjects treated with cashew nuts have demonstrated a significant reduction in body weight, visceral fat, cholesterol, triglyceride and low density lipoprotein (also known as “bad” cholesterol) levels, whilst increasing high density lipoprotein levels (“good” cholesterol) (8).
Nuts possess various beneficial effects on health, due to the high content of favourable nutrients and phytochemicals.
Research has consistently shown nut consumption to be correlated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular diseases and coronary heart disease. Additionally, peanuts have been associated with a lower risk of stroke. However, peanut butter and tree nuts, such as cashews, have not been associated, positively or adversely, with risk of stroke (9).
Regular peanut consumption lowers lowers serum level triglycerides and increases serum magnesium concentrations (10). These effects may be partially responsible for the lowered cardiovascular disease risk.
Peanut intake has also been found to improve triglyceride levels as well as systolic and diastolic blood pressure (11).
Overall, even though both foods have positive effects, it seems peanuts have a stronger beneficial influence on cardiovascular health.
Peanuts and cashews both have very low glycemic indices. However, peanuts tend to have a lower glycemic index.
Higher nut and peanut butter consumption has been found to lower risk of type 2 diabetes in women (12).
The antidiabetic effect of peanuts can be due to the peanuts’ ability to lower fasting blood glucose and glycated hemoglobin levels, as they are high in monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants (13).
Daily consumption of cashews can lower serum insulin levels and the low density lipoprotein to high density lipoprotein ratio, lowering the atherogenic index, in patients with type 2 diabetes (14).
Cashew supplementation has also lowered systolic and diastolic blood pressure in diabetic subjects, without expressing adverse effects on body weight, glycemia or the lipid profile (15).
Cashew seed extract has also demonstrated significant antidiabetic effects by increasing plasma membrane glucose transporters, resulting in elevated glucose uptake (16).
Several studies have found an association between nut consumption and a reduced risk of cancer by inhibiting cell proliferation and inducing apoptosis of the cancer cells (17).
Due to certain nutrients found in peanuts, namely phytosterols and resveratrol, these nuts have been researched to have positive effects on reducing the risk of breast, colon and colorectal, esophageal, gastric and pancreatic cancers (18, 19).
Cashews may have anticarcinogenic effects on ovarian and prostate, liver, breast and colon, as well as esophageal and gastric cancers (20, 21, 22, 23).
Downsides and Risks
Peanut allergy is one of the most common allergies found in children. Peanut allergy symptoms include nausea and vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps, difficulty breathing, coughing, swelling and in worst cases anaphylactic shock. Recent findings have found that peanut allergies are not necessarily constant and can be outgrown in time (24).
Cashew allergy is less common, but expresses itself in similar symptoms. A person with a cashew allergy should avoid eating pistachios as well, as a cross-reactivity is common between these two nuts (25)
Cancer Risk and Aflatoxins
Aflatoxins are a family of toxins, produced by some fungi that can be found on agricultural crops, such as peanuts and cashews among other things. Aflatoxin poisoning can significantly increase the risk of liver cancer. To avoid aflatoxin exposure, production of nuts has to be regulated and moldy, discoloured or shrivelled nuts should be discarded (26).
Cashew Nut Shell
Raw cashews in their shells produce a toxin called urushiol, that can cause allergic reactions or skin irritation. However, store bought cashews are safe to consume, as they have undergone processing to completely remove this toxin.
In summary, peanuts are higher in calories, proteins and fats, while cashews contain higher amounts of carbs. However, peanuts are also higher in fiber and most vitamins, such as vitamin E and vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5 and B9.
Cashews, on the other hand, are richer in most minerals. Cashews also contain vitamin C and vitamin K, which peanuts lack completely.
Both cashews and peanuts have significant beneficial effects on cardiovascular health, diabetes and cancer.
Vitamin and Mineral Summary Scores
Comparison summary table
|Lower in Sugar|
|Lower in Saturated Fat|
|Lower in glycemic index|
|Lower in Sodium|
|Lower in price|
|Lower in Cholesterol||Equal|
|Rich in minerals||Equal|
|Rich in vitamins||Equal|
Which food is preferable for your diet?
|Low Calories diet|
|Low Fats diet|
|Low Carbs diet|
|Low glycemic index diet|
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All nutrients comparison - raw data values