Cashew vs. Peanut — Health Impact and Nutrition Comparison
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 entirely.
Table of contents
- Macronutrients and Calories
- Glycemic Index
- Weight Loss & Diets
- Health Impact
- Health Benefits
- Downsides and Risks
Peanuts and cashews are often interchangeably used as a snack. Both are excellent sources of fats, proteins, and minerals, with numerous positive effects on health. In this article, we will delve deeper into these and other similarities and will especially focus on what sets them apart.
Peanuts and cashews are often considered to be nuts: categorized and used as such in the kitchen. However, technically, both of these foods are not actually nuts in a botanical sense.
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 Anacardiaceae 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.
On the other hand, cashew seeds are kidney or bean-shaped and hang from the bottom of the cashew apple. They have beige coloring with a bright orange shade.
Taste and Use
Cashews and peanuts can have similar flavors: 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 the 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, Maharastra, Orissa, West Bengal, and Goa. All of these varieties have commercial use.
The nutritional values below are presented for 100g servings of cashews and peanuts of all types.
Macronutrients and Calories
Peanuts and cashews are both exceedingly dense in nutrients. Peanuts consist of 6.5% 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.
Peanuts are higher in 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 tryptophan, lysine, methionine, and valine.
Peanut is richer in fats than cashew.
Peanuts and cashews are high 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.
Fat Type Comparison
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.
Nuts are popular sources of dietary fiber. Peanuts contain 5.2g more fiber than cashews.
Peanuts are especially rich in insoluble fiber (2).
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.
While 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 more significant 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 to this rule.
According to The International Tables of Glycemic Indices, the glycemic index of peanuts from Canada falls within the range of 13±6 (3). 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 acid-producing 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-fat diet, while 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 while increasing high-density lipoprotein levels (“good” cholesterol) (8).
Nuts possess various beneficial effects on health due to the high content of favorable nutrients and phytochemicals.
Research has consistently shown that nut consumption correlates 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 the risk of stroke (9).
Regular peanut consumption lowers serum triglyceride levels 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 systolic and diastolic blood pressure (11).
However, a study shows that cashew consumption may lower the levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood flow, resulting in a lower risk of atherosclerosis development (12).
Overall, even though both foods have positive effects, peanuts are better studied and may 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 the risk of type 2 diabetes in women (13).
The anti-diabetic effect of peanuts can be due to their ability to lower fasting blood glucose and glycated hemoglobin levels, as they are high in monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants (14).
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 (15).
Cashew supplementation has also lowered systolic and diastolic blood pressure in diabetic subjects without expressing adverse effects on body weight, glycemia, or lipid profile (16).
The extract of cashew seed has also demonstrated significant anti-diabetic effects by increasing plasma membrane glucose transporters, resulting in elevated glucose uptake (17).
Several studies have found an association between nut consumption and reduced cancer risk through inhibition of cell proliferation and apoptosis induction of the cancer cells (18).
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, colorectal, esophageal, gastric, and pancreatic cancers (19, 20).
Cashews may have anticarcinogenic effects on ovarian and prostate, liver, breast, and colon, as well as esophageal and gastric cancers (21, 22, 23, 24).
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 the worst cases, anaphylactic shock. Recent findings have found that peanut allergies are not necessarily constant and can be outgrown in time (25).
Cashew allergy is less common but expresses itself in similar symptoms. A person with a cashew allergy should avoid eating pistachios as well, as cross-reactivity is common between these two nuts (26).
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. In order to avoid aflatoxin exposure, the production of nuts has to be regulated, and moldy, discolored, or shriveled nuts should be discarded (27).
Cashew Nut Shell
Raw cashews in their shells produce a toxin called urushiol, which can cause allergic reactions or skin irritation. However, store-bought cashews are safe to consume, as they have undergone processing to remove this toxin completely.
- Eating Regular Variety of Nuts Associated With Lower Risk of Heart Disease
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|
All nutrients comparison - raw data values
Which food is preferable for your diet?
|Low Fats diet|
|Low Carbs diet|
|Low Calories diet|
|Low Glycemic Index diet|
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Vitamins & Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score
The source of all the nutrient values on the page (excluding the main article the sources for which are presented separately if present) is the USDA's FoodCentral. The exact links to the foods presented on this page can be found below.
- Cashew - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170162/nutrients
- Peanut - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/172430/nutrients
All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000-calorie diets.