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Peanut vs Cashew - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Peanut
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Cashew

Introduction

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. 

Classification

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.

Appearance

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.

Varieties

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.

Nutrition

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.

Calories

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.

Carbohydrates

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.

Vitamins

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.

Minerals

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.

Glycemic Index

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. 

Acidity

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).

Health Impact

Health Benefits

Nuts possess various beneficial effects on health, due to the high content of favourable nutrients and phytochemicals.

Cardiovascular Health

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.

Diabetes

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).

Cancer

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

Allergic Reactions

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.

Summary

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.

Sources.

  1. https://www.aboutpeanuts.com/peanut-facts/95-types-of-peanuts
  2. https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/diacare/suppl/2008/09/18/dc08-1239.DC1/TableA2_1.pdf
  3. https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/diacare/suppl/2008/09/18/dc08-1239.DC1/TableA1_1.pdf
  4. https://www.ijmrhs.com/medical-research/dry-fruits-and-diabetes-mellitus.pdf
  5. http://www.nphsystem.guide/nut_seed_values.htm
  6. https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/138/9/1741S/4750849
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2683001/
  8. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/272795699
  9. https://www.acc.org/about-acc/press-releases/2017/11/13/14/08/eating-regular-variety-of-nuts-associated-with-lower-risk-of-heart-disease
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12672709/
  11. https://academic.oup.com/cdn/article/3/Supplement_1/nzz031.P06-117-19/5517731
  12. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12444862/
  13. https://www.banglajol.info/index.php/JBSP/article/view/22796/15680
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6408729/
  15. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29378038/
  16. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/mnfr.201000045
  17. https://academic.oup.com/jnci/article/106/9/dju238/913017
  18. https://peanut-institute.com/nutrition-research/disease-prevention/cancer/
  19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5573026/
  20. https://academic.oup.com/jnci/article/106/9/dju238/913017
  21. http://www.aensiweb.net/AENSIWEB/aeb/aeb/2017/December/31-41.pdf
  22. https://www.asco.org/about-asco/press-center/news-releases/chance-colon-cancer-recurrence-nearly-cut-half-people-who-eat
  23. https://academic.oup.com/advances/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/advances/nmaa152/6031314
  24. https://acaai.org/allergies/types/food-allergies/types-food-allergy/peanut-allergy
  25. https://www.anaphylaxis.org.uk/knowledgebase/cashew-nuts/
  26. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/substances/aflatoxins
Article author photo Victoria Mazmanyan
Profession: Yerevan State Medical University
Last updated: February 14, 2021

Infographic

Peanut vs Cashew infographic
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Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Peanut
2
:
6
Cashew
Contains more Calcium +148.6%
Contains more Iron +45.9%
Contains more Magnesium +73.8%
Contains more Copper +91.9%
Contains more Zinc +76.8%
Contains more Phosphorus +57.7%
Contains less Sodium -33.3%
Equal in Potassium - 660
Iron Calcium Potassium Magnesium Copper Zinc Phosphorus Sodium 172% 28% 63% 120% 382% 90% 162% 3%
Iron Calcium Potassium Magnesium Copper Zinc Phosphorus Sodium 251% 12% 59% 209% 732% 158% 255% 2%
Contains more Calcium +148.6%
Contains more Iron +45.9%
Contains more Magnesium +73.8%
Contains more Copper +91.9%
Contains more Zinc +76.8%
Contains more Phosphorus +57.7%
Contains less Sodium -33.3%
Equal in Potassium - 660

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Peanut
6
:
3
Cashew
Contains more Vitamin E +825.6%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +51.3%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +132.8%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +1036.2%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +104.5%
Contains more Folate +860%
Contains more Vitamin C +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +19.8%
Contains more Vitamin K +∞%
Vitamin C Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Vitamin B12 Vitamin K Folate 0% 0% 167% 0% 160% 32% 227% 107% 81% 0% 0% 180%
Vitamin C Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Vitamin B12 Vitamin K Folate 2% 0% 19% 0% 106% 14% 20% 52% 97% 0% 86% 19%
Contains more Vitamin E +825.6%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +51.3%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +132.8%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +1036.2%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +104.5%
Contains more Folate +860%
Contains more Vitamin C +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +19.8%
Contains more Vitamin K +∞%

Vitamin and Mineral Summary Scores

The summary score is calculated by summing up the daily values contained in 300 grams of the product. Obviously the more the food fulfills human daily needs, the more the summary score is.
Vitamin Summary Score
79
Peanut
34
Cashew
Mineral Summary Score
127
Peanut
209
Cashew

Macronutrients Comparison

Macronutrient comparison charts compare the amount of protein, total fats, and total carbohydrates in 300 grams of the food. The displayed values show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of food.
Protein
155%
Peanut
109%
Cashew
Carbohydrates
16%
Peanut
30%
Cashew
Fats
227%
Peanut
202%
Cashew

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the most right column. It shows the amounts side by side, making it easier to realize the amount of difference.
Peanut Cashew
Lower in Sugar ok
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in glycemic index ok
Lower in Sodium ok
Lower in price ok
Lower in Cholesterol Equal
Rich in minerals Equal
Rich in vitamins Equal

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Peanut Cashew
Low Calories diet ok
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet ok
Low glycemic index diet ok

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Comparison summary

Which food is lower in Sugar?
Peanut
Peanut is lower in Sugar (difference - 1.19g)
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Peanut
Peanut is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 1.504g)
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
Peanut
Peanut is lower in glycemic index (difference - 12)
Which food contains less Sodium?
Cashew
Cashew contains less Sodium (difference - 6mg)
Which food is cheaper?
Cashew
Cashew is cheaper (difference - $0.3)
Which food contains less Cholesterol?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Cholesterol (0 mg)
Which food is richer in minerals?
?
It cannot be stated which food is richer in vitamins. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information.
Which food is richer in vitamins?
?
It cannot be stated which food is richer in vitamins. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information.

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Peanut Cashew Opinion
Calories 567 553 Peanut
Protein 25.8 18.22 Peanut
Fats 49.24 43.85 Peanut
Vitamin C 0 0.5 Cashew
Carbs 16.13 30.19 Cashew
Cholesterol 0 0
Vitamin D 0 0
Iron 4.58 6.68 Cashew
Calcium 92 37 Peanut
Potassium 705 660 Peanut
Magnesium 168 292 Cashew
Sugar 4.72 5.91 Peanut
Fiber 8.5 3.3 Peanut
Copper 1.144 2.195 Cashew
Zinc 3.27 5.78 Cashew
Starch 23.49 Cashew
Phosphorus 376 593 Cashew
Sodium 18 12 Cashew
Vitamin A 0 0
Vitamin E 8.33 0.9 Peanut
Vitamin D 0 0
Vitamin B1 0.64 0.423 Peanut
Vitamin B2 0.135 0.058 Peanut
Vitamin B3 12.066 1.062 Peanut
Vitamin B5 1.767 0.864 Peanut
Vitamin B6 0.348 0.417 Cashew
Vitamin B12 0 0
Vitamin K 0 34.1 Cashew
Folate 240 25 Peanut
Trans Fat 0 Cashew
Saturated Fat 6.279 7.783 Peanut
Monounsaturated Fat 24.426 23.797 Peanut
Polyunsaturated fat 15.558 7.845 Peanut
Tryptophan 0.25 0.287 Cashew
Threonine 0.883 0.688 Peanut
Isoleucine 0.907 0.789 Peanut
Leucine 1.672 1.472 Peanut
Lysine 0.926 0.928 Cashew
Methionine 0.317 0.362 Cashew
Phenylalanine 1.377 0.951 Peanut
Valine 1.082 1.094 Cashew
Histidine 0.652 0.456 Peanut
Fructose 0.05 Cashew

References

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.

  1. Peanut - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/172430/nutrients
  2. Cashew - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170162/nutrients

All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000 calorie diets.

Data provided by FoodStruct.com should be considered and used as information only. Please consult your physician before beginning any diet.