Cashews are never purchased in the shell, as they contain a toxic oil called cardol. Cardol is related to poison ivy and burns the skin when touched. To get to the cashew nut free from this poisonous coating, the shells are roasted, which allows them to be cracked, exposing the inner shell. (I like my food with an element of danger.) The cashews endure one more light roasting to remove the inner shell. These cashews are then sold “raw.” If you buy roasted cashews, they're roasted a third time.
The healthy fats and enzymes in raw cashews are minimally disturbed. However, if you purchase roasted cashews, the fats may be oxidized, compromising the health benefits. I always recommend buying raw nuts and seeds as to avoid rancid fats. Unlike roasted cashews, raw cashews are extremely versatile, as you'll see later on.
Cashews contain protein, iron, potassium, zinc, copper, phosphorous and magnesium. The fat contained in cashews is over 80% heart-healthy, unsaturated fats. These healthy fats also help to moisturize skin from the inside out, which is necessary during these dry winter months.
While only small amounts of copper are required in the diet, it’s still a very important mineral. Copper deficiency is linked to poor blood vessel flexibility, iron deficiency anemia, ruptured blood vessels, arthritis, increased LDL “bad” cholesterol, irregular heartbeat and more. If you take zinc supplements, this can cause a copper imbalance, so make sure to purchase a supplement that contains a balance of the two minerals. Supplementing with single nutrients can cause deficiencies of other nutrients, so proceed with caution if you take single-nutrient supplements.
As I don’t eat dairy, when soaked, cashews become a prized ingredient in my kitchen. I made a vegan lasagna last week with cashew “ricotta cheese,” and just printed off this recipe for roasted garlic and herb cashew cream "cheese". You can also make raw cashews into sour cream, ice cream, frosting, parmesan and more.
My next cashew project is cashew yogurt, which I’ll hopefully post soon if it works out. If you're going to make cashews into cheese or turn them into a creamy dessert, they need to be purchased raw. Roasted cashews don't work here. For the definitive guide everything you can make with raw cashews, Ani Phyo's Raw Food Essentials is a must-have.
Cashew nut milk is foolproof, as you don’t require a nut milk bag. Once soaked, they blend seamlessly into the water, creating a creamy milk with minimal effort. If you’re looking for a milkfat percentage descriptive, I would say it’s about that of a 3.25% variety -very luxurious, without any dairy whatsoever! I’ve been adding this milk to smoothies, hot chocolate, splashing it on my oatmeal and drinking it straight up. I've also added it to homemade carrot soup, which was amazing. Play around with the add-ins and personalize it to you taste.
I've even provided a recipe for chocolate cashew milk, if you're looking for a healthier alternative to Brown Cow. (Did anyone else grow up with Brown Cow syrup??)