Desang Diabetes Magazine, Making Carbs Count, carbohydrate counting for diabetes

36

FOOD making carbs count

Cashew you!

When it comes to the crunch, is a

cashew really a nut?

You may be surprised,

amazed or possibly

disappointed that the

popular nibble you've been

enjoying for many years isn't really

a nut. The premium snack that is

the cashew 'nut', is in fact, the seed

of a large tropical evergreen tree

native to Brazil, botanically known as

Anacardium occidentale. The name

cashew comes from the Portuguese

word 'caju' and like many trees in

the tropics it can grow as high as 14

metres (46 ft). Thought to have been

discovered and popularised by early

Portuguese colonists, the cashew

tree spread across the continents

of Africa and Asia. Cashews are still

widely cultivated across the tropics

today where they remain a popular

cash crop.

So, why, you may be wondering,

is a cashew not a nut? That's because

it's a 'drupe' ¬- technically a seed

that develops at the end of a bulbous

swelling known as a cashew 'apple'.

So, the real fruit of the cashew tree

(which we call a nut) is a seed and

although the apple is a fruit, it isn't

the real fruit! If you're finding all

this botany confusing, the picture

below should help you out where

you can see the cashew nut as we

know it, hanging from the apple. The

kidney-shaped cashew is contained

inside a pod and is not that easy to

get at. It's surrounded by a double

shell containing the same sort of

irritating substance found in poison

ivy and has to be harvested with

care by hand. This goes some way

to explaining the high cost of these

precious nuts.

Apples and pods

The cashew 'apple' reportedly tastes

delicious, but owing to it being highly

perishable and having an extremely

short shelf-life, it is only available for

sale on the day it is harvested. The

apple is about three times the size of

the nut and turns brown or yellow

before harvesting. The pod needs to

be separated from the apple by hand

and sun dried or roasted before the

double-shell is removed to reveal

the cashew nut inside. It is a labourintensive

process which should

make the nuts more attractive if you

consider all the trouble someone has

gone through to shell them safely.

None of the cashews you will find

on sale in supermarkets in the UK are

truly raw as they all need to undergo

some form of heat processing. Those

nuts labelled roasted are most likely

to have been cooked twice, often

with salt, oil and flavouring added.

Because they are high in hearthealthy

monounsaturated fatty

acids and contain protein, fibre,

mineral and antioxidants, cashews

are considered a superfood. You can

buy them whole to eat as a snack,

or more often mixed in a medley

of cheaper nuts. When pressed,

the cashew nut yields a lightyellow

oil which can be used for

cooking, food dressing or even as a

cosmetic moisturiser.

Most people will be familiar with

the soft buttery texture and slightly

sweet taste of cashews. They are less

crunchy than hazelnuts and almonds

and taste similar to macadamia nuts.

They are used widely in South East

Asian and Indian cuisines and have

become a popular ingredient of

vegan dishes, not only as nut roasts

and to bulk up stews and curries, but

also because they can be turned into

dairy and animal free substitutes for

milk, cream, mayonnaise and butter.

A good roasting

Cashews can be found at all major

supermarkets, and they cost about

£12 a kilo - double the price of most

other nuts. They are also available

roasted and salted or flavoured

and sometimes chocolate or

yogurt coated. For best value, buy

the biggest bags you can find and

once opened store in an air-tight

container as cashews, with their

high fat content, can spoil at room

temperature. Refrigerated they can

last up to six months and in the

freezer up to one year.

Many people are put off nuts by

the relatively high calorie count, but

this shouldn't have a major impact on

your overall intake if you eat small

amounts. Studies have found that

nuts provide a number of benefits for

the heart and for diabetes that offset

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