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Are Cashews Nuts, Legumes, or Drupes?

Louise | September 12
Are Cashews Nuts, Legumes, or Drupes

Cashews are a fascinating food.

Botanically, they are a master of disguise.

They split in half like a legume, but they are not a legume.

They look sort of like a nut and grow on a tree, but they are not a tree nut.

And the red juicy pear looking thing that grows on the same tree looks like a fruit, but it’s not actually a fruit.


From a culinary standpoint, they are also fascinating.

Sure, you can grind them into a flour like other nuts. You can also use them whole in various dishes.

But what’s most interesting is the fact you can grind them and mix them with water to form a cream cheese-like substance that you can then put on top of pizzas or use as cake icing!

One of my favorite ways to eat them is to make cashew cheese and then stuff it into dates. It’s raw, it’s vegan, and it’s Paleo! Everybody wins.

I hope you too are becoming fascinated by this fake nut…

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So, Are Cashews Nuts, Legumes, or Drupes?

I’ve sort of given the answer away already since I told you that cashews are not nuts and not legumes.

So, that just leaves the third answer…

Yes, cashews are drupes! (Or more technically, those “nut” things we eat are the seeds of a drupe.)

What on earth are drupes?

Don’t worry, that’s pretty much everyone’s response when they hear the word “drupe.”

This funky sounding word actually just means “stone fruits” like peaches and plums. Drupes are fruits that have a soft fleshy exterior and a pit with a seed inside.

What we know as cashews are actually the seed inside the pit of the fruit.

Are Cashews AIP?

Cashews aren’t the only foods we often think of as nuts that are actually drupes. Walnuts, almonds and pecans are also drupes! (1) Well, there’s some disagreement of course – some botanists classify walnuts and pecans as nuts. (2)

This is nuts! So what are nuts then?

I’m glad you asked. A nut is defined as a “dry hard fruit that does not split open at maturity to release its single seed.” (3)

Some true nuts are hazelnuts, chestnuts, and acorns.

Then, what are legumes?

A legume is a dry fruit found inside a pod that splits into two halves. Beans are an example of a legume.

But what you might not realize is that peanuts are also a legume even though we typically call them a nut!

Less Confused?

Really, all you need to know is that cashews are generally healthy to eatas long as you’re not allergic to them, that is.

Also, an important distinction: cashews are considered Paleo but they are not AIP-friendly.

Why Eat Cashews?

They don’t just taste great – they’re also great for you.

Michael Lam, M.D notes there are many health benefits associated with consuming cashews. “Cashews encompass a broad spectrum of impressive body support benefits. From enhancing mood to boosting immunity, it’s hard to see why anyone would want to exclude cashews from their diet.”

Studies have shown that eating cashews reduces risk factors for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome. (4, 5, 6, 7)

A better question might be, “Why not eat cashews?”

Click To Download Our Free Paleo Diet Food List

Last Question: Just How Nutritious Are Cashews?

Let’s take a quick look at the nutritional facts on this delightful drupe.

Here it is:

In 100 grams of raw cashews, you’ll get 553 calories (so don’t overeat them even though they’re delicious). (8)

Cashews are also relatively high in starch – i.e., carbohydrates – unlike almonds. In fact, almost a quarter of their weight is made up of starch. (9)

This might not be a bad thing however, as some of the starch in cashews is resistant starch that could act as a great prebiotic in your gut. (10, 11)

On the other hand, cashews are pretty high in Omega-6 fats – and low in Omega-3 fats – which isn’t great.  The fat in cashews is about 18% polyunsaturated, and Omega-6 fats outnumber Omega-3, 125 to 1. (12)

100 grams of raw cashews contain the following vitamin and mineral Daily Values:

Vitamin K – 43%
Vitamin B6 – 21%
Copper – 110%
Iron – 37%
Magnesium – 73%
Selenium – 28%

According to Dr. Farrah Agustin-Bunch, MD, “Cashew nuts are loaded with magnesium which helps boost immunity and regulates blood sugar levels, keeps the bones strong, and maintains healthy blood pressure and nerve function.”

Magnesium happens to be a mineral that many of us are deficient in, making this a real score (nutritionally speaking)!

Go eat some cashews…

There’s not much else to say on this topic except to go eat some cashews (you can get some on Amazon here).

Just be sure to pace yourself! Cashews are easy to overeat.

Also, consider buying raw rather than roasted cashews to avoid other unhealthy ingredients.

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