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Are Cashews AIP (Autoimmune-Friendly)?

Louise Hendon | February 16
Are Cashews AIP

Cashews are tasty and can be used in a lot of recipes, but do you have to cut them out if you’re on the Paleo autoimmune protocol? Read on to find out all about cashews and if cashews are AIP-friendly.

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What Are Cashews?

Cashews are a milk-white kidney-shaped “nut” that is not actually a nut. Cashews are also not a legume as it’s commonly misbelieved.

Instead, cashews are classified as “drupes” or stone fruits – a fruit that has an outer fleshy portion surrounding an inner shell with a seed inside.

You’re probably thinking, but cashews don’t look like peaches, which are stone fruits. And you’re right, sort of…

For peaches, we eat the soft delicious outer flesh of the fruit, but for the cashew fruit, we eat the seed that is inside the pit of the fruit. Walnuts, almonds, and pecans are also drupes for that matter.

Scientifically, cashews (Anacardium occidentale L.) belong to the order Sapindales, family Anacardiaceae and genus Anacardium. While hard to believe, botanically, cashews are actually related to mangoes (hence why some people will be allergic to both cashews and mangoes!). They are also related to pistachios, sumac, and poison ivy.

While the cashew tree is indigenous to Brazil, it is now an important export for many other countries (including Nigeria whose current cashew trading and exports is worth $160 million with over one million people depending on the industry).

So, don’t think of cashews too lightly – they’re pretty popular!

Below is a photo of the cashew tree with the red/orange cashew fruit (called a cashew apple) and the cashew “nut” growing on it. Just to add extra confusion, the cashew apple is not a true fruit (it’s a pseudofruit!).

Are Cashews AIP?

Incidentally, in parts of India, the cashew apple is trampled by foot and then the juice is distilled to make a famous liquor called feni.


Are Cashews Paleo?

Yes, cashews are definitely considered Paleo, but as with all nuts and seeds (even fake nuts), they shouldn’t be eaten in excess.

Are Cashews AIP (Autoimmune-Friendly)?

Now that we’ve established cashews are good to eat on a Paleo diet, the question remains, are cashews AIP-friendly? Can you eat cashews on the Paleo autoimmune protocol diet (AIP)?

Short Answer: No

For a full list of AIP foods, click here to download our complete AIP Food List PDF.

Since the cashew “nuts” we eat are the seeds of a fruit, they unfortunately have many of the same problems as nuts and seeds, and there are growing allergies to cashew nuts.

Here’s what the experts say about cashews on the Paleo autoimmune protocol:

Sarah Ballantyne states in The Paleo Approach under Foods to Avoid: “Almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, chestnuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, or walnuts, or any flours, butters, oils, or other products derived from these nuts [are foods to avoid].”

Robb Wolf states in The Paleo Solution under the Autoimmune Caveat section to avoid “nuts and seeds” as they have the potential “to irritate and damage the intestines of some people. So, if you have autoimmune or inflammatory issues, remove these foods and see how you look, feel, and perform.”

So, if you have an autoimmune condition and want to try the Paleo autoimmune protocol (AIP), remember to avoid eating cashews (or cashew flour, cashew butter, cashew cheese) while you’re on AIP.

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AIP Substitutions for Cashews in Recipes?

There isn’t a great substitution for cashews in AIP recipes unfortunately.

Substitution for cashew flour:
Coconut flour can be used as a breading instead of cashew flour, but coconut flour does not behave the same as nut flours when used in baked goods.

Substitution for cashew butter:
Coconut butter can be used instead of cashew butter.

Substitution for cashew cheese:
There is unfortunately no substitute for cashew cheese on the autoimmune protocol diet.

The best option when you’re on AIP is to stick to simple foods like meats, seafood, vegetables, and fruits. These are all super nutritious and will help you to heal faster. For more information on the Paleo autoimmune protocol, read our detailed guide here.

Images: Copyright (c) wichitpongfrom, JJAVA Fotolia