Ever tried cacao nibs?
Chances are you didn’t like them by themselves! (They’re bitter. Unless you get these ones that our daughter Rosie is eating below).
But when you know how to use them, and WHY you’d want to…. they become verrry appealing indeed.
I’ve included a bunch of recipes below, and here’s a taste of the awesome facts to come…
A review of 14 studies in over 500,000 people showed that intake of 2 servings of chocolate per week was associated with a 25% reduced risk of diabetes (source).
First Up, Let’s Get This Straight.
The words cacao and cocoa are sometimes confusing, right? In order of processing, here’s the low-down.
Cacao Beans = The entire bean from the cacao pod, harvested from the cacao tree.
Cacao Nibs = Small pieces of crushed cacao beans that have a bitter, chocolatey flavour. The beans are dried, fermented and cracked into little pieces.
Raw Cacao Powder = Cacao beans that’ve been sun-dried instead of roasted (keeping the temperature under 42 degrees), and ground into a fine powder. Raw Cacao retains maximum nutrition compared to cocoa and dutched cocoa.
Cocoa = Cacao powder that’s been heated and processed. It’s usually less bitter, a little more desirable in baking, but… has less health benefits.
Dutch-Processed Cocoa Powder = Sometimes called European or alkalised cocoa. It’s been washed in a potassium solution that neutralises it’s acidity. It gives it a much more mellow, smoother flavour, but looses up to 60% of flavenoid content! (That’s real good stuff, as you’ll see below). See note below on how to use Dutched Cocoa.
It’s Super Power…
Cacao Nibs have more antioxidants than blueberries…. and green tea, red wine and even goji berries!
And we know that when the antioxidants we eat outweigh the free radicals in our bodies, our bodies pretty much get super powers 😉
Cacao is super rich in antioxidants called Polyphenols (and Flavenoids). In fact, it’s one of THE richest sources.
- Reducing inflammation (cacao is a potent help for this)
- Strengthening immunity (but choose a recipe / chocolate low in sugar if that’s your goal)
- Increasing blood flow
- Lowering blood pressure
- Recruiting and activating stem cells- Improving cholesterol and blood sugar levels (cacao nibs are particular good for this)– Lowering rates of certain cancers, and mental decline (source)
Want Help with Focus / Alertness / Mood?
Cacao increases focus and alertness, while also keeping you in a great mood.
Cacao also contains a natural antidepressant called phenylethylamine (PEA), andone of the chemicals your brain produces as you fall in love – tryptophan!
Now, tryptophan has a few jobs to do. One is to increase serotonin – our feel-good hormone!
Now THAT explains a LOT. Doesn’t it?!
May Improve Immunity & Reduce Food Allergies
Research shows that cacao helps our immunity too.
For example, cacao flavonoids help decrease inflammation, which can help improve overall immune response (source).
Animal studies have also shown that cacao may have protective effects against food allergies by positively impacting the GALT (gut-associated lymphoid tissue) – an important part of the immune system found throughout your intestines. The GALT contains approximately 70% of all immune cells in your body! (source)
And scientists think this may have positive effects against food allergies too.
Cacao-enriched diets have been shown to decrease sensitivity to oral antigens — toxins and allergens — by enhancing the function of a special layer in your intestines that helps protect against food allergy and maintain gut health (source 1, 2).
Bring on more research in this field I say!
But What Happens When You Process It?
When you process and heat raw cacao, it looses some of it’s benefit.
In fact, often it’s treated with alkaline to reduce it’s bitterness. And that results in a 60% drop in flavenols! (1)
That includes cocoa, dutch-processed cocoa, and most commercial chocolate bars.
So what that means is that while cacao is a great source of polyphenols, not all products containing cocoa will provide the same benefits.
So the less processed the cacao bean, the more nutrients you will gain from it.
And THAT is a great case for reaching for the raw cacao, and cacao nibs my friend!
So What ARE Cacao Nibs?!
Some cacao nibs are roasted, some aren’t. Those that aren’t roasted are called raw cacao nibs (like those at TWC).
Even though they’re small, cacao nibs are packed with an impressive amount of nutrients.
They’re a good source of fibre, protein and healthy fats.
They’re rich in many minerals, including:
- Iron (to supply oxygen to your body)
- Magnesium (needed for over 300 different enzyme reactions in your body but lacking in many people’s diets)
- Phosphorus (vital for healthy bones)
- Zinc (needed for sooo many things including immunity and wound healing)
- Manganese (vital for healthy bones)
- Copper (to supply oxygen to your body)
A Word of Caution
Cacao nibs contain stimulants that may cause adverse effects if consumed in excess. You should also use caution or avoid cacao nibs if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or sensitive or allergic to chocolate. Don’t give excess amounts of cacao to kids. You could consider carob powder instead.
Ways to Get Them In
Sprinkle roasted cacao nibs on top of yogurt.
Toss cacao nibs into your favourite smoothie to give a boost of nutrition and taste.
Use them in baked goods like muffins and breads.
Blend cacao nibs into homemade nut butters.
Blend them into hot chocolate or homemade nut milks.
Incorporate cacao nibs with coconut, almond butter, and puréed dates to make healthy energy balls.
Mix them with nuts and dried fruit for an energy-packed snack.
Use them in place of chocolate chips in granola recipes.
Stir them into your morning oatmeal.
Cacao Nib Recipes!
Let’s get inspired! Here’s a bunch o’ recipes you can add cacao nibs to.
When I’m baking for my kids and I want to swap out chocolate chips for cacao, I use half cacao nibs and have dark chocolate chips, and they don’t even know there’s added goodness in there. There’s a tip to take home.