The cacao nib is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you think about chocolate. In fact, most people don’t even know what it is. This nutritional powerhouse is the best kept secret in the chocolate industry – and it is the building block for all of the delicious chocolate we all crave.
The cocoa bean, also known as cocao or cacao, is the seed of the fruit from the Theobroma cacao (cocoa tree) after it has been dried and fully fermented. These beans are the foundation of chocolate. After they are harvested from the fruit of the cacao tree, cacao beans are fermented and dried – which give them their “chocolaty flavor.” Next they are roasted, cracked and winnowed (deshelled). The resulting product is – you guessed it – the cacao nib! These tasty and crunchy treats are a bit like eating coffee beans, but with a more snackable quality. They aren’t sweet because unlike our beloved chocolate, they aren’t laden with sugar, but they are packed with great nutrients and antioxidents. I like to think of them as nature’s little chocolate chip.
To make chocolate, cacao nibs are ground and further processed by mixing in more cocao butter and sugar, and sometimes other ingredients ranging from nut butters to oils or additives, like vanilla and soy lechtin, that add flavor or texture. Next, the chocolaty goodness is conched (a process that evenly distributes cocoa butter within chocolate) and tempered (making it smooth). If you can believe it – it can take anywhere from 300 to 600 beans to make about 2 pounds of the chocolate we love!
But getting back to cacao nibs, chocolate in its purest form, if you want a delectable chocolaty treat without the guilt, the cacao nib is the way to go. Cacao nibs have numerous health benefits that not many people are aware of. And they’re versatile too! Nibs are a perfect addition to baked goods, smoothies, trail mixes, or any other dishes. Sounds like a solid snack to me!
- Nutritional Powerhouse: excellent source of fiber, iron, antioxidants, magnesium
- Brain Food: high polyphenol content may be protective against declining cognitive function
- Stabilize Blood Sugar/ Resets Metabolism: helps to reduce cortisol in the bloodstream heighten fat-burning (because it contains monoamine oxidase-enzymes that help regulate serotonin, dopamine, and epinephrine- which naturally suppresses appetite), and improve microbial gut activity
- Improve Insulin Sensitivity
- Mood Lifter: packed with compounds that increase endorphin (bodies natural chemical messengers that help increase feelings of pleasure) levels and serotonin (natural mood stabilizer) in the brain
- Promote General Health: flavonoid rich foods help reduce risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other chronic conditions
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— a blog post by Monique Dudar