In this article, we will explore what cacao nibs are and the 12 excellent cacao nibs benefits.
What are Cacao Nibs?
Often found in the healthy food section in grocery stores, cacao nibs, also called cocoa nibs, are broken bits of dried cacao beans, which grow on the cacao tree known as the Theobroma cacao tree.
Cacao nib is produced by drying and cracking the beans into smaller pieces. Cacao nibs are part of the same cocoa beans used in chocolate bars and other chocolate products.
In general terms, cacao nibs are healthy or nutritious chocolate products made from cocoa beans.
What Do Cacao Nibs Taste Like?
Though small in size, the raw cacao nibs have an intensely chocolatey flavour, giving them the nickname ‘nature’s chocolate chips.’ Being low in sugar, cacao nibs taste quite strong and bitter.
Nibs are often paired with something sweet, such as honey or freshly-cut fruit. For example, they make for a brilliant garnish sprinkled on top of oats, yogurt or when paired with baked goods.
Raw cacao nibs come in roasted or unroasted forms and act as a great addition to healthy recipes.
Where is Cocoa Beans Grown?
Native to the upper African Amazon region, cocoa beans, the precursor of cacao nibs, are also grown in the other areas, the majority of which grow in a narrow belt extending up to ten degrees on either side of the equator in countries like Brazil, Ecuador, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
Eating cacao nibs is essentially like consuming the raw cocoa bean itself. They are crushed cocoa beans without any additives like sweeteners and preservatives, giving added health benefits to their consumers.
Cacao nibs are the least processed and most natural form of cocoa bean or chocolate. The lack of processing and added sugars gives them an acquired taste as they can be bitter but somewhat nutty.
When using the word ‘Cocoa,’ it is usually referenced to the final and heavily processed chocolate product, which means that all chocolate products, including cacao nibs, originate from cacao beans.
Dark chocolate has at least 70% cocoa solids considered a true superfood, but cacao nibs elevate it to the next level. And they have lots of uses as you can add them into your smoothies, as a topping on yogurt, use in baking goods, as a substitute to a dark chocolate bar, in hot chocolate or even just snack on them right out the bag.
Check out the video below to understand the process of manufacturing cacao nibs!
11 Interesting Cacao Nibs Benefits
Cacao nibs are highly nutritious, and therefore it has a lot of added benefits to human health.
Various studies are going on to demonstrate the health benefits of chocolate, and over time this has spread like wildfire.
Cacao nibs are the rawest form of cocoa, and that is why it benefits more than chocolates. Chocolates do start with cacao nibs but then are processed. All the essential nutrition and benefits get eliminated during the processing.
However, this is not the case with cacao nibs. Therefore, you can get all the significant benefits from cacao nibs.
Let us now check a few health benefits.
1. Low sugar content in raw cacao nibs
Even though cacao nibs are small in size, cacao nibs are jam-packed with an impressive amount of nutrients, making cacao nibs benefits endless.
They lack processing and added sugar compared to other chocolate products, making them a healthier alternative for chocolate lovers.
2. Antioxidant properties
What are Antioxidants?
Antioxidants are chemical compounds that aid and protect our cells from damage caused by excess free radicals that bring about DNA damage, ageing, and illnesses like certain cancers.
Suppose free radicals are in excess as compared to antioxidants. In that case, it leads to a condition known as oxidative stress that researchers have linked to several chronic diseases, such as heart ailments, certain types of cancers, diabetes and a decline in mental health.
Cacao nibs are jam-packed with antioxidants that include a class of polyphenol antioxidants called flavonoids, such as procyanidins, epicatechin and catechin.
Flavonoids are attributed to many health benefits. Flavonoids help in thinning the blood and preventing clots. Research shows that people who consume flavonoid-rich diets have lower rates of heart disease, certain cancers, and mental decline.
Due to its high flavonoid content, cacao nib’s benefits include providing high antioxidant content in a consumer’s diet.
3. Anti-inflammatory in nature
Short-term inflammation is an essential part of our body’s defence mechanism. It helps protect us against infection, injury and illness, whereas chronic inflammation is equally harmful and linked to various health problems, such as cancers, heart disease and diabetes.
Chronic inflammation can be caused when free radicals outnumber the antioxidants. Thus, foods laden with antioxidants like cacao nibs help combat chronic inflammation.
Also, a month-long study in 44 men found that those who consumed 30 grams of cocoa products containing 13.9 mg per gram of polyphenols had decreased inflammatory marker levels.
4. May boost immune health
The health benefits of cacao nibs are that they are rich in flavonoids and are similar to antioxidants because they have a free radical scavenging ability, anti-cancer function and show potential for being anti-HIV. Being anti-inflammatory and loaded with antioxidants, cacao nibs might have a positive impact on immune health.
Research shows that cocoa is beneficial for our immune system. The study suggests that cocoa flavonoids help decrease inflammation, which can help improve overall immune response.
Studies show that cocoa-rich diets showcase decreased sensitivity to toxins and allergens by enhancing the function of a particular layer in your intestines that helps maintain gut health and protect against food allergies.
It also helps improve the functioning of gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) present throughout the intestines. It contains about 70% of all immune cells in the human body and protects against food allergies.
Research and countless experiments suggest that cocoa products like cacao nibs may benefit people who suffer from food allergies and other immune conditions. That being said, more research is still needed to be done in this area.
5. Blood sugar control
Benefits of cacao nibs include blood sugar control by improving insulin sensitivity, a hormone that helps cells absorb sugar, leading to a lower incidence of diabetes.
Various studies have been conducted to assess the effects of cacao nibs on diabetes. A study conducted among 60 people found that those who ate about 25 grams of dark chocolate rich in complex antioxidant polyphenol daily for 8 weeks noticed more significant reductions in fasting blood sugar and HbA1 than the control group.
Cacao nibs are among the best cocoa products for blood sugar regulation, as they do not contain any added sugar and are packed with blood-sugar stabilizing antioxidants.
6. Improves heart health
Many studies have found that cocoa polyphenols like catechins and anthocyanins can benefit heart health by reducing cholesterol and lowering high blood pressure.
Studies show that consumption of flavonoid-rich cocoa products helped significantly reduce blood pressure over 2–18 weeks.
Cocoa consumption has also shown health benefits like improved blood vessel function, blood flow, and good cholesterol while lowering levels of cholesterol and inflammation — all of which can protect against heart disease.
Also, studies have linked cocoa intake to a reduced risk of heart failure, coronary artery disease, and stroke in a given population.
Flavonoids and potassium in cacao nibs may help lower the risk of heart disease as they help reduce the stress on cells and lower blood pressure effectively.
Per serving, cacao nibs contain more flavonoids as compared to red wine. These flavonoids have been linked to a healthy heart.
Another health benefit of cacao nib is that being a storehouse of antioxidants. Cacao nibs may help combat certain cancers.
Cocoa antioxidants include epicatechins and catechins that help reduce inflammation, prevent the spread of cancer cells, and induce death in specific cancer cells like colon, prostate cancer, as shown via studies.
Population studies also indicate that a higher intake of flavonoids and antioxidants, such as those found in cacao nibs, is linked with a reduced risk of certain cancers like ovarian and lung cancer.
As cacao nibs are loaded with antioxidants that can help reduce cell damage in our body, they may also prevent degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease
8. Aids Digestion
Every serving of cacao nib provides 9 grams of dietary fibre! The dietary fibre in cacao beans promotes healthy digestion.
Getting enough fibre in your daily diet can help with efficient bowel movements, prevent ailments like hemorrhoids and help with other digestive conditions.
Fibre stimulates the bowels and aids digestive enzymes in digesting food efficiently. Also, it is essential for maintaining healthy blood pressure and also keeps blood glucose levels stable.
9. Mood Improvement
Chocolate and cacao coerce the brain into releasing neurotransmitters that can help trigger feel-good hormones. One of these unique neurotransmitters released by cacao is phenylethylamine or the ‘bliss molecule. This ‘love hormone’ releases endorphins that promote well-being and help elevate and stabilize mood.
Other cacao nibs benefits include being rich in heart-healthy fats and other compounds like phenylethylamine, which can increase the hormones like serotonin and dopamine in your brain. In turn, these hormones positively impact your mood.
Dark chocolate, made from the cacao bean, may increase good cholesterol, removing other forms of bad cholesterol from your bloodstream.
10. Nutritional benefits
Cacao nibs are rich in many minerals that include iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, manganese, and copper.
Magnesium is a mineral needed for protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, blood pressure regulation and aid over 300 different enzyme reactions in your body but lacking in many people’s diets.
Phosphorus, magnesium, and manganese are vital for bone health, whereas copper and iron are necessary for producing red blood cells that supply oxygen to your body.
11. Reduces cortisol
Cortisol, also called the stress hormone, causes us to retain fat. Another one of its many health benefits is that cacao nibs reduce cortisol in the bloodstream and increase fat-burning.
Cacao Nibs Benefits: Conclusion
Cacao nibs may be a healthier alternative to chocolate bars in recipes. Still, one should be cautious in the number of cacao nibs consumed via desserts and savoury dishes you include in your diet. Cocoa nibs in moderation are beneficial for the body, but an excess of them is bound to cause problems.
Cacao nibs are widely available in stores and online and can be easily used in various sweet and savoury recipes like apples covered in almond butter, topped with cacao nibs that are healthy substitutes milk chocolate.
Cacao nibs also help you naturally fight fats, as it contains MAO (monoamine oxidase), which suppresses your appetite. Now when you do not feel hungry, you will not eat less and naturally lose weight.
And not just that, cacao nibs are beneficial for your dental health too. The crystalline extract present in cacao nibs helps strengthen your tooth enamel, thereby preventing cavities.
So, the next time you eat a guilt-free dessert, substitute the dark chocolate bars and add cacao nibs. It can also be found in cacao paste, which can be a great addition to raw, vegan savoury dishes, desserts, and natural food diet snacks.
For those late-night chocolate cravings when you want to eat something that satisfies your taste buds without having to feel guilty about consuming empty calories, substitute the chocolate with cacao nibs or make healthy recipes using cacao nibs like:
- Healthy pudding of chia seeds, sweetened with honey and instead of chocolate, add cocoa nibs.
- Smoothies with cacao nibs
- Cacao nib cappuccino.
- Muffins and pieces of bread baked with cacao nibs
- Oatmeal topped with cacao nib.
Check out the video below for easy-to-make, healthy recipes using cacao nibs!
In short, there are numerous ways to enjoy cacao nibs- be it in sweet or savoury dishes.
With the help of this article, cacao nib’s benefits can be easily understood.
Due to cacao nib’s numerous health benefits incorporating cacao nibs into our meals to ensure a well-balanced diet is an effortless way to satisfy chocolate cravings while maintaining overall wellness and health.
So, get started!!!
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