Cacao Nibs Benefits: 11 Amazing Benefits

In this article, we will explore what cacao nibs1 are and the 12 excellent cacao nibs benefits.

1. 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 that 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.

2. What Do Cacao Nibs Taste Like?

How to Use Cacao Nibs: My Favorite Chocolate Cocoa Nibs Ingredient with No Added Sugar

Though small in size, the raw cacao nibs have an intensely chocolatey flavor, 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 or yogurt or when paired with baked goods.

Raw cacao nibs come in roasted or unroasted forms and are a great addition to healthy recipes.

3. Where Are Cocoa Beans Grown?

Native to the upper African Amazon region, cocoa beans, the precursor of cacao nibs, are also grown in 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 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.

The word ‘Cocoa’ usually refers to the final and heavily processed chocolate product, meaning 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. They have lots of uses as you can add them to 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 of the bag.

Check out the video below to understand the process of manufacturing cacao nibs2!

How We Make Cacao Nibs | Ep.50 | Craft Chocolate TV

4. 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, which is why they benefit 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.

The cacao nib is a powerful superfood that beats out other superfoods by a landslide

4.1. 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.

4.2. 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, aging, 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.

4.3. Anti-inflammatory in Nature

Short-term inflammation is an essential part of our body’s defense 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.

A person holding his hand with inflammatory pain. Cacao nibs benefits include the anti-inflammatory nature.
Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash Copyrights 2021

Chronic inflammation can be caused when free radicals outnumber the antioxidants. Thus, foods laden with antioxidants like cacao nibs help combat chronic inflammation.3

Research shows that polyphenols present in cocoa can reduce inflammation by reducing the activity of the protein NF-KB, which plays a significant role in inflammation.

Also, a month-long study of 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.

4.4. It 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 positively impact 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.

4.5. Blood Sugar Control

The 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.

4.6. Improves Heart Health

A display of a heartbeat report, some pills, a dummy heart, and a stethoscope by the side. Cacao nibs' benefits include heart health.
Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash Copyrights 2021

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 cholesterol levels 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.

4.7. Anti-Cancerous

Another health benefit of cacao nib is that it is 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 and prostate cancer, as shown via studies.

Popular 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

4.8. Aids Digestion

A woman places her hands on her stomach showing the gesture of good digestion. Cacao nibs' benefits help in the digestion process.
Photo by YuriArcurs on Unlimphotos

Every serving of cacao nib provides 9 grams of dietary fiber! The dietary fiber in cacao beans promotes healthy digestion.

Getting enough fiber in your daily diet can help with efficient bowel movements, prevent ailments like hemorrhoids, and help with other digestive conditions.

Fiber 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.

4.9. 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 nib 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.

4.10. Nutritional Benefits

Cacao nibs are rich in many minerals, including iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, manganese, and copper.

Magnesium is a mineral needed for protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and blood pressure regulation and aids 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.

4.11. 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.

5. Cacao Nibs Benefits: Things to Note

The cacao nib is a powerful superfood that beats out other superfoods by a landslide

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 savory 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 and stores and online and can be easily used in various sweet and savory recipes like apples covered in almond butter, topped with cacao nibs that are healthy substitutes for milk chocolate.

Cacao nibs also help you naturally fight fats, as they contain MAO (monoamine oxidase), suppressing 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 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 savory 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!

How to Use Cacao Nibs: My Favorite Chocolate Cocoa Nibs Ingredient with No Added Sugar

In short, there are numerous ways to enjoy cacao nibs- be it in sweet or savory 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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  1. Choi, Soo-Young, et al. “Functional activities of cacao nibs and couvertures according to process conditions.” Journal of the Korean Society of Food Science and Nutrition 45.1 (2016): 68-75. ↩︎
  2. Achaw, Osei-Wusu, and Eric Danso-Boateng. “Cocoa processing and chocolate manufacture.” Chemical and Process Industries: With Examples of Industries in Ghana. Cham: Springer International Publishing, 2021. 267-292. ↩︎
  3. Ataie-Kachoie, Parvin, Mohammad H. Pourgholami, and David L. Morris. “Inhibition of the IL-6 signaling pathway: a strategy to combat chronic inflammatory diseases and cancer.” Cytokine & growth factor reviews 24.2 (2013): 163-173. ↩︎

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Melissa Chen
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