When I first came across cacao nibs I was curious.  It is no secret that I LOVE dark chocolate and wondered if cacao nibs would become a staple in my diet.  It was LOVE at first bite!

For those of you who are not familiar with cacao nibs, they are crushed pieces of roasted cocoa beans and they are home to powerful antioxidants and minerals.  In fact, raw cacao (that which is found in cacao nibs, not in your chocolate bar) has the HIGHEST concentration of antioxidant flavonoids of ANY food…including blueberries, wine, and green tea!

The following information was obtained from Live SuperFoods, although they have a vested interest in reporting positive information regarding cacao nibs (you can order high quality cacao nibs from them), the information they present correlates with all the research I have done.  But I encourage you to do your own research and make your own decisions (I am by no means a doctor).

Why Unprocessed Chocolate is Good for You

Antioxidants: Cacao has more antioxidant flavonoids than any food tested so far, including blueberries, red wine, and black and green teas. In fact, it has up to four times the quantity of antioxidants found in green tea. Health benefits of these antioxidants include:

  • Promote cardiovascular health – Help dilate bloods vessels, reduce blood clotting, improve circulation, help regulate heartbeat and blood pressure, lower LDL cholesterol, and reduce the risk of stroke and heart attacks.
  • Protect from environmental and metabolic toxins – Help repair and resist damage caused by free radicals, and may reduce risk of certain cancers.

Neurotransmitters: By increasing the levels of specific neurotransmitters in our brains, cacao promotes positive outlook, facilitates rejuvenation and simply helps us feel good.

  • Serotonin – Cacao raises the level of serotonin in the brain; thus acts as an anti-depressant, helps reduce PMS symptoms, and promotes a sense of well-being.
  • Endorphins – Cacao stimulates the secretion of endorphins, producing a pleasurable sensation similar to the “runner’s high” a jogger feels after running several miles.
  • Phenylethylamine – Found in chocolate, phenylethylamine is also created within the brain and released when we are in love. Acts as mild mood elevator and anti-depressant, and helps increase focus and alertness.
  • Anandamide – Anandamide is known as the “bliss chemical” because it is released by the brain when we are feeling great. Cacao contains both N-acylethanolamines, believed to temporarily increase the levels of anandamide in the brain, and enzyme inhibitors that slow its breakdown. Promotes relaxation, and helps us feel good longer.

Essential Minerals: Cacao beans are rich in a number of essential minerals, including magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron, zinc, copper, potassium and manganese.

  • Magnesium – Cacao seems to be the #1 source of magnesium of any food. Magnesium balances brain chemistry, builds strong bones, and helps regulate heartbeat and blood pressure. Magnesium deficiency, present in 80% of Americans, is linked with PMT, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and joint problems.
  • Sulfur – Cacao is high in the beauty mineral sulfur. Sulfur builds strong nails and hair, promotes beautiful skin, detoxifies the liver, and supports healthy pancreas functioning.

Essential fats: There is a misperception that chocolate is fattening. In truth, the fats in cocoa butter are healthy fats. Cacao contains oleic acid, a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, also found in olive oil, that may raise good cholesterol. Also, substances found in cacao are known to help reduce appetite. – Live SuperFoods

These are the Nibs I purchase…but I think any RAW Cacao Nibs will work.

So, how do I enjoy Cacao Nibs?

  • Topping my Oatmeal…gives a nice crunch and texture to the creamy oats
  • Added to my smoothies, blended right in or sprinkled on top
  • Sprinkled on top of baked goods – banana bread and zucchini bread to name a few, simply sprinkle on top and bake
  • Mixed with fresh berries and a little honey…YUMM-O, the best fruit salad ever
  • By the spoonful…sometimes I just throw a few in my mouth and enjoy the richness of raw cocoa
  • In banana soft-serve
  • The possibilities are ENDLESS!!!!  Well, almost.  One thing that I would recommend is to not add it to dairy products because lots of the information I have found indicate that when cacao is combined with milk the ability for your body to absorb antioxidants is hindered.

There you have it.  I hope this post has been beneficial…and now you can say with all honesty, “Chocolate is good for me!”