In Mandy’s Pantry: Cacao Nibs

If you checked out my Chocolate Banana Green Smoothie, you likely saw a new ingredient in it.  Raw cacao nibs!  I absolutely LOVE to use these in various recipes, as you get all the benefits that dark chocolate is touted for in its purest form.  I am pretty sure that after this post you’ll be headed to the store to stock up on cacao nibs. 🙂

What are they?

Cacao nibs are made from crushed Theombroma cacao beans.  They are basically an unsweetened, unprocessed chocolate chip.  There are raw and roasted, and which you find will depend on the brand.  The type I’m talking about is cacao, not to be confused with the more processed cocoa.

How healthy are they?

Cacao actually means “Food of the Gods”, and was even used as a currency in ancient Mexican times.  They certainly had it figured out back then, because cacao nibs are packed with nutritional benefits!

1)      Magnesium & Iron

I think everyone knows the stereotype that girls especially like chocolate.  Well, there is actually a biological explanation for that as often it can be driven by a need for magnesium and iron, something cacao is high in.  This is more common in women as heavy menstruation can be a cause of magnesium and iron deficiencies.  Interestingly, a magnesium deficiency is also linked to PMS symptoms, so it’s a bit of a vicious cycle.

2)      Antioxidants

Cacao is one of the highest foods for antioxidants.  I’ve mentioned the health benefits of antioxidants a lot, however they’re especially important for neutralizing the free radicals in the body that are accumulated from such things as fried foods, and stress.  They keep you looking young, and help with heart disease, by reducing the ‘bad’ cholesterol, LDL.

3)      Mood

Cacao has small amounts of something in it called phenethylamine, a neurotransmitter that can help improve mood.  There is still not a lot of research on this one, but I can say I feel good after a bit of cacao 🙂

As the cacao nibs do come from the cacao bean (same place as coffee), you’re probably wondering if they have the same stimulant effect.  From personal experience, I can say that those who are sensitive to caffeine may not want to have cacao nibs (or any chocolate for that matter) in the evening as they will keep you up.  However, when you look at the quantities, 50g of cacao will yield about 10-60mg of caffeine, vs 5oz of coffee that will yield upwards of 180mg.*

Where can I buy them?

Cacao nibs are something that are making their way into mainstream grocery stores, but I typically buy them at the health food store still.  My favourite brands are Navitas Naturals, Prana and Giddy YoYo (not as mainstream).  I haven’t looked at bulk food stores, but you may also be able to find them in bulk.

Other ways to use them…


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