Few people think about chocolate as a healthy food. However, cacao nibs–dried pieces of cacao beans, the same seed that becomes chocolate–have gotten a lot of attention as a healthier alternative. They have the same flavor compounds as chocolate, but fewer calories, less sugar, and less fat.
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But are they good for you?
Some of the health benefits attributed to cacao nibs remain unproven. However, studies suggest that raw cacao beans may be a surprising ally in the battle for good health. Unfortunately, it’s all the sugar and added fat that comes with a bar of chocolate that makes it bad.
Raw Cacao Beans And Your Health: The Basics
Raw cacao beans, the dried seeds of the same plant that makes chocolate, are a healthy snack. Experts in diet and nutrition, along with doctors, agree that crunchy seeds are a healthy way to get your chocolate fix for many reasons:
- They’re rich in nutrients and antioxidants.
- They’re a good source of fiber.
- They’re low in sugar.
But do cacao beans live up to the hype they get in the press? A deeper look suggests that, like most “superfoods,” there’s a lot of excitement but not a tremendous amount of proof.
Raw Cacao Beans Are Good, But Not Magic
Raw cacao beans come in a few different types, but the most common format is cacao nibs: dried, broken-up pieces of cacao beans. Cacao nibs are sold roasted or raw, but we’ll focus on raw cacao nibs for this article.
The medical consensus does seem to be that cacao nibs are a healthy snack: they’re high in fiber and nutrient-dense, with lots of antioxidants and compounds like flavonoids that can help maintain good health and stave off bad health.
Taking a look at the nutrition breakdown for cacao nibs shows they make a very healthy snack, especially compared to the chocolate they usually become. A quick look shows they contain more than a quarter of the recommended daily allowance of copper and manganese, along with a strong helping of magnesium and 5 grams of fiber per one-ounce serving.
Unlike your average chocolate bar, cacao nibs are low in sugar while still having most of the flavors people associate with high-quality dark chocolate.
Compounds in cacao nibs have indeed shown benefits in reducing certain types of disease caused by inflammation and the daily damage that occurs in the body due to “free radicals.” However, it’s important to note that cacao nibs aren’t a magic cure-all.
How To Incorporate Raw Cacao Beans Into Your Diet
The good news is that raw cacao beans are very easy to incorporate into your diet, adding a nutritional punch and disease-prevention compounds to help you live longer and enjoy the life you’ve got. Cacao nibs were only available in health stores, but you can now find them in many big chain stores and online shopping platforms like Amazon.
Food To Live raw cacao nibs are kosher, vegan-friendly, and minimally processed, making them an excellent choice for anyone who wants the most direct experience of raw cocoa beans. On the other end of the spectrum is premium chocolate brand Navitas’ more upscale offering.
It’s a good idea to try a few different brands and formats of cacao beans to see what you prefer. For example, some cacao nibs made from higher quality chocolate, or crushed a little more uniformly, might suit your taste better–or maybe you like things a little more rustic.
Once you’ve chosen your cacao nibs, it’s easy to incorporate them into everyday life and eating habits.
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For example, add a tablespoon or two to your morning oatmeal for added fiber and flavor, use them as a replacement for chocolate chips in your trail mix, or just eat an ounce as a snack.
Raw cacao beans are good for you, but of course, it’s important to enjoy everything in moderation.
- Nutritional Powerhouse: Raw Cacao nibs are an excellent source of fiber and iron
- Kosher, Keto, Raw, Vegan
- Cacao Nibs Work well with breakfast foods, mixed in smoothies, trail mixes, and cookies, of course.