The cacao tree (Theobroma cacao
) produces pod-like fruits with 20 to 60 seeds inside, commonly known as cacao beans. These gems are the source of all things chocolate: nibs, butter, liquor, and powder
Cacao nibs are simply broken bits of cacao beans. They're they perfect size for eating and obviously very minimally processed; think of them as raw chocolate chips you can sprinkle on anything your heart desires! Just keep in mind they are harder than chocolate chips, but will soften slightly if they're partnered with something with a little moisture such as a trail mix with nuts and dried fruits, on yogurt, banana ice dream, in smoothies, etc.
Cacao in its natural state is the biggest nutrient-bang for your buck. The more it's processed, the more its amazing health benefits are lost.
To make breakfast a little more indulgent, top chia seed pudding with cacao nibs and fresh raspberries. Add nibs to your energy bar recipes, or sprinkle on salads like you would nuts or seeds. They play nicely in both sweet and savory dishes.
Why Unprocessed Chocolate is Good for You
Cacao is loaded with antioxidants, which may:
- 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.
By promoting an increase in specific neurotransmitters in our brains, cacao may influence a positive outlook, rejuvenation and simply a good mood.
- Serotonin - Cacao promotes a sense of well-being, and may help reduce PMS symptoms.
- 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 cacao, 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.
3. Essential Minerals
Cacao beans are rich in a number of essential minerals, including magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron, zinc, copper, potassium and manganese.
- Magnesium - Balances brain chemistry, builds strong bones, and helps regulate heartbeat and blood pressure.
- Sulfur - Builds strong nails and hair, promotes beautiful skin, detoxifies the liver, and supports healthy pancreas functioning.
4. Essential fats
There's 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.
So there you go. Pure cacao in its many forms offers health benefits galore. Now that's good news!
When you remove the paper-thin shell from the cacao bean, the bean often breaks into small pieces. The small pieces are called nibs. Nibs are our most popular form of cacao because they are both raw and convenient. - See more at: http://livesuperfoods.com/news/cacao-demystified/#sthash.8QDr1kvE.dpuf