The unprocessed form of chocolate is the cacao bean. This grows on the Theobroma cacao tree, native to South and Central America, Africa, Asian countries like Indonesia and Philippines and African countries like Ghana and the Ivory Coast.
Each tree bears fruits called pods. When ripe, these pods are cut and they contain around 40-60 cacao seeds or beans. These seeds then undergo fermentation after which they are dried and we get the raw cacao beans. These raw cacao beans are combined with milk, sugar and other ingredients to make the popular chocolate.
Raw cacao is available at online stores or whole food stores. They can be sold as cacao beans, raw cacao nibs or powdered raw cacao.
The center of each cacao bean contains the cacao nibs. This is the part that is actually used to make chocolate. It is rich in antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, heart healthy fats etc.
Cacao nibs and beans contain greater levels of flavanoid antioxidants that many fruits and vegetables.
Benefits Of Raw Cacao Nibs
Raw cacao nibs contain vital minerals and vitamins like magnesium, calcium, zinc, iron, copper, manganese, potassium and sulfur, flavonoid antioxidants such as polyphenols, essential fats like oleic acid which is a monounsaturated heart-healthy fat, proteins, carbohydrates, fibers and vitamins E, B1, B2, B5, B3 and B9.
These nutrients offer many health benefits. Raw cacao nibs can improve circulation and lower blood pressure. They release neurotransmitters that can help us feel good and have a positive and happy outlook to life. This is done by raising levels of serotonin an anti-depressant hormone.
PMS symptoms are reduced. Secretion of endorphins, anandamide and phenylethylamine increases which are mood-elevating stimulants. They increase energy levels, promote feelings of well-being and relaxation.
The antioxidant flavonoids in raw cacao nibs can improve cardiovascular health and protect against toxins and attack by free radicals.
Heartbeat can be regularized and body tissues are protected. Manganese found in cacao nibs can oxygenate blood. Magnesium is said to help balance brain chemistry and build strong bones. Deficiency of magnesium causes heart disease, joint problems, diabetes, PMT, hypertension and so on.
Sulfur content can help maintain healthy skin, strong hair and nails, helps to maintain proper functioning of the pancreas and detoxifies the liver.
The best benefits of these nutrients are got when we consume whole cacao nibs or beans. Processed chocolate can lose most of the nutrients.
Digestion can be improved by eating raw cacao nibs that stimulate digestive enzyme production. Theobromine, beta-carotene, alkaloids, lipase and lysine found in raw cacao stimulate and relax muscles, boost central nervous system and dilate blood vessels, therefore acting as mood elevators and energy boosters.
Uses Of Raw Cacao Nibs
Raw cacao nibs are used to make raw food desserts, raw chocolate smoothies and other recipes where blending is required. They are very hard to chew and hence they cannot be used whole but ground.
Cacao nibs can be combined with syrups, nectars or other natural sweeteners and dried fruits and used to make healthy desserts. Raw cacao nibs can be incorporated in many ways in our daily diet.
We can crush the beans and use the nibs in our favorite snack mixes. The beans are quite bitter and many people will not find it appealing.
In such a case, cacao nibs can be ground into powder and used to make fruit smoothies, trail mixes, granola bars, added to yoghurt or oatmeal, powdered and mixed with milk to make delicious and healthy nut milk, added to protein shakes etc. C
acao nibs can also be used as a healthy replacement to chocolate chips in recipes that require them – e.g. chocolate chip cookies, pancakes, frozen yoghurt, muffins and more.
Cacao nibs can also be blended with tea, coffee or coconut water, eaten with goji berries or hempseed as raw snacks. We can consume 1 cacao bean for each 11-17 lbs of body weight. This constitutes a moderate recommended daily intake.
Here is a recipe that uses cacao nibs – Chocolate Vanilla Bean Dream:
- Water, tea – hot or cold, nut milk or coconut water – 4 cups
- Cacao powder – 3 tbsp
- Maca – 1 tbsp
- Cinnamon – 1tsp
- Cacao nibs – 1tbsp
- Coconut butter – 2 tbsp
- Cashew – 1 tbsp
- Sweetener – 1-2 tbsp
- Hempseed – 1 tbsp
- sea salt – 1 small pinch
- ginger – ½ tsp (optional)
- aloe vera gel – ¼ – ½ fresh leaves
- vanilla bean – ½ fresh
- medicinal mushroom powder – 3-5 capsules (open and use the powder)
All the ingredients must be blended in a powerful blender until smooth to make this high-energy drink.
You can find good quality raw cacao products at online stores from reliable companies like ‘Navitas Nautrals’.
Some of the products available are cacao butter, cacao nibs, cacao liquor or paste, cacao beans, cacao lip balm, smoothie blend that contains raw cacao and many more.
Anyone who has a chocolate allergy must avoid raw cacao nibs and beans. The active ingredients like polyphenols found in them can trigger allergic symptoms such as migraines.
If we consume excess cacao nibs, we can suffer from digestive problems like gas, intestinal discomfort and nausea. Small quantities are safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Large quantities can result in miscarriage or low birth weight due to the presence of caffeine.