I’ve got a golden ticket for you..and it’s not to a factory with a short, creepy, orange labor force and an indoor stream that’s the same color as the Hudson river.

This is a golden ticket to a healthy, nutrient dense and superior snack choice.

Mankinds love affair with chocolate goes back a long way, and not for the stuff I scramble to get at a gas station because I forgot it was valentines day….AGAIN.

Cacao nibs are are a great way to enjoy some healthy snacking while providing your body with a lot of nutrition

History Of Chocolate

The Aztecs were big into chocolate 4-5000 years ago and were grinding up cocoa beans and combining them with other ingredients to make things like drinks and porridge. These ancient recipes have lasted to this day and you can even make your own Aztec concoction following them.

These old style drinks would not be a nice creamy hot chocolate but a thick, foamy and very bitter type of gritty drink. Most often a straw was needed just to consume them.

We even get the name ‘Cocoa’ from the Nahuatl language which means ‘bitter water

The Spanish were the first to spread chocolate (not as nutella on a sandwich) and by the 17th century cocoa beans were starting to show up in European ports. The French began to make more palatable drinks from them and the English and Dutch began to make chocolate sweeter and even into bar form.

What Are Cacao Nibs?

Dark chocolate of at least 70% cocoa solids is a true superfood but cacao nibs take it to the next level. Cacao nibs are essentially eating the cacao bean itself as they have been roasted, separated from their husks and broken into smaller pieces. When we use the word ‘Cocoa‘ it is usually in reference to the processed, final product. Cacao is how any form of chocolate starts out as the beans come from the Theobroma cacao tree.

Cacao nibs are the least processed and most natural form of chocolate. The lack of processing and sugars do give them a bit of an acquired taste as they have a distinctive bitter but somewhat nutty flavor. They do however have lots of uses as you can add them into smoothies, as a topping on desserts, use in baking or even just snack on right out of the bag.

Here are 7 great nutritional benefits from eating this great, ancient ingredient.

1. Antioxidants

In my opinion this is the best reason to eat cacao nibs or dark chocolate in general. Antioxidants help fight off free radical damage in the body which can cause DNA damage, premature aging and even cancers. Think of antioxidants as firefighters putting out a blaze. And cacao is one of the highest sources of antioxidants

2. Flavonoids

Flavonoids come from plants and can be responsible for giving pigmentation and colors to being involved in UV filtration. They are similar to antioxidants in that they  have a free radical scavenging capacity and have anti-cancer properties while other flavonoids show potential for anti HIV function. We get flavonoids from fruits, vegetables, teas, wine and a significant amount from cacao. Essentially the antioxidant activity comes from flavanoids

3. Can Fight Cardiovascular Disease

There is a positive relationship between intake of flavonoid rich foods such as cacao and lower rates of cardiovascular-related mortality. In the 1930′s to early 50′s flavonoids were actually referred to as ‘Vitamin P’ because of the effect they had on the permeability of vascular capillaries. That study linked here has shown that as little as 5 grams of cacao powder is sufficient to elicit significant vasodilation of the brachial artery.

4. Fiber

There is a huge amount of fiber in just a one ounce serving of cacao nibs. 9 grams! This can help control your blood pressure and blood glucose levels. This fiber can also help lower blood cholesterol as well as helping keep bowel movements regular. You and I are close now and I think we can definitely talk about that…

5. Magnesium

A one ounce serving of cacao nibs has 64 milligrams of magnesium making it one of the best dietary sources of it. Magnesium is starting to be really recognized as a very key element for the body as it is involved in hundreds of functions in the body such as:

  • protein synthesis
  • muscle and nerve function
  • blood glucose control
  • blood pressure regulation

6. Potassium

This time in a one ounce serving you are looking at 183 mg of potassium! Potassium is crucial for life, it is key in heart, kidneys and other organs to function properly. Potassium is found in a lot of foods including cacao nibs but the average person is not eating a healthy diet and low potassium is associated with:

  • risk of high blood pressure
  • heart disease
  • stroke
  • arthritis
  • cancer
  • digestive orders
  • infertility

7. Improved Mood

Chocolate and cacao help stimulate the brain into releasing neurotransmitters that can trigger feel good hormones. One of those unique neurotransmitters released by cacao is phenylethylamine. This “love drug” releases endorphins giving us alertness, contentment and a better sense of well-being.

Probably why I turn to chocolate every time I watch the Notebook…

Wrapping It Up

Whew, that had a lot of science behind it. This theme is starting to play in my head now….

 

So check out cacao nibs. They are easy to find now in packages or even at bulk food stores. They make a great snack when mixed with nuts like almonds and adding an ounce or two a day can have some tremendous benefits.

Nib High Football Rules!!

(If you know that quote I love you forever..)

Featured photo credit: Sexy young pretty woman / model / girl / student / businesswoman / secretary with full lips / vintage / retro is eating chocolate / lips / seductive – closeup via shutterstock.com

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