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Ingredient Spotlight: Cacao Nibs

Friday, 14 February 2014 07:05  by Jessica W.

You may have seen these in stores, health foods or elegant desserts. These little brown nibs are actually dried and crumbled from whole cocoa beans. Essentially, they are chocolate before it is ground and blended with sugar.

Cacao nibs are extremely nutritious, rich with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber. A single ounce contains 9g of fiber and 4g of protein. They are also one of the most antioxidant rich foods on the planet, and one of the richest dietary sources of magnesium. Magnesium regulates more than 300 biochemical reactions in our bodies relating to muscle and nerve function, blood pressure and blood sugar regulation, protein synthesis and bone development.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition stated that cacao nibs might lower blood pressure and help fight heart disease. And if those weren’t benefits enough, cacao is rich in tryptophan, needed for production of serotonin, which reduces anxiety and boosts mood.

Unfortunately, its many nutrients don’t guarantee great flavor and cacao nibs are an acquired taste for some. Their texture is delightful (it’s crunchy, yet buttery, reminiscent of nuts) but their flavor can be bitter. If you are unfamiliar with cacao nibs, it may be easier to start by sprinkling them on sweeter foods.

Try adding cacao nibs to granola, muesli or brittle recipes. They are also wonderful in smoothies; pulsing them at the end gives chew and crunch to an otherwise very smooth drink. You can also try adding them to cookies and truffles. For savory options, they can be delicious in salads or crusted onto poultry and seafood. David Lebovitz even has a sausage flatbread recipe that incorporates cacao nibs.

Experiment and see how you enjoy the flavors of this superfood. It’s a tasty and nutritious experiment!

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