From smoothies to cookies, cacao nibs (also referred to as cocoa nibs) have become a popular ingredient in many health-conscious recipes. But what actually are nibs and how can you use them? Let’s take a closer look!
What are cacao nibs?
Cacao nibs are crushed pieces of cocoa beans which are used to make chocolate. The way cocoa nibs are made is by roasting cocoa beans (seeds of the Theobroma cacao tree), then separating the nibs from the shell of the cocoa beans. To make chocolate, cocoa nibs are ground into a thick paste known as cocoa liquor.
How are cacao nibs made?
Cacao nibs are pieces of cocoa beans, which are seeds that come from the Theobroma cacao tree. After they’re harvested, the beans are fermented, dried, and roasted.
After the beans are roasted the thin outer shell is removed to reveal the cacao nibs. The shell can be used to make tea.
Cocoa nibs have a slightly acidic and bitter taste, however, they are safe to be eaten just like that. Alternatively, chocolate makers grind the nibs into a thick paste known as cocoa liquor, which is mixed with sugar or milk to make chocolate bars.
What is the nutritional value of cacao nibs?
One serving of cocoa nibs (28 grams) has the following nutritional value (according to USDA):
- Calories: 130
- Protein: 4 grams
- Fat: 12 grams
- Carbohydrates: 10 grams
- Fiber: 9 grams
- Sugar: 0 grams
It also contains the following minerals:
Cacao nibs are packed full of nutrients and minerals which are vital for maintaining a healthy body and mind.
Your body, for example, requires magnesium for at least 300 different enzyme systems that regulate biochemical reactions in the body.
Magnesium is one of the many minerals that is often lacking in our daily diets. However, just 28 grams of nibs added to your morning breakfast provides you with nearly a third of your daily recommended intake.
Copper and iron are needed to produce red blood cells, which supply the body with oxygen. Zinc is an essential mineral that the human body can neither make nor store. Zinc is crucial in the growth of cells, DNA synthesis, wound healing, immune function and many more.
All of these nutrients are hidden inside cocoa nibs, however, the many health benefits do not end there – let’s take a closer look at this in the next section.
What are the health benefits of cacao nibs?
Cacao nibs have countless health benefits. They are high in fiber, protein, healthy fats, and low in sugar. They are also a brilliant plant-based source of iron, magnesium, and zinc; making them a great addition to the vegan diet.
Moreover, various studies have revealed that consuming cacao nibs can have various health benefits. Here’s a timeline of what health benefits of cacao have been discovered:
- 2006. Consuming cacao nibs is beneficial for the heart as it lowers blood pressure, it’s anti-inflammatory, and is cholesterol neutral.
- 2013. A trial suggests that cocoa polyphenols, found in cocoa nibs, can reduce intestinal inflammation and related cancer development.
- 2017. Researchers in Italy discover that cocoa flavonoids, found in cacao nibs, enhance cognitive functions such as attention, your brain’s processing speed, and memory.
- 2021. Eating cacao polyphenols, found in cacao nibs, was found to have antidiabetic properties such as reducing short-term blood sugar levels.
How to use cacao nibs
Cacao nibs have a crunchy texture and a slightly bitter flavor. Because they are naturally unsweet, cacao nibs can be added to both sweet and savory dishes. Here are some popular foods and drinks that people add cacao nibs to:
- Overnight oats
- Ice cream
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on cacao nibs
Are cacao nibs the same as dark chocolate?
Dark chocolate is made from ground up cacao nibs mixed with sugar.
What do cacao nibs taste like?
Cacao nibs have a strong chocolatey taste. However, they are very low in sugar, which makes their flavor quite strong and bitter. Nibs are often paired with something slightly sweeter, such as fresh fruit. For example, they make for a brilliant garnish sprinkled on top of oats, yogurt, or cereals.
What’s the difference between cacao and cocoa nibs?
There is no difference between cocoa and cacao nibs. Cocoa and cacao are just two different ways of pronouncing the same product. If you’re interested in learning more, read our post on cacao vs cocoa here.
Can you eat cacao nibs raw?
Yes! It is safe to eat cacao nibs raw. Cacao nibs are roasted, which means any dangerous pathogens have already been removed.