Cacao nibs are chock-full of nutrients

02/03/2014 8:00 PM

02/04/2014 4:11 AM

For those of you who do not yet have cacao nibs in your pantry, here is the quick sell: Nibs are essentially chopped cacao beans.

Cacao (“kuh-KOW”) beans are the main ingredient in chocolate, so they have that delicious chocolate flavor, but also are a powerhouse of nutrition, as described by David Wolfe in his book “Superfoods.”

Cacao nibs and powder (as opposed to the cocoa powder you might already have at home) use the name “cacao” to designate the raw, unprocessed version of the bean. One nutritional bonus is that cacao beans have a knack for boosting moods, but without the unhealthful added sugar.

Crunchy and nutty

Cacao nibs, which can be found at Whole Foods, in the natural-foods section of some mainstream grocery stores and at Amazon.com, are not as creamy as milk chocolate or sweet like sweetened chocolate. They are crunchier than chocolate chips, almost like a nut, yet they still impart that flavor we all hunger for.

And they need no recipe. Simply substitute them for chocolate chips in cookies, brownies and chocolate chip waffles; include them in smoothies and homemade granola; sprinkle them on oatmeal or ice cream, grind them and add them to coffee; use them in a chicken mole recipe; or eat them plain as a snack. Life with cacao nibs suddenly becomes a box of chocolates, except in this case, you know all the goodness you are getting.

Tasty treats for kids

I’ve heard that success is all in a name, so although our “chocolate milkshake” creation is more of a smoothie (it doesn’t include ice cream, sugar or any of the items found in a traditional shake, and it is crammed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants), more of my children’s friends will venture a sip when it has “chocolate” as a first name and “milkshake” as a last.

This is true of our “chocolate chip” pancakes, banana “chocolate chip” muffins and “chocolate chip” granola bars, all of which have loads of antioxidants and are free of processed chocolate, yet deliver that heavenly chocolate taste. All thanks to that secret ingredient: raw cacao nibs.

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