Superfood Spotlight: Cocoa Nibs

Superfood Spotlight: Cocoa Nibs

This Superfood Spotlight we take a look at polyphenol-rich cocoa nibs.

At alive, chocolate is a hot commodity. Recently, an alive staffer went on a trip to Hawaii, and the ongoing joke was if he didn’t bring us back chocolate-covered macadamia nuts he was getting the boot. Thankfully for us (and him) he pulled through!

Unfortunately, however, most of the chocolate we come across on a daily basis is far from its natural state. With a plethora of preservatives, artificial flavourings, and other fillers, standard chocolate bars tempting us at the grocery store checkout are little more than pure junk.

But in its pure form, chocolate is teeming with health-promoting nutrients, and we can receive these benefits by adding today’s Superfood Spotlight star to our diets: cocoa nibs.

Traditional use and origin
Cocoa beans, the basis of all real chocolate, come from the Theobroma cacao tree. Translated, Theobroma means “food of the gods” in Greek—I think we can understand why. Once the cocoa beans are harvested, they are left to ferment. Then they are dried, roasted, and crushed to make cocoa nibs. They can be further processed to make cocoa butter and liquor and then later—you guessed it—chocolate. But today we’re stopping at the nibs.

Nutritional benefits
Nutritionally speaking, cocoa nibs are quite dense. They are rich in dietary fibre, magnesium and iron, omega fatty acids, and lots of polyphenols, which fight off nasty free radicals. Recent studies have shown that the polyphenols in cocoa may enhance positive mood … which is probably something many of my workmates can attest to. In addition, these polyphenols offer heart-protective benefits, such as lowering bad (LDL) cholesterol, as well as providing anticancer benefits.

Buying cocoa nibs
Cocoa nibs can be found at your local natural health food store. They’re becoming quite popular now, so they can also be found at some grocery stores. Make sure they’re organic and fair trade so you know they’re ethically sourced.

Eating cocoa nibs
Cocoa nibs have a chocolaty taste, but they’re not sweet at all, so some people have a hard time eating them plain. They have awesome texture though, so they’re great added to baking, smoothies, granola, and more. Try them in the following recipe.

Choco Chip Mint Smoothie
1 1/2 cups (350 mL) unsweetened almond milk
1/2 avocado
1/4 tsp (1 mL) peppermint extract
1 1/2 dates
6 ice cubes
1/2 Tbsp (7 mL) cocoa nibs
Mint leaves, as garnish

Place almond milk, avocado, peppermint extract, and dates in blender. Blend until very smooth. Add ice and pulse until ice is crushed. Add cocoa nibs and pulse some more until they are smaller but not fully blended.

Garnish with fresh mint leaves.

Serves 1.

Each smoothie contains: 286 calories; 4 g protein; 17 g total fat (3 g sat. fat, 0 g trans fat); 37 g total carbohydrates (24 g sugars, 10 g fibre); 186 mg sodium

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