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The Real Reason Chocolate is Healthy

July 16 2012 - 11:19 AM

We’ve all been telling ourselves a little white lie every time we bite into a piece of dark chocolate with no feelings of guilt. While dark chocolate certainly has less sugar than other varieties and contains some antioxidants, it isn’t exactly a health food. The real deal is in the bean. You won’t find this in the baking section of your local supermarket or packaged into convenient chips for baking. Still, raw cacao nibs are certainly worth seeking out.

I had heard a great deal about this superfood, so I decided to try it out for myself. I reluctantly bought a tiny 4 oz. bag from my local health food store for about $6, not knowing what to expect. If you’ve ever tried an unsweetened carob chip, another substitute for traditional chocolate, you’d understand my apprehension. Much to my surprise, these nibs are all different sizes and look kind of like tiny pebbles. They taste much like a bittersweet chocolate would, and some even compare them to the flavor of a coffee bean. Health-wise they are in their own field.

Raw cacao nibs have more antioxidants than any other food – 4x the antioxidants in green tea, according to livesuperfoods.com! They raise your levels of seratonin and endorphins, and they are filled with fiber, calcium and iron. Chocolate is made from the same bean but will have added sugars, fat and calories.

People who use cacao nibs find a variety of uses for them. Many find they provide some much needed energy in the morning. Instead of a cup of coffee, they’ll sprinkle cacao nibs on fruit or mix them into a smoothie. I personally like eating a handful of them plain as my dessert to fulfill my sweet cravings. While they do contain a good amount of fat, it is a healthy fat from a natural food.

It turns out you can even bake with them. I was surprised to find that they do not melt at all and keep their crunch, much like a nut. If you want to add a chocolate flavoring to something or melt down your cacao nibs, most recommend grinding them into a powder. Mix them into a trail mix or use them as an ice cream topping. If you’re going to eat ice cream this summer, you might as well get some antioxidants out of it.

–Marly Schuman