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    Cacao nibs, the most natural form of chocolate

    Cacao nibs, the most natural form of chocolate – Κακάο νιμπς, η πιο φυσική μορφή σοκολάτας

    Many times we have heard and read about the benefits of dark chocolate and cocoa. In the previous post Raw chocolate balls with bee pollen, I mentioned briefly the beneficial properties of cacao nibs, the crushed fruit of the cocoa tree. Today we will talk in more detail about them.

    Cocoa comes from the seeds of the tree Theobroma cacao, a small, evergreen plant that originates from Central and South America. Cocoa is grown in many parts of Ecuador, in the shade of larger trees. The main growing areas are in South America, West Africa and Southeast Asia. There are three types of cocoa tree: Criollo, Forastero and Trinitario. The Forastero variety is grown mainly in Brazil and West Africa and produces about 95% of world production. The height of the cocoa tree ranges from 6 (usually) up to 12 meters. The leaves are simple, leathery, and oblong and reach 30 cm. The flowers appear on the trunk and branches. It is odorless and has white, pink, yellow or bright red colour. The fruits are large, oval, yellowish brown to purple and mature in 4-6 months. The ripe fruits have a length of about 35 cm and a diameter of about 12. Each fruit contains 20-40 seeds oval covered by a bittersweet, white slimy flesh.

    Cocoa Tree Flower – source: commons.wikimedia.org 

    Cocoa Tree – source: en.wikipedia.org

    Cocoa Tree Flower – source: commons.wikimedia.org

    Cocoa Bean – source: en.wikipedia.org

    So, cacao nibs are cocoa beans (similar to those of coffee) that have undergone a fermentation process, are roasted, separated from the shell, and have break into smaller pieces. In this form we can find them on the market, although they are also sold whole, as you see in the photo. If you buy the whole beans you can crush them with the help of a food processor. The shell, which is not particularly hard, is edible. Their taste is slightly bitter, but intensely chocolaty and depends on how much they have been roasted. Most important, however, is that the cacao nibs are rich in minerals, antioxidants and contain little fat.

    Cacao nibs are the less processed and more natural form of our beloved chocolate. We all know about the antioxidant benefits of dark chocolate. Imagine how much more rich in flavonoids and antioxidants are the cacao nibs, after having suffered much less processing. Antioxidants help fight free radicals in the body, which can cause damage to DNA, premature aging and even cancers. Flavonoids, besides their activity against free radicals and anti-cancer properties, are known for their beneficial properties to the proper functioning of the heart.

    It is one of the most magnesium-rich foods; 30gr. cocoa beans contain 64mg magnesium, a mineral which is necessary for over 300 biochemical reactions in the body and essential for proper muscle and nerve function, control of blood glucose and for the blood pressure regulation.

    The same amount, i.e. 30 g., contain 183mg of potassium! Potassium is necessary for proper functioning of the heart, kidneys and other vital organs.

    It is also rich in iron and fiber; 30gr. of cacao nibs contain 6% of the recommended daily dose of iron and 9 grams of fiber!

    Cocoa has the ability to act on neurotransmitters, the messengers that tell the brain how to act and how to feel. So, it stimulates the brain to release specific neurotransmitters which can cause emotions such as euphoria. Therefore it is a mood enhancer! Science speaks!

    It should be noted that cocoa contains a substance, theobromine, an antioxidant like caffeine, but without its strong stimulatory activity. Nevertheless, it is a stimulant of the nervous system and dilates the blood vessels. It also contains oxalic acid, a substance that prevents the absorption of calcium. Thus, although the cocoa contains calcium, is not considered an important source because of this acid.

    Add cacao nibs in your diet and reduce as much as possible the over processed chocolate products, we use to add in cakes, biscuits etc., which charge us with all the negatives of refined sugar and saturated fat they contain. Add cacao nibs to your breakfast, in your smoothies, your ice cream, in your desserts, or even eat them right out of the bag, and you will enjoy yourself their rich benefits.

     

    Sources:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/08/02/cacao-nibs_n_3695571.html

    http://www.foodbites.eu/j15/trofima/diergasies/381-cocoa

    http://el.wikipedia.org/wiki/%CE%9A%CE%B1%CE%BA%CE%B1%CF%8C%CE%B4%CE%B5%CE%BD%CF%84%CF%81%CE%BF

    http://www.icco.org/

    http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/7-health-benefits-cocoa-nibs.html

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