The liquid form of the cacao bean was described by the ancient Mayans and Aztecs as the drink of the gods. And we all can relate to that; it makes you feel warm and happy in a rainy afternoon. It is best known as comfort food and stimulant of creativity; such a delightful drink, no wonder why the ancient civilizations called it the drink of the gods.
Brief History of Cacao
We cannot definitively conclude when the use of cacao beans first started, but research suggests that it dates back as early as 600 AD. In those periods, the Aztecs and Mayans considered the cacao bean as sacred; being used during marriages, funerals, and other important ceremonies. There were even pieces of evidence that this commodity was used as a form of currency.
It was Christopher Columbus who first introduced the cacao bean in Europe from his voyage to the New World from 1502 to 1508. However, the cocoa bean was obscured and overshadowed by the other new world treasures he brought.
It was until a Spanish Conquistador named Don Hernan Cortes realized the value of cacao beans during the Spanish conquest of the Aztec empire in Mexico. He introduced this commodity in Spain in 1528 and was later on commercialized in England in 1650.
In those days, chocolate drinks are not mass produced for the general public. It is a luxury drink that only the rich and the royal family can consume.
Today, the cacao bean is cultivated in tropical countries like the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Ecuador, and Brazil. And it is exported around the world.
Where Cacao Nibs Originated?
We may often find cacao nibs on restaurants, served as a topping on deserts. We may also normally find them in supermarkets. Cacao nibs are now becoming increasingly popular especially to health buffs, because of its numerous health benefits. Unlike dark chocolate and cocoa powder that is processed under high temperature, cacao nibs can be eaten as it is after it was grounded; thus, retaining all its essential nutrients. In fact, one serving of cacao nibs contain more antioxidants than dark chocolate.
Processing cacao nibs begins with harvesting cacao beans from a Theobroma tree. The cacao beans are then shelled, dried, and fermented for a few days. The last step is grounding the beans but not to the point of powder form. Instead, it is grounded into these crunchy tiny bits of goodness. The nibs taste like cocoa but bitter.
Cacao nibs are rich with antioxidants, magnesium, iron, and contains a huge amount of fiber which makes it an excellent consumption for people trying to lose weight. Like dark chocolate, it also has the same chemical responsible for improving your mood.
There are cacao nibs available online or at your local supermarkets.
Uses of Cacao Nibs
Cacao nibs can add flavor to any savory or sweet foods. Or you can eat them right out of the package. In whatever ways you may want to use them, there’s no harm if you consume them on a daily basis. It may even be beneficial to your health because of its antioxidant properties and rich nutrient contents.
In perspective, cacao nibs are like unprocessed chocolates. You may also be reminded of macadamia or almond nuts when you eat them—firm and crunchy. Cacao nibs, like macadamia and almond nut, are used as sprinkles on desserts. We may find in some gourmet restaurants, they used cacao nibs as a garnish in their pastries or other desserts. It is also usually mixed with cookie doughs and cupcakes. Its addition will definitely add beautiful textures to any pastries.
They are also used as a mixture for candies; using them as candies reduce the bitterness of the nibs. One example is coating cacao nibs with caramelized sugar. Another candy recipe idea is combining cacao nibs with syrup then boil them for twenty-five minutes. And to add extra crunch, you can deep fry them.
It will add flavor to savory dishes and perfect for salads. It blends well with goat cheese and herbs and spices like rosemary, cinnamon, thyme, fennel, and anise. Cacao nibs can be added to the breading mix as well, to add nutty and crunchy dimension in your fried chicken or calamari.
Benefits of Cacao Nibs
Cacao beans are rich in nutrients and antioxidants, and we can fully access its beneficial effects when consumed pure. Chocolate products and cocoa powder have undergone a high-temperature process that eliminates few essential nutrients. Some process may even add calories to the product, thus, instead of benefiting from cacao nutrients, it may cause health issues.
Consuming raw cacao beans or cacao nibs will give us the following health benefits:
Like any other chocolate products, cacao nibs has the ability to lift your mood. One serving of cacao nibs’ increases serotonin and endorphin levels—hormones related to the feeling of being happy, and decreases cortisol levels—hormones associated with anxiety, stress, and sadness.
Iron is essential in red blood cell production if you’re not getting enough iron it will give you and an unusual feeling of tiredness and malaise. Raw cacaos are rich in iron that gives you six percent of the daily recommended allowance per serving of pure cacao. It prevents the effects of anemia and enhances iron production.
Prevent Chronic Diseases
Raw cacao is abundant with antioxidants that eliminate toxins from the body. It prevents free radicals from causing damage to the body. In a study, it shows that an increase in intake of raw cacao decreases chances of a stroke and coronary disease.
Enhances Brain Activities
One cup of coffee stimulates awakeness and enhances brain activity, according to a study made in England. This factor is present in all cocoa products but pure cacao gives you double the effect comparing to processed cocoa products.
Though cacao also contains fats and calories; raw cacao is high in fiber. Thus, it is safe for people trying to lose weight. Its high fiber content also promotes a healthy bowel movement that flushes out harmful toxins in the body. These fibers are not present in processed cocoa products like chocolate bars and cocoa powders.
Promotes Muscle Health
Another beneficial effect of raw cacao is its rich magnesium content. This nutrient is essential for maintaining muscle health and enhancing nerve functions.