Friday, November 8, 2013

The Health Benefits of Cacao Nibs as a Snack and Drink

Cacao Nibs are brokend own bits of cacao beans, which have been fermented and roasted to bring out the full flavour of one of nature's superfoods. They're typically added to protein shakes or smoothies, adding tons of antioxidants, but they can also be consumed as a snack food on their own or in trail mix.

The immediate pay-off from processed chocolate you buy in stores comes from it's high sugar content however - which provides an immediate mood boost until some of the more nutritious minerals and chemicals kick in. Real, unrefined cacao has a flavour of it's own - somewhat reminiscent of chocolate but more bitter than most expect on their first taste. Richer cacao beans such as the "Fine and Flavour" cacao at will have a smoother taste than commodity-grade cacao typically found in a grocery store.

It's no secret that chocolate - dark chocolate - has health benefits, and these healthy attributes come from the Cacao bean itself.  Cacao is loaded with minerals like Magensium and Iron, is high in fiber and contains a number of different chemicals like Theobromine that have a positive effect on your health. Theobromine, like caffeine, has a mild stimulant effect, but tends to be absorbed by the body over 15-20 minutes as opposed to caffeine, which is closer than 5 minutes. Combined with the fact that it lasts 3-4 hours as opposed to 1-2 for caffeine, you get a steadier stream of energy and avoid that "afternoon crash" most of us are so familiar with.

Raw Cacao vs. Roasted Cacao
All the cacao beans are imported as "raw" beans, meaning they've gone through the picking and fermenting process - which gives the cacao it's chocolate flavour. While most beans are shipped overseas slowly in bulk containers, specialty importers like BuyCoffeeCanada have it air freighted so that the beans are as fresh as possible once they're received.

The roasting process is the optional next step - hardcore nutritionists insist on raw cacao beans, whereas most people are likely to enjoy roasted cacao beans because the roasting process brings out more flavour. Very little of the nutritional value is lost in the roasting process, and some insist on it in order to help kill off any bacteria that may still be present in the raw beans.

Most of the cacao nibs sold at BuyCoffeeCanada are roasted due to a more palatable taste.

Brewed Cacao
More recently, cacao powder has also become popular as a drink that is similar to coffee. It contains all the nutritients that regular cacao nibs or beans do, but in a beverage format. We're not talking about sugar-infused hot chocolate you find from a grocery store mind you - we're talking about the 100% cacao ground down to a fine powder that's brewed typically in a french press or espresso maker. You also get that little kick to jump start your day in the form of Theobromine, instead of caffeine. Anecdotally, we've been told it's a great way to get off the caffeine for a while and give your body a break from it, and could make you more sensitive to caffeine's stimulating effects after just two weeks.

We usually recommend people start by infusing their coffee with the cacao powder to become accustomed to the taste, which is entirely unique in itself. A straight cacao beverage doesn't taste like espresso or hot chocolate, and some people may be thrown off by it. Nevertheless, we've found most people develop a taste for it over time and take advantage of the numerous health benefits. For the true health-nuts, our cacao is organically grown according to organic practices, but does not yet have the certification to be officially labeled "Organic" by an agency - it's something being worked on at the moment.

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