Chocolate has a long and rich history. 4000-5000 years ago (about as old as tea!) the Aztecs were grinding cacao beans and adding to drinks and foods. From there it spread across the world, originally only a luxury the very wealthy could afford. Eventually, chocolate production became easier – the Industrial Revolution helped this – and chocolate became more accessible to all. Today, we see chocolate in everything from inexpensive candy bars to luxury truffles and drinking chocolate. The cacao bean is so widely loved, but only recently is coming into the spotlight as an ingredient on its own. Cacao nibs are great for snacking or cooking with, while real cacao powder is a great ingredient for beverages, baking, smoothies and more.
Luckily for us, these little beans not only make our beloved chocolate treats, they’re also full of health benefits!
- Antioxidants: Cacao beans are full of antioxidants. Antioxidants help fight damage caused by free radicals in the body.
- Flavanoids: Basically the source of antioxidants, flavonoids have an abundance of health benefits
- Cardiovascular health: Flavanoids have been linked to improving cardiovascular health, studies have been done using cacao powder to test the impact on cardiovascular health, showing as little as 5g can offer benefits.
- Fiber: Cacao beans are rich in fiber, which is great for digestion, blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol.
- Muscle and Nerve Function: Cacao contains a fairly large amount of magnesium, a mineral our bodies need for hundreds of biochemical functions. It’s important for muscle and nerve function, and also aids in blood glucose control and blood pressure regulation.
- Iron: One ounce of raw cacao nibs offers approximately 6% of the daily recommended intake.
- Mood booster: Cacao nibs and chocolate can trigger mood-enhancing hormones and trigger emotions, such as euphoria!
- The Bliss Molecule: Cacao nibs contain anandamide, a lipid sometimes called “the bliss molecule”, it’s molecular structure resembles THC and it fits into the cannabinoid receptors in the brain. It can produce a state of heightened happiness and is said to play a role in improving memory, motivation, higher thought process, appetite, pain relief and fertility.