By ANNE LIU ’17
With final exams creeping just around the corner, the urge to snack may come with full force. Maybe avoiding the urge to snack is impossible, but choosing healthy alternatives definitely isn’t. Instead of chocolate or candy, snacks such as cacao nibs are versatile and healthy as well.
Cacao nibs are the intermediary stage between cocoa beans and chocolate production. In a factory, cocoa beans are roasted and de-shelled to produce nibs. Since cacao nibs come directly from the cacao tree, the superfood contains all the benefits the original cacao bean has.
Cacao is one of the most antioxidant-rich foods available. It contains dietary fiber and a number of vital minerals, especially magnesium and iron. Cacao also contains unique and potent chemical alkaloids including anandamine, theobromine and phenylethylamine. In particular, theobromine acts similarly to caffeine, offering a great final exam energy boost!
The cacao tree originated in Central and South America and was so highly valued that some indigenous people once used the cacao bean, as currency. The Aztecs believed cacao to be of divine origin, and used the roasted bean together with vanilla and other flavorings in the famous beverage called chocolatl. In the early 1500s, Columbus first brought cacao to Europe but did not realize its economic value. Later in 1519, Cortez brought cacao to Spain, and it was transformed into a luxury drink. By the 1600s and early 1700s, chocolate was considered a cure for many illnesses, but it was still too expensive for the general public. In the late 1700s, chocolate houses first began in London, allowing chocolate to be made available to a broader spectrum of society. Today, cacao is planted on over 43,000 square miles worldwide. Forty percent of production is from Cote d’Ivoire, while Ghana and Indonesia produce about fifteen percent each, and Brazil, Nigeria and Cameroon provide smaller quantities.
When the urge to snack makes studying difficult, use cacao nibs as a substitute for chocolate in many different ways!
1. Try eating them straight. Chew thoroughly and experience the bitter taste of raw (or roasted) chocolate.
2. Use as a garnish on yogurt, granola and desserts.
3. Try a delicious chocolate shake with added ingredients of dairy or nut milk, coconut oil, a frozen banana, agave nectar and cacao beans.
4. Agave nectar, yacon sweetener, or honey make a great addition to the raw cacao nibs!
5. Freeze cacao nibs with sweeteners and eat them as frozen treats.
6. Blend the powdered cacao and add it to herbal teas for a nice warm break from studying.
7. Add cacao nibs to ice cream on Sunday Sundae for a healthy sundae topping.
8. Pop some cacao nibs into a brunch waffle before cooking. Enjoy a healthier version of a chocolate chip waffle!
9. Mix into trail mix for a sweet and salty treat.
Cacao nibs can be purchased at specialty stores, such as Whole Foods or Roche Brothers.