I first tried raw cacao "nibs" for the same reason most people probably do- how can you pass up a raw superfood that tastes (slightly) like chocolate? It's obviously not quite as delicious as what most people consider "real" chocolate, but it is definitely much more real than any Hershey's bar could ever be!
Cacao ("ka-cow") seeds are basically chocolate in its raw, purest form. Rich in magnesium, antioxidants (as long as they have not been roasted), and blood-sugar-regulating fiber, cacao can actually increase the amount of neurotransmitters in the brain, leaving you with a more positive and balanced outlook. When chocolate is made, the cacao seeds are roasted and stripped of most these nutrients, and then mixed with sugars and fats to make a sweet and addicting treat. So in a way cacao is a healthy chocolate, although it isn't quite as sweet. There isn't any sugar in cacao, so eating it on its own is more like eating a coffee bean then biting into a delicious bar of dark chocolate, but you can definitely taste the cocoa flavor. When you add cacao to a naturally sweetened substance like fruit, the bitterness is gone and you are left with a chocolatey flavor and a little crunch. It's definitely worth a try!
My favorite way to eat cacao is on frozen bananas, or on top of a smoothie. It is also great with fruit and yogurt if you eat dairy (that used to be my go-to snack after the gym!) You can buy cacao beans at health stores either whole, powdered, or in "nib" form (nibs are just broken up pieces of the seed). I have only tried the nibs, but am interested in trying out the powder to add to smoothies as well. I'll let you know how that goes if I ever get around to it. Also as a tip, if you are going to buy raw cacao nibs try finding them in bulk (or prepackaged bulk) in Sprouts or Jimbos, it is a lot cheaper than buying a package off of the shelf which can cost up to ten dollars for a very small bag.
Like I said I love using cacao as a crunchy topping on my smoothies. Lately I've been adding a little cacao and a little homemade granola along with some frozen fruit on top of my favorite green breakfast smoothie and it is so yummy!!
Tell me that doesn't look delicious.
Here's what I use in my Green Breakfast Smoothie:
1 handful of kale
1 handful of spinach
5-6 stems of fresh parsley
1 slice of fresh ginger
1/2 frozen banana
5-6 frozen grapes
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2c- 1c water or almond milk
Blend that up, adding more water or almond milk if you need it, and you'll have yourself a delicious and energizing breakfast!
I always use parsley in my juices and smoothies. It may seem weird because you've probably only seen it used for decoration on a dish but it's actually full of benefits! Parsley helps clean your kidneys and rid the body of harmful toxins, not to mention that it is full of fatty-acids, chlorophyll, vitamin B12, K, and C.
The best thing about smoothies is the fact that the possibilities are seriously endless. Leave out the ginger if you don't like the taste, or maybe try chocolate soy milk instead of water! You can mix in nearly anything (my boyfriends favorite is peanut butter- its amazing) to make your drink more sweet or savory. For this smoothie, if you are not used to green drinks I would recommend using a whole frozen banana until you are used to the taste. I personally think a half is fine, however I also do love the taste of vegetable juice and eat carrots when I have a sweet tooth so clearly I'm not one to take advice from. But bananas really do help mask some of the stronger flavors so just keep adding fruit and liquids until you get the taste and consistency you want. I tend to torture my blender to make the thickest smoothie possible, its like healthy ice cream that you get to eat for breakfast!
This morning I added frozen organic raspberries, homemade granola, and raw cacao nibs. Always use frozen fruit on top of your smoothies- I learned this from a local cafe that makes amazing acai bowls- the frozen fruit helps keep your smoothie cold, and for someone like me who is all about thick smoothies, this is essential! Frozen berries are really just sweet little yummy ice cubes. How cute.