Monday, August 10, 2009

The Goods on Cocoa Nibs

My stats software tells me that there are a number of people out there looking for information on cocoa nibs. Given the name of this blog, I guess it behooves me to devote a little time to the subject.

First, why did I choose Cocoa Nibs as the title of my blog? Chocolate is one of my favorite foods. I am prepared to admit that I am obsessed with chocolate. I eat it every day of my life. And its ability to stimulate and satisfy in small amounts made it the perfect symbol for what I hoped to achieve with my blog.

Cocoa nibs -- or cacao nibs -- are bits of roasted cocoa beans. They're the whole foods version of chocolate! They have not been sweetened or otherwise processed, so they’re bitter and a little grainy, a little crunchy. Cocoa nibs are often used these days as accents for salads and baked goods, but most cocoa nibs go on to become chocolate liquor (cocoa nibs ground into a paste), which is then made into chocolate by adding cocoa butter, sugar, and sometimes vanilla and lecithin. Cocoa nibs can also be separated into cocoa butter and cocoa powder.

As for the nutritional content and benefits thereof, cocoa is very high in antioxidants. Research at Cornell University showed that cocoa powder has more antioxidants than red wine and green tea. Flavonoids are one type of antioxidant that is especially abundant in chocolate. Flavonoids have some nice effects on the heart and the circulatory system, including the ability to improve the flexibility of the walls of the blood vessels, and anti-clotting effects in the blood.

Chocolate also contains stearic acid, a saturated fat that has been shown to be “cholesterol-neutral,” meaning that it neither lowers HDL levels (this is the good cholesterol) in the blood, nor does it raise LDL (the bad cholesterol) or total cholesterol levels.

Antioxidants, flavonoids, and stearic acid are highest in the darkest chocolate. Adding milk to chocolate not only dilutes the amount of beneficial compounds, it adds saturated fat and cholesterol that does affect blood levels. Most chocolate manufacturers are now putting the chocolate percentage on product labels, making it easier to identify and buy the chocolate with the most added benefits.

I agree with Dr. Weil’s advice to eat one ounce of dark chocolate (he recommends at least 70%) several times a week. And remember that though chocolate may be good for you, overindulging in it can lead to weight gain, just like anything else!

As for cocoa nibs, they have all the great benefits of chocolate without the added fat and sugar, and the additional processing. There are many recipes floating around on the Internet, so cruise around a little and find one that strikes your fancy. Here are some to get you started:

Chocolate and Cacao Nib Cookies
Cacao Nib Almond Sticks
Ribeye Steaks with Cocoa Nibs Spice Rub


  1. Thanks Carol! I'm passing this posting on to my mother - who loves chocolate but has not yet come to peace with her love of it, I hope that this posting will show her that chocolate, or cacoa nibs, absolutely have a place in a whole foods diet.

  2. Very informative - I was looking for info on Cocoa Nibs and found this. I never heard of them before today and needed them to make a Chocolate Body Scrub. I have no idea where to buy them locally though.