Cacao, the name may not sound familiar but it is a food near and dear to many of our hearts— cacao is the nut that all chocolate is derived from. In other words, it is the cocoa bean in its most natural state.
Cacao is nutrient dense and one of the healthiest foods on the planet. It is chock full of magnesium, protein and fiber. It contains no sugar, has about 45% healthy fat, and is rich in antioxidants. These antioxidants help improve circulation, decrease the risk of heart disease, and improve digestion. Unfortunately, most food manufacturers add copious amounts of sugar, unhealthy oils and artificial ingredients to make most of the chocolate products we enjoy nutritional disasters.
The good news: it is not necessary to ban all chocolate from your diet. Instead, start incorporating raw cacao into your diet to receive all of the benefits without any of the harmful ingredients.
Cacao nibs are easy to find in your health food store. To get the maximum nutritional benefit incorporate them into your food straight from the bag. Some ideas include: sprinkle over fruit or in a smoothie, toss them on your salad, use in homemade trail mix, or sprinkle over peanut butter on a rice cake.
Another tip: when buying a chocolate bar focus on the cocoa content. A good guideline is a minimum of 70%. This means there is less room for the bad ingredients and more nutrient-rich cacao in your bar.
When making sweets at home, experiment with starting with raw cacao and then add more natural sweeteners such as raw honey or brown rice syrup. Here is one of my favorite recipes using raw cacao nibs. Stock up your refrigerator and freezer and you will always have a healthy chocolate treat within reach!