You’ve probably heard of cocoa beans, but you may not have heard of cacao nibs. Did you know that they are essentially the same thing? “Cacao” was the original word, but over time it changed through colloquial use to “cocoa.” In Latin, the name for cacao (or cocoa) is Theobroma, which directly translates to “food of the gods.” That is why the plant that cocoa and cacao originate from is called Theobroma cacao.
However, over time, the two words have developed distinctions from one another, but they are still commonly misused and misunderstood. In modern terms, “cocoa” is a medium brown powder made from roasted, husked, and ground cacao beans. Typically, a portion of the fat has been removed.
“Cacao” itself, then, is the bean—or the dried seed of the tropical Theobroma cacao tree—that is used to make cocoa and chocolate. So, they originate from the same plant and are extremely similar, but they have a slight distinction today. “Cacao” is pronounced “kuh-COW.”
Even further, cacao nibs are small, solid bits. They are pieces of the beans, not entire beans. You may see cacao nibs sold in individual bags in organic or natural grocery stores. They have a bitter taste and can be used to mix into ice cream or smoothies. In order to make delicious chocolate, some sort of sweetener is added.
According to SF Gate’s Healthy Eating section http://sfg.ly/1TuUItJ , raw cacao nibs contain 36% (or 9 grams) of the recommended daily intake of fiber. They also provide health benefits related to cardiovascular health and controlled blood pressure and glucose levels. Most uniquely, cacao nibs contain compounds called polyphenols. Cacao polyphenols can serve as antioxidants by inhabiting blood platelets from forming clots. They also may lower your “bad” cholesterol while raising your “good” cholesterol levels.
At NibMor, we use actual cacao nibs as an ingredient in three types of our chocolate bars. In our organic line, our 80% “Extreme” bar and our 72% “Mint” bar feature cacao nibs. In our natural line, cacao nibs also appear as an ingredient in 55% “Cacao Nibs” bar. So, when you bite into these delectable treats, you may experience a bit of a crunch