It’s been a few years since the health world painted cacao nibs as the ‘it’ superfood. The appeal was–is–understandable. After all, it is a reasonably healthier way to enjoy chocolate.

In shorthand, cacao nibs are crushed cacao beans before they become chocolate. However, the 2011 edition of Manley’s Technology of Biscuits, Crackers, and Cookies defines them as cocoa beans, roasted or unroasted where they have been cleaned, shelled, and have undergone germ separation and which contain, on a fat-free solids basis, not more than 5% of uneliminated shell or germ and not more than 10% of ash (more in alkalinized products).

Cacao nibs have that pleasant bitter flavor that only chocolate can accomplish. They boast a plethora of health benefits. These tiny pieces of cacao can be eaten raw, but roasting or toasting them brings out a sweeter flavor. To ensure freshness, you can do the latter step yourself. Subjecting your nibs under heat may cause you to lose some of their nutrients, but it also helps eliminate some of the lingering pathogens from the beans. Either way, they’re still much healthier than your everyday potato chip.

Pre-chocolate cacao is an excellent source of iron, making it appealing to practitioners of plant-based diets. Cacao nibs also have magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, manganese, and copper, plus carbohydrates, protein, fat, and fiber. On their own, they contain very little sugar.

Cacao nibs also have high antioxidant levels, thus offering the many health values that come from these free-radical-fighting molecules. They strengthen the immune system, boost cardiovascular health, reduce the risk of cancer, alleviate blood pressure, and provide anti-inflammatory properties. Numerous studies conclude that cacao nibs can play a role in blood-sugar regulation.

Preference will dictate how you can best enjoy cacao nibs. You can eat them on their own and reap their unadulterated benefits. However, you can also utilize them the way you would nuts, sprinkles, or chocolate chips. Cacao nibs have made their way in granola, over ice cream, and even in protein shakes. In many ways, they can perform the same way as dark chocolate. You can try using cacao nibs for your mole or your cookies. Since they’re not sweet, you can even add them in spice rub to add depth to your seasoning. Some brewers have even enlisted its flavor for beer.

You can also add them to your morning coffee. You can grind them with your favorite coffee beans. Bear in mind, however, that, much like coffee, cacao beans contain stimulants such as caffeine and theobromine. Like everything else, consuming these addictive nibbles in excess can cause side effects, such as jitteriness, restlessness, and anxiety.

There are so many ways to inject cacao nibs into your diet and take your health a notch higher. It’s just like chocolate, but it’s better for you.