If you love chocolate as much as I do (which is a lot!), say hello to your new favorite granola. Layers of chocolatey flavor infuse each bite—from the cacao powder baked into the oats to the cacao nibs and shards of dark chocolate folded in after baking. It may taste indulgent, but this granola is also strategically packed with brain-healthy nutrients like theobromine and flavonoids. When drenched in almond milk, which I highly recommend, it stays crisp down to the last cluster at the bottom of the bowl. The same just-right balance of pure maple syrup and extra-virgin olive oil that keeps the granola from getting soggy also provides healthy fats and polyphenols. Cinnamon and cardamom bring out the fruit-forward qualities of the cacao and possess impressive anti-inflammatory properties as well.
Cacao nibs are a way to enjoy chocolate as close as possible to its natural state. Raw cacao beans—the seeds of the berry of a cacao plant—are the form of chocolate with the most phytonutrients. Raw cacao beans are too bitter to consume because of their high tannin content (a brain-healthy type of polyphenol), but when fermented and roasted, the nibs are delightfully crunchy and deeply flavorful, like a cross between dark chocolate and freshly roasted coffee.
Note: Because cacao nibs vary tremendously in price and quality, look for a natural brand from a store with high turnover. Look for “natural” cacao powder, sometimes called cocoa powder, too. Natural cacao powder retains more of its antioxidant and neuroprotective powers because it hasn’t been subjected to high-heat, a process called “Dutch-process,” (creates a less bitter, more shelf stable, yet overall less nutritious product).