Long (we’re talking millennia) before we thought of hot cocoa as something to get from a mix in a packet, Mayans were sipping a chocolate drink (albeit cold, not hot), while they created written languages, developed their own calendar and fought off European explorers. Imagine the buzz on the continent when returning conquistadores introduced Europeans to sweetened warm versions of the Mayan’s elixir for the first time in the 16th century. To say the least it was a hit and was valued not only for its flavor, but also for its medicinal value. It turns out the same health benefits we attribute to dark chocolate can be applied to, and in some cases are even magnified, in hot cocoa – the homemade kind, not the commercial version.
To begin, dark chocolate in general has been proven to be a significant source of antioxidants, which are known to help prevent cancer, heart disease, age-related macular degeneration and signs of aging because they fight free radicals in the body. Here are some ways cocoa (especially when served hot) outshines some of the other so-called super foods in benefiting your overall health.
1. According to a study conducted at Cornell University, the antioxidant concentration in hot cocoa is almost twice as strong as in red wine. And, cocoa’s concentration of antioxidants was two to three times stronger than that of green tea and four to five times stronger than that of black tea.
2. A cup of hot cocoa contains 611 milligrams of the phenolic compound gallic acid equivalents (GAE) and 564 milligrams of the flavonoid epicatechin equivalents (ECE). The antioxidant gallic acid is used to treat internal hemorrhages, albuminuria (the presence of albumin in the urine, which can indicate kidney disease) and diabetes.
3. Although a regular bar of chocolate has strong antioxidant activity, some of the health benefits may be outweighed because of the saturated fats present. Cocoa generally has much less fat per serving compared to the 8 grams of fat in a standard chocolate bar.
4. The flavonoids in cocoa help the body process nitric oxide, which is why hot cocoa can improve blood flow, help lower blood pressure and improve heart health. The flavonoids in hot chocolate also help prevent platelets in the blood from mingling together and forming clots.
5. According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, drinking hot cocoa can help improve brain activity, the flavonoids increase blood flow and oxygen to the brain. Since dementia is caused by a reduced flow of blood to the brain, some researchers think it could be treated with cocoa.
6. Modern research has discovered that chocolate reduces levels of stress hormones in the bodies of people feeling highly agitated. Funny, because in 17th century France, hot chocolate was used to “fight against fits of anger and bad mood.”
Commercial vs. Homemade Hot Cocoa
Commercial instant hot cocoa mixes often include so many unhealthy additives that any good the cocoa may have to offer is practically eradicated. In fact, one popular mix lists cocoa fifth on its list of ingredients, below the higher-level ingredients of sugar, corn syrup and a medley of vegetable oils.
The good news is that making your own version of hot cocoa from scratch is a breeze. So whip up a batch of healthy, nutrient-rich hot cocoa and sit back and enjoy, while your mood improves, your stress melts and an army of antioxidants are fighting off free radicals in your body.
Sources: Mother Nature Network
Healthy Homemade Hot Cocoa Prep time – 5 minutes; Cook time – 10 minutes; Serves 1 Serve up a hot and healthy cup of goodness. The extra time is well worth the nutritional boost you’ll get when you make your own hot cocoa.
Ingredients: • 1 cup, plus 1-2 tablespoons of your choice of milk • 2 rounded teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder • 1 teaspoon raw sugar • ¼ teaspoon real vanilla extract • A sprinkle of cinnamon, optional
Instructions: 1. Place milk in a saucepan over medium low heat. 2. Mix cocoa powder, sugar, and 1 tablespoon of milk in a small bowl. Whisk it until it forms a thick paste and powder is absorbed. Add additional tablespoon of milk, if needed. 3. Whisk cocoa mixture into milk. Heat until hot but not boiling. Stir in vanilla extract. 4. Pour into a mug and sprinkle with cinnamon, if desired.
Notes: This recipe multiplies easily if you want to make more than one serving. Substitute almond milk or rice milk for a vegan twist on the recipe.