In the long dark winter evenings many of us will reach for a cup of hot chocolate or cocoa to make us feel better. At least temporarily. But, do you know what? If you drink good quality, low fat, unsweetened dark chocolate, you just might be doing yourself more than just a flavour favour.
Is hot chocolate good for you? Well, chocolate was first originally drunk rather than eaten. The Mayans and later the Aztecs civilisations of Central & South America used chocolate as a bitter frothy drink, flavoured with chilis. In modern day Spain, it is served thick and dark as a dipped accompaniment to churros – a doughnut type based spiral shaped sugar laden sweet, often eaten at breakfast.
How can that be good for you, I hear you ask, wiping away the chocolate from your lips? Well, the colour’s often a good key as to the health benefits of hot chocolate. If you look through a glass darkly, or rather the cup’s full of dark hot chocolate – the chances are that it has a high cocoa content.
It is the flavonoids in the chocolate that is believed to create the improvements health benefits. It can be beneficial for macular degeneration, (that’s heart disease to you and me) premature aging and even reduce your risk of cancer. The darker the chocolate the more powerful antioxidants it contains. The flavonoids are concentrated in the cocoa solids (pure chocolate minus cocoa butter).
According to a research study conducted by Cornell University, hot chocolate contains more antioxidants than green tea and red wine. Hot chocolate contains a little bit more antioxidants than a bar of solid chocolate, which are released when the liquid is heated up. The greater the cocoa content, the better, which brings about the chocolate’s health effects.
Is hot chocolate good for you? Well, the flavonoids found in hot chocolate are good for your arterial health. Flavonoids reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering blood pressure and improving blood vessels. So be heart smart and try heaped cups of cocoa instead of sugar. And try a cup of hot dark chocolate instead of a pastry instead of with one? You might feel more full than you think.
The endorphin release from a cup of hot chocolate can help improve your mood and counter short-term stress and anxiety. However, beware hot chocolate also contains sugar and saturated sugar. Well, it can’t all be good news can it?
So why not consider enjoying hot chocolate by using unsweetened coconut or almond milk instead of cow’s milk and avoid adding sugar.
Is hot chocolate good for you? Think of all those health benefits and reward yourself with a sip on the dark side. After all, chances are that it’ll warm more than the cockles of your heart.
Now, the only serious question that one needs to ask, is what's the best hot chocolate recipe? Have you got your favourite one? I'd love to know, so why not let me know if the comments below.
Until the next time
Head of Cocoa & Heart Chocolate Department Research
Hot Chocolate Drinks Division
...now currently making his third cup of steaming hot chocolate!