After a long day, especially in the cold winter months, a mug of hot chocolate can seem like the perfect indulgence. But it turns out, hot chocolate has some health benefits too. When it’s made correctly, you can enjoy this sweet treat and reap some healthy rewards at the same time.
Health Benefits of Hot Chocolate
How can something as delicious as a cup of hot chocolate be good for your health? It may surprise you, but here are some benefits you can get from your winter weather treat, according to the National Library of Medicine.
- Cocoa powder is packed with powerful antioxidants, which are connected to several health benefits such as reducing inflammation, reducing cholesterol, boosting your immune system, managing your insulin levels and promoting heart health.
- Cocoa powder is a good source of fiber and iron.
- If you use milk, your hot chocolate becomes a good source of Vitamin D and protein.
- Cocoa can increase blood flow, which may make it good for keeping your memory strong.
- Cocoa contains energy-boosting caffeine and serotonin, which can have a positive effect on your mood.
Important Things to Keep in Mind
So why aren’t we guzzling down cups and cups of hot chocolate? Like anything else, there are some things to keep in mind when it comes to cocoa:
- To maximize the most health benefits, you’ll need to find cocoa powder that is at least 70% or higher in cocoa content.
- Some of the most common cocoa powders found in stores are highly processed. When it’s processed, cocoa powder loses much of its nutritional value. You’ll need to do a little research to get the healthiest option – cocoa powder that is natural or non-alkalized will give you the most health benefits, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
- By itself, cocoa doesn’t contain much sugar or fat. Many commercial products, however, contain added sugars and fats. Be sure to read the nutrition label before purchasing.
- If you’re getting your cocoa by eating chocolate, consider dark chocolate that is at least 70% or higher in cocoa content. Usually, dark chocolate contains less sugar than other chocolate.
- Keep in mind that depending on what you choose to make it with, hot chocolate can still contain a good amount of fat, calories and sugar, so be sure your consumption is done in moderation.
How to Make Healthy Hot Chocolate
If you go online, search “Healthy hot chocolate” to find several different recipes. You can try a few different combinations until you find your favorite, but here is a general recipe for healthy hot chocolate:
Cocoa powder is packed with powerful antioxidants, which are connected to several health benefits.
- Cocoa powder — Remember, you want to avoid highly processed powders. Choose one that is natural and contains at least 70% cocoa.
- Your favorite milk — You have a few options here. If you want to reduce fat and calories, you can choose fat-free milk or a plant-based milk of your choice.
- A natural sweetener — Many of the recipes call for a natural sweetener like maple syrup or honey. Start with a small amount and slowly add more to get the level of sweetness just right.
- Flavor enhancers — You can add vanilla extract to make the hot chocolate a little richer, cinnamon for more spice or a sprinkle of kosher salt to enhance the flavor. Add a few small bits of dark chocolate on top if you have them around.
Heat the milk in a saucepan until it’s just simmering. Add the other ingredients and whisk together. Simmer until the mixture is hot and serve immediately.
Other Ideas for Adding Cocoa to Your Diet
In addition to a mug of hot chocolate, you can add the health benefits of cocoa powder to all sorts of foods. Here are some suggestions:
- Add it to Greek yogurt.
- Blend it into a smoothie.
- Sprinkle it on top of peanut butter toast.
- Mix it into your oatmeal.
- Sprinkle it over a fresh bowl of fruit.
- Eat a small square or two of dark chocolate (70% or more cocoa) for dessert.
- Research other recipes that contain cocoa powder, including breads, muffins and puddings.
Cocoa powder can be a feel-good way to get some healthy antioxidants and vitamins, so next time you sit down for a cup of hot chocolate, let those health benefits make it taste even sweeter.