Sipping chocolate, a cold spicy drinkable cocoa concoction, was the favorite pass time of the ingenious Mayans along with deciphering complicated astronomical systems and fending off conquistadors. When the Spanish explorers brought chocolate back to Europe, they made it hot and so the hot chocolate was highly enjoyed as a delicious drink, as well as taken as a medicine.
Ever since, drinkable chocolate has been used for centuries to treat a variety of health conditions. The French used it as early as 17th century to fight against anger and bad moods – modern research has proven that chocolate reduces levels of stress hormones. Old wisdom most often proves to be true by modern medicine.
Cocoa beans coming from the cocoa pods in the cocoa trees are used to make cocoa butter, cocoa nibs, cocoa powder and chocolate and we should continue cherishing this super food especially because modern researchers continue to show us that the antioxidants found in cocoa beans help prevent cancer, heart disease, age-related degeneration and premature aging.
Antioxidants are our body’s super hero because they fight free radicals. Other sources of antioxidants are acai and goji berries, blueberries and pomegranate, green tea, black tea, white tea, coffee and red wine.
- the antioxidant concentration in hot cocoa is much higher than that of red wine, green tea and berries – or so research says.
- the “hot” in “hot chocolate” is essential because more antioxidants are released when the cocoa is heated up.
- hot cocoa contains high levels os gallic acid and flavonoid antioxidant
- the antioxidant gallic acid is used to treat internal hemorrhages and diabetes. The flavonoids help our bodies to process nitric oxide, which is why hot cocoa can improve blood flow, help lower your blood pressure and improve heart health. Hot chocolate and hot cocoa drinks can help us think better too. Those flavonoids increase the blood flow and oxygen to the brain. Since dementia is caused by a reduced flow of blood to the brain, researchers think it could be treated with cocoa. If unsure what normal blood sugar should be, read more about blood sugar levels here.
Regularly eating squares or bars of chocolate provides our bodies with strong antioxidant activity but the health benefits may be outweighed by the saturated fats and sugar added to the bar. This is why, non sporty people with a tendency to store body fat (love handles anyone?) should opt for as dark as it gets chocolate bars or even better, hot cocoa drinks. I personally prefer to snack on cocoa nibs when feeling a little low or depressed.
Now, if you think that reaching for that family sized jar of commercial instant hot cocoa mix, will bring you a wealth of health, you’d be wrong!!
The bad news:
Many hot cocoa mixes, as delicious as they are, are full of artificial or fat ingredients (corn syrup, vegetable oils, sugar) and their cocoa content is too ridiculously small to have any health benefits – apart from the ‘oooh’ moment and fugitive feel good factor.
The good news:
Making our super healthy genuine cocoa drink from scratch or with a little help from ethical cocoa specialists it’s super easy:
To make hot cocoa from scratch: Hot cocoa drink is made using cocoa powder. Cocoa powder doesn’t contain the cocoa butter so, there’s no fat!
- just pour hot boiling water, milk or soya milk over a spoonful of good quality cocoa powder. Add some flavour: cinnamon, allspice. Mix well and cover the cup with a plate and brew for 10 minutes. Optionally, sweeten with honey
- Simmer some milk in a pan, add some flavor (vanilla is divine) and a few squares of good quality dark chocolate and some sugar, maple syrup or honey if desired. Whisk until creamy and frothy and enjoy!
To use cocoa nibs or cocoa beans to make a truly delicious chocolaty cocoa drink simply use raw cocoa beans or cocoa nibs, grind them in the coffee grinder to rough and somewhat bigger grind, and brew them just as you would brew coffee.