I was inspired to share this simple recipe in celebration of National Chocolate Day (yes, that's a thing!) and the first snowfall of the season here in the North Woods- both of which happened recently.
Hot cocoa is a fun, tasty, warm, and comforting way to enjoy some of the benefits of chocolate and indulge in a treat at the same time.
(scroll down for recipe)
Potential Health Benefits of Cocoa:
lowering blood pressure
improving blood flow to the heart and brain
making blood platelets less sticky and able to clot
anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects
improved insulin sensitivity
stimulates production of healthier microbes in the colon
protection from environmental toxins (and help repair damage from free radicals)
improved cognitive function
decreased fasting blood sugar
reduced serum low-density lipoprotein (LDL- "bad cholesterol") and total cholesterol levels
Not all chocolate is created equal though. Processing methods can destroy flavonoids and therefore health benefits.
Healthier forms of chocolate include at least 70% dark chocolate (which has less added fats and sugars than milk chocolate, for example), and minimally processed cocoa powder (avoid cocoa that has undergone Dutch processing— cocoa that is treated with an alkali to neutralize its natural acidity).
Make Your Own
Making your own hot cocoa "from scratch" using plain cocoa powder rather than a drink mix allows you to control how much and what kind of cocoa (preferably minimally processed), sweetener, and milk you consume.
Experiment to see how un-sweet you can make your cocoa and have it still be tasty.
Just make sure to keep an eye on your pot of milk (whatever kind of milk you use- dairy milk, coconut milk, nut or soy milk, etc.)— as it gets hot it foams up fast and can boil over quickly if you're not paying attention (ask me how I know).
Play around with healthful and delicious additions such as cinnamon sticks or powder, a pinch of cayenne pepper, vanilla extract, lavender, cardamom, ginger, orange zest, peppermint extract (or a bit of candy cane)— get creative!
For more in depth info. on health benefits of cocoa: