Cocoa, A Health Food
Of course, I am talking real cocoa, not the kind that you just mix with water. While convenient, that type of hot chocolate usually comes with added sugar, preservatives, and processed cocoa.
Simple to Make
Fortunately, it’s easy to make your own real hot cocoa and the taste is undeniably better. In the cooler months, I make it several mornings a week for my kids. The added milk makes it a great source of protein, Vitamin D, and calcium, and I like that you can use only as much sugar as needed. I make it on the stove-top because the chocolate gets mixed in better this way than in the microwave.
Here is my recipe. Try it out and adjust to your taste. If you like it, mix up a big batch of cocoa and sugar and store it in a Mason jar for your own homemade hot cocoa mix. Add cinnamon or vanilla sticks if you like.
For 1 serving:
8 ounces milk (any kind you like)
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa*
2-3 teaspoons sugar or honey
*Look for pure unsweetened cocoa, and that has not been Dutch/alkali-processed, a process that takes away almost all flavanols.
- Heat milk in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add cocoa and sugar and whisk to combine.
- Cook until just starting to steam, do not boil. Pour into mugs.
Pack in a Thermos
The Swede (and maybe also the kid) in me loves to bring a thermos of hot cocoa when we go hiking in the chillier months. It’s a nice treat when you stop for a snack break. You can also perk up an afternoon in the snow with a hot cocoa break. Seriously, what is better than enjoying a hot cup of cocoa in the cold, snowy outdoors?
Benefits of Cocoa
- A rich source of flavanols (regular consumption of the flavanols found in cocoa may reduce the risk of heart disease)
- A good source of iron and magnesium
- Lower in calories than most other sources of chocolate
For comparison, to get 200 milligrams of flavanols you need to consume:
- 1 ¾ tablespoons cocoa powder (20 calories)
- 1 ½ ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips (200 calories)
- 2 ounces dark chocolate (320 calories)
- a lot of milk chocolate (1,580 calories worth)
Of course, you don’t have to limit your cocoa intake to hot cocoa. Try sprinkling cocoa on toast, oatmeal, in a smoothie, or on coffee. And don’t forget to use real cocoa when baking too!
Source: Schardt D. How Bittersweet it Is. Nutrition Action Health Letter, December 2013.