Why Hot Cocoa is Healthier than Hot Chocolate
There is an important difference between hot cocoa and hot chocolate. These terms are often used interchangeably, but the distinction is in the nutritional properties. Hot cocoa is made from raw cocoa powder, which is pressed chocolate which removes the fat of the cocoa butter. Hot chocolate is made from chocolate bars melted into a cream or ground into a powder. Often hot chocolate has a very high sugar and fat content and low cocoa content. Cocoa can be very good for you, especially if you minimize the sugar and fat.
Hot cocoa has been around a long time and for good reason. It is one of the most potent antioxidant beverages you can drink, plus it is naturally delicious! Archaeologists have found that the oldest civilization of the Americas, the Olmecs, (1500-400 BC), were probably the first users of cacao. The Mayans continued consuming-based drinks made with beans. Chocolatl was the name of a drink made from roasted cocoa beans, water and spices and was consumed voraciously by the aristocracy. They primarily drank cocoa but the beans were also valued as a currency.
Fit for a King
The Mayans and Oltecs drank a very different version of hot cocoa than we think of. They added cocoa powder to hot water, wine, spices and peppers. This bitter and spicy drink was often reserved for kings and court. The process of crating the cocoa powder and special mixtures was often secret, like a trademark recipe. Once the Spanish got a hold of it the drink took on a life of its own. Soon people of all classes was clamoring for the now sweetened after dinner drink. Cocoa beans became the newest craze for bakers and dessert makers all over Europe.
Nowadays people are discovering the powerful nutritional benefits of the cocoa bean. Recent research has found that the flavonoids in chocolate are more powerful than vitamins such as ascorbic acid in protecting circulating lipids from oxidation. And researchers discovered that people who eat chocolate and sweets up to three times each month live almost a year longer than people who eat too much or folks that steer clear of junk altogether. (This is from a study done at the Harvard School of Public Health)
Are you Drinking Real Cocoa or just a Flavored Substitute?
In order to get the maximum health benefits form the hot cocoa you drink it is important that you start with a high quality cocoa powder. You can spot a good cocoa powder because it will be dark brown and have a bitter taste. Real cocoa powder also takes some effort to dissolve. A whisk works well for this. You can heat milk for the hot cocoa base, but many people also enjoy non dairy alternatives like: soy milk, rice milk, coconut milk or water. Add a natural sweetener like agave necter, rapedura (sugar cane crystals) or honey for a hot beverage that is delicious and good for you too.
Researchers have labeled Cocoa "the new vitamin." Health experts are discovering that some of the chemicals in cocoa powder can have a positive effect on the heart and blood circulation.
Hot cocoa provides even more antioxidants than green tea, blueberries or red wine. You certainly can't beat it on a cold or rainy night. Hot cocoa also contains elements that are help the body make the important neurotransmitter, serotonin, a hormone that produces a feeling of well being.
In a recent study by Dr. Dirk Taubert of the University of Cologne, thirteen adults with untreated mild hypertension ate one 3-ounce chocolate bar every day for two weeks. Half of the patients got white chocolate, half got dark chocolate. Participants showed that blood pressure remained mostly unchanged in the test group that ate white chocolate. white chocolate does not contain polyphenols. However after two weeks, the second test group (who ate dark chocolate) their systolic blood pressure had dropped by an average of five points. Their diastolic blood pressure, reading fell an average of nearly two points.
In order to get the maximum antioxidants from cocoa it is important for your body to be able to absorb them. Some studies show that consuming cocoa along with dairy actually blocks your body from being able to absorb the nutrients properly. You can still enjoy a delicious cup of hot cocoa by mixing it with a non dairy alternative. You also get more antioxidants from drinking hot cocoa than eating a chocolate bar. The heat releases more flavanoids.
Kids love hot chocolate. Now you can give them real hot cocoa without a shread of guilt. Don't waste your money on those fake chocolate packets! Give your family a healthy drink that you can feel good about. Hot cocoa is a great way to get nutrition while feeing devilishly decadent. Now you really can give into your chocolate cravings and drink a cup of cocoa everyday - just for your health!
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