After a hard day of shoveling snow or playing in it, there aren’t many things more comforting than hot chocolate. This winter favorite lives up to its name to a T. It’s literally heated liquid chocolate. Without a doubt, it’s an indulgence that you’d best avoid while on a diet. If only there were a way to enjoy a healthy cup of hot cocoa…
You’re in luck, because that’s exactly what we’re exploring today!
Hot chocolate was originally very different from what we know it as today. The first drinkers of chocolate were the Olmecs and Mayans. The Mayan’s chocolate drink consisted of a mix of ground cocoa seeds, water, cornmeal, and chili peppers. Also, they enjoyed it cold.
When the conquistador Hernán Cortés returned to Europe, he brought cocoa beans and chocolate drinks with him. The Spanish sweetened and heated the drink and removed the chilis. It quickly gained popularity throughout Europe, and then, the rest of the world.
Modern American hot chocolate is thinner and made with a water and a powder mix. Each country, though, has its own version of the beverage.
Hot cocoa may not be as unhealthy as you think. For one, cocoa powder, the main ingredient of this drink, is a good source of fiber and iron. Cocoa is also high in antioxidants and flavonols. Heating the drink makes it healthier too, with studies showing that more antioxidants are released during the process. Other studies show that hot chocolate can promote blood flow to the brain, thereby possibly preventing Alzheimer’s disease. And, chocolate can even improve your mood since serotonin, tryptophan, and anandamide are all present in it.
Some studies show that hot chocolate can promote blood flow to the brain, possibly preventing Alzheimer’s disease.
To maximize the nutritional benefit of chocolate, you want to consume dark chocolate. It’s less processed than lighter or milk chocolates, meaning its nutrients are less watered down. You’ll still want to watch how much you eat, or drink, since this sweet remains high in calories.
Lowering the Calories
Most hot chocolate recipes consist of three key components: a liquid, the cocoa, and a sweetener. When it comes to lowering the calorie-count of this treat, a great place to start is the liquid. Many recipes for this beverage call for milk. If you want to use a packet of Swiss Miss mix, you can clip about 20 calories by switching out milk for water. If you’re using a homemade recipe, you’ll still want dairy in the drink, as water may thin out the taste too much. With that being said, there are alternatives to milk. Namely, almond milk, which is lighter, healthier, and sometimes adds a slightly nutty flavor.
The simplest alternative to granulated sugar is raw sugar, but you can use honey or even syrup!
The other component you can work with to cut with is the sweetener. Generally, this will be sugar, but we know sugar isn’t great for our bodies. Is there a way to sweeten the drink without a sugar overload? Well, yes! The simplest alternative to granulated sugar is raw sugar. Raw sugar, or unprocessed sugar, contains minerals and nutrients from the molasses that sets it apart from processed sugar. Consequently, it has a stronger flavor, meaning you need less of raw sugar than white sugar.
Instead of granulated sugar, you can also use natural sweeteners, which are lighter on the sugar. A perfect example of a natural sweetener would be honey. Despite being mostly sugar, honey remains a healthier choice than pure sugar. Why? The sugar in honey is 40 percent fructose and 30 percent glucose. The high percentage of fructose makes honey sweeter than white sugar. Much like for raw sugar, this allows you to use less honey. Maple syrup also works as an alternative to sugar.
A Healthier Recipe
To make your drink healthier, you can improve the three essential components to most hot chocolate recipes. They are liquid, cocoa, and a sweetener. Additional ingredients can replace some of the sugar, like a flavoring or maca powder or cinnamon. Peppermint is also a common flavoring.
Medicareful Living Hot Chocolate Recipe
- 3 cups of almond milk
- 3 tbsp of cocoa powder
- 2 tbsp of raw sugar or honey
- 2 tsp of cinnamon, peppermint, or a flavoring of your choice (optional)
- In a medium saucepan, mix the ingredients, whisking out any lumps.
- Warm over low heat until the mixture is at your preferred temperature. You don’t need to bring it to a boil.