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8 reasons why hot chocolate is good for you

solar_calendar-linear Nov 7, 2023 4:05:43 PM

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Discover 8 surprising health benefits of hot chocolate, from reducing inflammation and improving heart health to lowering the risk of brain degeneration and diabetes. Learn about the history of this beloved beverage and try two delicious hot chocolate recipes.

8 reasons why hot chocolate is good for you

Chocolate has been forever caught in the tangle of heavenly taste and deadly indulgence. It often gets the rap for being the number 1 cause of rotting teeth in children and high sugar consumption in adults. We have all heard this and more. But let us play the devil’s advocate for a moment. Did you know that according to recent medical research the benefits of a mug of hot chocolate far outweigh its side effects? Here is a list of 8 health benefits of hot cocoa for the next time you reach out for this cozy beverage.

First, A Little History

The earliest record of drinking hot chocolate is from way back in the 1500s, when the Mayans of Mesoamerica fermented, roasted and ground the cacao beans and prepared a drink they called ‘xocoatl’. While they didn’t actively promote its health benefits, this medieval version of our modern hot chocolate was flavored with vanilla beans, herbs and chili, mixed with wine or water. Believe it or not, it was an intrinsic part of Mayan life! It was rarely sweetened though, and given their basic processing techniques, the cocoa beans were often burnt making their drink quite bitter.

Switch to modern times, and we have come a long way. Today, sophisticated fermentation processes allow more consistent flavors with even roasting. This is important, because the process of preparing chocolate, whether in the form of a bar or a hot cocoa, determines its health quotient.

Eight Benefits of Hot Cocoa

  1. Cocoa contains polyphenols, which are antioxidants that occur naturally in some foods—think red wine and green tea. Antioxidants are powerful ingredients that are known to reduce inflammation in the body. This in turn improves blood flow and reduces blood sugar levels, contributing very concretely to a general sense of well-being. Note that when cocoa is processed, it begins to lose its polyphenol content. So, always opt for less processed cocoa to enjoy the maximum benefits of this magical ingredient.
  2. Another great component of cocoa is flavanols. These may improve nitric oxide levels in the blood, which in turn leads to a reduction in blood pressure levels. The benefits are more pronounced in people with high blood pressure. So, handing a mug of hot chocolate to someone furious will not only improve their mood but also physically calm them! Remember that cocoa loses flavanol when it is processed, so choose your cocoa carefully.
  3. Yet another benefit of the flavanols in your cocoa is improved heart health. How does this happen? Well, reduced blood pressure ensures smoother blood flow to the heart causing it to function with ease. The blood vessels dilate thanks to the increased nitric oxide caused by the flavanol boost in the body.
  4. Cholesterol is a bane of our modern society. But did you know that cocoa can help counter this? The flavonol in cocoa has a mild blood thinning effect, which reduces harmful cholesterol in the body. However, remember that these benefits hold true for moderate consumption of hot cocoa. So make sure you don’t follow the example of the Aztec ruler Montezuma, who reportedly drank 50 cups of a hot chocolate beverage every day!
  5. As with your heart, so with your brain. Both polyphenols and flavanols support neuron function and regulate the supply of blood to the brain. As a result, adding cocoa to your diet may reduce the risk of brain degeneration that is common with age. This lowers risk of Alzheimer’s and other types of degenerative brain diseases.
  6. Cocoa also helps with depression and reduces stress, all adding to your mental well-being. But aside from the chemical benefits of cocoa, there’s really nothing as comforting and relaxing as mixing together cocoa powder, frothy milk, cream and sugar, and just sitting down with a cup of this delicious concoction on a cold winter morning and just soaking in the sunlight.
  7. Winter is when we crave rich, decadent foods that keep us warm and full. The weight-gain is inevitable! Surprisingly, cocoa can help address this malady. By reducing inflammation, reducing appetite and increasing the feeling of fullness and satisfaction, cocoa can help with weight loss. Just remember, the higher the cocoa in chocolate, the better the benefits, don’t go binging on sweet milk or white chocolate.
  8. The flavanols in cocoa, which are found in dark chocolate or unsweetened hot chocolate, can help improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control. As a result, it lowers the risk of Type-2 diabetes. This again is counter-intuitive, given that diabetics and pre-diabetics are usually advised to stay off sugar, but then chocolate is indeed full of surprises! But remember, unsweetened hot chocolate!

2 hot chocolate Recipes for a Cozy Winter Morning

Come winters, and it is time to reap the benefits of hot cocoa. Why not try one of our two favorite hot chocolate recipes to warm up those icy finger-tips and indulge in the joy of sipping on a mug of hot chocolate.


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