My morning writing ritual includes a cup of hot chocolate, something that you might consider decadent unless you know that caffeine, even in the tiny amounts contained in decaf coffee or tea makes me sick. To stay healthy, I avoid all of those caffeinated drinks I used to love. Instead, I drink hot chocolate.
It turns out that my hot chocolate habit is healthier than you might think. As an article in Mother Nature Network reports, Cornell University researchers studying the anti-oxidant levels in chocolate found that hot cocoa is a great source of antioxidants.
In fact, hot cocoa's antioxidant concentration is twice as high as red wine, and two to three times stronger than green teas, as well as four to five times stronger than black tea. Since cocoa lacks the fat of a chocolate bar (even dark chocolate is high-fat), it's a healthier way to eat the antioxidants.
And heating the cocoa releases more of those cancer-fighting, age-fighting, free-radical-neutralizing antioxidants, says Professor Chan Yong Lee, the lead author of the study.
Other health benefits: cocoa's flavonoids help you process nitric oxide, thus improving blood flow (including blood flow to the brain, which helps prevent dementia), lowering your blood pressure, preventing clots, and improving heart health.
Don't buy commercial hot chocolate mix though. It's full of unhealthy corn syrup in various incarnations and saturated fats. And it's expensive on a per-serving basis. Instead, make your own healthy (and cocoa-rich) mix in bulk. It's ridiculously simple. (There are only two ingredients!)
Health-Rich Hot Chocolate Mix
2 cups organic sugar
8-9 T organic cocoa powder (I use Savory Spice cocoa--it has a lovely flavor)
Mix the sugar with the cocoa powder until it is combined. (Add more cocoa if you like a richer mix, more sugar if you prefer sweeter hot chocolate.) Store in an air-tight jar or tin. Add two to three heaping teaspoons to a cup of hot milk. (Use skim or lowfat milk to keep the fat content from counteracting the health benefits.) Stir and enjoy!
As you sip your healthy hot chocolate, thank the Mayans, who invented chocolate drinks many millennia ago. (Cacao beans are native to South America. They're one of the Americas' great native crops, along with chiles, corn, beans and squash.)
GIFT IT: Put the mix in a pretty jar, add instructions for making hot chocolate on a hand-made card, and give it to someone you love for Valentine's Day.