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Hot Cocoa Power

December 11, 2008 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

Let’s go back in time ten years. It’s 1998 and you and I are playing a guessing game. The topic is: What will be the hottest health food in the year 2008? I’m not sure what I would have guessed. But I’m fairly confident that neither of us would have guessed that food would be chocolate.

The fact is that cocoa has quickly become one of the most popular foods to study among researcher scientists. The main reason is that scientists recently discovered that cocoa is a rich source of hard to find antioxidants and beneficial phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are natural chemicals produced by plants.

The ironic thing about the majority of the research is that science is providing evidence that cocoa is particularly healthful with regard to cardio-protection (heart health) and promoting better health in diabetics. Sound too good to be true? It’s not. But, there is a catch.

The Darker the Better

CocoaThe type of chocolate that I’m referring to is not the variety that many of us grew up with. Healthy chocolate is best found in pure cocoa powder or in candies with high percentages of actual cocoa. So sorry folks, but a Snickers bar isn’t going to help your health. Quite the opposite, in fact. What you’re looking for is dark chocolate bar with a cocoa content of greater than 70%. Or, you can do what I do and make hot cocoa out of 100% pure cocoa powder. I’ll include a simple recipe below.

I won’t get overly scientific on you today, but I do want to briefly mention a few interesting research highlights about this remarkable bean.

  • It was recently discovered that cocoa contains the powerful phytochemical resveratrol. Resveratrol is best known for being the star antioxidant in red wine. It turns out that cocoa is the second leading source of resveratrol in the modern diet. This molecule is really amazing. It’s being studied widely for the benefit it may provide to conditions ranging from arthritis to diabetes to heart disease, as well as a variety of cancers and as an anti-aging substance in general.
  • A cocoa extract was recently shown to have phenomenal effects in the brains of mice. The study concluded that this cocoa “may be beneficial in retarding age-related brain impairments, including cognitive deficits in normal aging and perhaps neurodegenerative diseases.”
  • Finally, several recent studies have found that cocoa can help improve circulation and lower inflammation. These are highly desirable effects in many circumstances. Who doesn’t know somebody who can benefit from such an effect?

Real Hot Cocoa Recipe

I call this “real” because it’s the real deal. There’s lots of pure, naturally-processed cocoa in it. The kind of cocoa that’s good for your health and that gives you more “bang for your buck”.

Step 1: Add about 2 tablespoons of a pure cocoa powder to a cup.

Step 2: Add some natural sweetener. Keep in mind that pure cocoa is actually quite bitter. Adding a healthy sweetener can help to counter the bitter taste. By the way, I always use a stevia-based sweetening product. Stevia is all natural and virtually calorie free. I also like that it rarely affects blood sugar levels.

Step 3: Heat some water and add it to the cup once the water is good and hot. Mix it up well with a spoon.

Step 4: Add milk (any kind – almond milk, cow’s milk, soy milk, coconut milk, etc.) to the hot cocoa. This will make it smooth and mellow out the taste a bit.

Step 5: Experiment. Add some peppermint or vanilla extract if you’d like. Use hot coffee instead of water, if you’d prefer. Some people like to add a pinch of sea salt or cinnamon. Whatever makes you happy!

I try to have a cup or two of my real hot cocoa just about every day. That’s how important I think it is.

Ain’t science grand? So, what do you think the hottest health food will be in the year 2018? I wonder.

Be well!

JP

Referenced Material

Link – Cocoa: A Scientific Review

Link – Chocolate and Resveratrol

Link: Cocoa Benefits Diabetics

Link – Cocoa and Brain Power

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10 Comments & Updates to “Hot Cocoa Power”

  1. Ingrid Sherman Says:

    I just tried your drink and it tastes great. I just hope I will be able to sleep tonight because I can feel the energy in this drink. Next time I will make it earlier.

  2. JP Says:

    Thank you for the feedback, Ingrid.

    You make a good point. Some people find cocoa to be somewhat energizing. If that’s the case for you, then it would be best to drink it early on in the day.

    Be well!

    JP

  3. G Paul Fanton Says:

    JP,
    Quantity in Oz of chocolate bar or cups of hot cocoa recipe that will produce results for an average individual? Quantity of calories added to a diet by such quantity?

  4. JP Says:

    Good questions, G Paul.

    A set amount hasn’t really been established. It tends to vary from study to study.

    In the diabetic study, they administered 100 grams, of a cocoa mixture, per day. Keep in mind that the mixture wasn’t 100% cocoa.

    I personally aim for about 1/4 cup of pure, organic cocoa powder a day. This provides about 55 calories, 6.5 grams of fiber, 5 grams of protein and 325mg of potassium. Not bad, eh?

    Be well!

    JP

  5. Iggy Dalrymple Says:

    I make my hot cocoa with green tea and then add a dash of MCT oil. http://tinyurl.com/Cocoa-Hypertension

  6. JP Says:

    It’s funny you should mention that study, Iggy. I’m currently working on an update column that will include information on that research and a conflicting human trial.

    I’ve been adding organic coconut milk to my hot cocoa lately. Delicious!

    Be well!

    JP

  7. Iggy Dalrymple Says:

    I believe the term “DARK” chocolate is misleading. Many food processors apply the “Dutching Process” to make chocolate darker and less bitter. The Dutching process removes healthy nutrients and bioflavanoids.

    In the baking supplies section of your grocery store, you’ll find Hershey’s Natural Unsweetened Cocoa. This product has not been Dutched. Right next to it is their premium “DARK” chocolate which has been Dutched. Hershey has jumped on the “DARK” chocolate bandwagon and is charging more for a less nutritious product.
    http://paulclegg.typepad.com/wellness/truth.html

    The above link claims that “DARK” chocolate is less nutritious than plain natural cocoa.

    The Mars company claims to have a special process for their “DARK” chocolate and I would be interested in an unbiased independent comparison between their “DARK” chocolate and plain cocoa.

  8. JP Says:

    Iggy,

    I generally look for the term “non-alkalinized”. This indicates that is hasn’t be “Dutched”.

    The pure cocoa powders I use are always quite bitter. Fortunately, the addition of a little stevia and/or coconut milk mellows out the flavor just fine. Sometimes I actually prefer getting that bitter kick. When the mood strikes me, I just combine pure, organic cocoa and organic instant coffee (no sweetener at all) into a cup and cover it with water. Quite a boost!

    Be well!

    JP

  9. Teddy Says:

    Hi JP, I have read your articles with a lot of interest. I am an MPhil student in Ghana, and my thesis is on the effect of dark cocoa on insulin sensitivity. I am using a rat model, and would appreciate any info you can give me. It is really stimulating the amount of interest in this fruit, and the various healthy implications of studying it.
    Keep up the good work.
    T.

  10. JP Says:

    Thank you, Teddy

    Here are a few abstracts that I think could be of interest (below). You may already be familiar with these however.

    http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/abstract/138/9/1671

    http://hyper.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/full/46/2/398

    http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/full/81/3/611

    http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/full/133/10/3149

    http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf8015915

    http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/88/6/1685

    Please keep in mind that the gender of the rats may be a factor, in a roundabout way too.

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6WB2-4SC78KN-1&_user=10&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=f624e2e1b1e24a3a48b4391776141fb1

    I hope this helps.

    Be well!

    JP

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