When you think about healthy beverage options that are good for you, hot chocolate probably isn’t the first thing that springs to mind.
However, despite what diet culture may have told you about the dangers of ‘liquid calories’ or the damaging effects of chocolate, we’re here to tell you that hot chocolate can actually be beneficial for your health!
Read on to find out how a warm, comforting cup of hot chocolate can be good for you.
Reasons Hot Chocolate is Good for You
1. Rich in Antioxidants
Did you know that the cocoa that hot chocolate is made from contains lots of antioxidants?
Research by scientists at Cornell University has shown that cocoa contains 3 times the antioxidants found in green tea (which has long been recommended as an anti-inflammatory beverage due to its antioxidant content).
Specifically, cocoa contains flavonoids, which are known to reduce inflammation and improve immune function.
There are also links between flavonoid consumption and better weight management, longer life expectancies, and even a reduced risk of certain cancers.
2. Contains Many Nutrients
In addition to antioxidants, cocoa has many other nutritional benefits! For example, cocoa powder contains a lot of iron and fiber, which means that drinking hot chocolate could actually improve your digestive health.
Because it contains iron, cocoa and hot chocolate may also improve your body’s ability to create certain hormones, produce hemoglobin, and deliver oxygen to your muscles.
Additionally, dark chocolate is rich in magnesium calcium, potassium, phosphorus, Vitamin K, and Vitamin A!
3. Improves Cardiovascular Health
We mentioned before how the antioxidant properties of cocoa might help to reduce inflammation in the body while boosting your immune system, but these antioxidants are also extremely beneficial for your heart.
Consuming flavonols has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease as well as a lower risk of suffering a heart attack or a stroke.
Flavanols improve circulation, lowering your risk of blood clots at the same time, and they reduce the amount of bad cholesterol in your system.
4. Mood Boosting Effects
We all know that a steaming cup of hot chocolate has the ability to make us feel happier, but the reasons for this go beyond the fact that it tastes delicious.
Scientific studies have been carried out to investigate the impact of cocoa on the brain, and the results show that hot chocolate has a scientifically-rooted mood-boosting effect.
Not only does chocolate contain caffeine, which boosts your energy levels and may help to improve your mood in this sense, but it also produces serotonin in the brain (which makes you feel happier) and a chemical called tryptophan (which induces relaxation).
Therefore, next time you’re feeling down or stressed, you might want to try sipping on some hot chocolate!
5. Benefits Cognitive Function
Another amazing benefit of drinking hot chocolate has to do with cognitive function.
In 2013, Neurology journal published a study that identified a correlation between the consumption of hot chocolate and better memory.
Because chocolate improves blood flow, it is thought that by increasing circulation to the brain, hot chocolate may improve cognitive function.
Participants in the study who drank the high-flavanol drink displayed more cognitive improvements than other participants.
How To Make Hot Chocolate Healthier
All of the potential health benefits of hot chocolate don’t take away from the fact that hot chocolate can be damaging to your health if it’s consumed in excessive quantities or made with ingredients that are less than optimal for your health.
That’s not to say that the occasional super-indulgent, creamy hot chocolate is a bad thing.
There’s nothing wrong with treating yourself! But if you want your hot chocolate to benefit your health as much as your taste buds, we have some tips for making your hot chocolate healthier.
1. Think About Your Milk Choices
If you really want to make your hot chocolate as low-calorie as possible, you have the option of making it using water instead of milk. However, let’s all be realistic here – water-based hot chocolate simply isn’t as tasty as hot chocolate made with milk.
The good news is that if you prefer your hot chocolate with full-fat milk, there’s nothing wrong with that. Full-fat milk contains plenty of vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, zinc, Vitamin A, and magnesium.
With that being said, it is high in calories, so if you like to drink hot chocolate on a daily basis, you might want to consider trying out skimmed milk sometimes.
Alternatively, there are plenty of plant based milk options available now. Oat milk is deliciously creamy and high in fiber, while almond milk contains Vitamin E (an antioxidant).
2. Try Sugar Substitutes
Hot chocolate tastes better with some added sweetness, but adding lots of sugar to your hot chocolate isn’t the healthiest option.
Honey is a great natural sweetener, although it’s not suitable for vegans. A plant-based sweetener alternative is stevia, but it does have an aftertaste that isn’t pleasant for some people.
You might also want to try coconut sugar, which is healthier than refined white sugar and will contribute some extra flavor to your hot chocolate.
3. Consider Quantity/Frequency
Experts recommend consuming 2.5 grams of cocoa powder (the high-flavonol variety) daily to experience the health benefits of hot chocolate. However, this is a very small amount, so you’ll need more than this to make a nice cup of hot chocolate.
If you want to drink hot chocolate daily, or even more than once a day, you can – just consider whether you could implement some of the tips outlined above to make your hot chocolate recipe more health-conscious.
The verdict is in: hot chocolate can be good for you! Drinking hot chocolate made with high-flavanol cocoa powder can improve your nutrient intake, reduce inflammation, boost heart health, make your cognitive function better, and lift your mood.
To make your hot chocolate healthier, try substituting full-fat milk for skimmed, semi-skimmed or plant-based alternatives sometimes, and consider different sugar substitutes for sweetness.