11 Surprising Health Benefits of Hot Chocolate
In any region, hot chocolate is a cup of cheer especially as the weather starts cooling down.
Real chocolate with real milk and unrefined sugar is an incredibly complex substance, containing 400-500 different health benefiting compounds.
Hot cocoa is a powerful elixir – one which boosts mood and vitality and combats stress, anxiety, and pain. For good reason. It’s scientific name is Theobroma cacao ancient Greek for “food of the gods.”
Drinkable chocolate was used as a medicinal drink by Mesoamerican civilizations in 600 B.C. According to an article published by the National Institutes of Health, the beneficial uses of cacao and chocolate are a recent rediscovery.
Some of chocolate’s and real milk’s healthful benefits include:
- Up-lifting Effects: This tasty drink helps fight stress, anxiety, and depression. It contains serotonin, which acts as an anti-depressant and triggers the production of endorphins that make people feel pleasure. Plus the high concentration of antioxidants calms rising stress hormones. These effects are compounded when dark chocolate is melted into a drink because heat releases significantly more antioxidants.
- Cancer fighting: A Cornell study found a cup of cocoa offers twice as many cancer-fighting antioxidants as a glass of red wine and as much as three times more than a cup of green tea. Researchers attribute this abundance to higher levels of flavonoids. Researchers also advise we drink a cup in the morning, saving tea and wine for later. Can you think of a better way to start the day?
- Easy on Blood Sugar: Healthy fats in dark cocoa help blood absorb sugar slowly, which prevents insulin spikes.
- Improves Blood Flow: Cocoa’s flavonoids aid the body in processing nitric oxide. This prevents blood clots by making platelets less sticky and improves blood flow, which in turn lowers blood pressure and helps the heart stay healthy. That’s a lot of wins. Not to mention these anti-clotting, blood-thinning capabilities significantly reduce your risk of having a stroke. Flavonoids in chocolate help prevent platelets in your blood from mingling together and forming clots.
- Boosts Brain Power: Increased blood flow throughout the body means an increase of oxygen to the brain. Drink a cup of hot chocolate and your mind will be sharper. According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the flavonoids in the hot chocolate increase the blood flow and oxygen to the brain. Since dementia is caused by a reduced flow of blood to the brain, researchers believe drinking cocoa helps stave off dementia.
- Reduces Risk of Heart Disease: The CDC reports heart disease is the number one cause of death for men and women in the United States. 1 out of every 4 deaths is due to heart disease. One way to lower your risk is consume about 1 ounce of dark chocolate a day. It reduces inflammation and floods your body with flavonoids and antioxidants that protect from free radicals linked to heart disease and certain cancers. According to a study conducted at Cornell University, the antioxidant concentration in hot cocoa is almost twice as strong as red wine. Cocoa’s concentration was two to three times stronger than that of green tea and four to five times stronger than that of black tea. Professor Chang Yong Lee, the leader of the Cornell study, added that the “hot” in “hot chocolate” is important as well. More antioxidants are released when it’s heated up.
- Weight Management: Will Clower, PH.D. neuroscientist and author of the book Eat Chocolate, Lose Weight says having chocolate five minutes after a meal or 20 minutes prior reduces your appetite by as much as 50 percent. The key here is moderation. Consuming a small quantity of dark cocoa satiates the appetite and, since it prevents insulin spikes, keeps the body’s fat-burning ability going strong.
- Strengthens Teeth: The tannins in cocoa contain oxalic acid, which lowers acid production and reduces plaque growth. This prevents tooth decay as long you practice good dental hygiene every day. In addition, dark hot cocoa contains theobromine, known to harden enamel and help prevent discoloration. This compound is also known to kill streppococcus mutans, the main bacteria that causes cavities. Not every kind of chocolate is dental dynamite. The cocoa bean is what houses the good stuff — not the chocolate itself — so the closer the confection is to the bean, the better.
- Protects Skin: Your morning mug of dark chocolate is loaded with flavonoids, much loved for increasing the skin’s hydration and improving complexion. They also absorb harmful UV light, protecting you from skin cancer Read my recommendations of safe sunning.
- High in Vitamins and Minerals: Dark cocoa is rich in potassium, copper, magnesium, iron and other important vitamins and minerals. These support good health and protect you from anemia, type 2 diabetes and dangerous heart problems.
- Aphrodisiac: Chocolate has also for centuries been rumored to be an aphrodisiac. Chocolate consumption may be associated with higher sexual function scores in women.
Choose your Hot Chocolate Wisely
Leave it up to mega corporations to turn this delicious and healthful food into one of the worst junk foods.
An article published in the Mayo Clinic Health Letter recommends dark chocolate, which contains an average of 53.5 milligrams of flavonoids per bar. In contrast, the average bar of milk chocolate contains less than 14 milligrams, and white chocolate contains none.
Commercial instant hot cocoa mixes are often more of an artificial monstrosity that may eradicate any good the cocoa may have to offer. One of the most popular mixes, for example, lists cocoa fifth on the list of ingredients, beneath the higher-level ingredients of sugar, corn syrup and a medley of vegetable oils.
If cocoa is not on top of the the list of ingredients, then it is brand isn’t what it is being marketed as. Don’t be fooled by the cost of the product or branding.
Notice how one of the brands (higher end) doesn’t even have cocoa listed on the list of ingredients.
It is troublesome enough if sugar is one of the first ingredients on list of ingredients. It is even more concerning that it isn’t organic. If sugar is not certified organic, then it is most likely genetically modified sugar from beets. See my post on genetically modified ingredients to see why you would want to avoid GMOs like the plague and more importantly how to choose more healthfully.
The additional ingredients on the list of ingredients are either preservatives (to add flavor or texture), additional processes that take away the healthful benefits of a single ingredient and/or process that adds artificial vitamins and minerals that it lost when processing the main ingredient in the first place.
All these additional processing, sugars and preservatives only end up overwhelming the organs that help support your incredible body. If your liver is overwhelmed from doing its job of detoxifying, then the additional burdens that it encounters throughout the day in the forms of refined and depleted foods will back up into the blood stream and show up as skin issues such as blemishes or acne, fatigue, and other inflammatory signals. And if the signals and messages are ignored, they will lead into louder messages in forms of other serious diseases and disorders.
The only ingredients you’ll need to make a deliciously nutritious hot chocolate:
Here is a my special hot chocolate recipe. Find out what two ingredients make this recipe a potent elixir.
When choosing your chocolate, make sure it’s:
- Dark and Raw: The darker the chocolate the less sugar is added. Aim for at least 70% cacao content. And raw cacao is even better. The more cacao is processed, the more flavanols are destroyed.
- Organic: Non-organic cocoa may contain residues of the dangerous herbicide glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup), and other pesticides used in conventional farming.
- Free/Fair Trade: Cacao crops are often unfairly traded, and have even been linked to child enslavement.
The 2018 Cocoa Barometer Report states that many of the challenges with the cocoa industry continue in spite of efforts to improve the sustainability of the crop. Additionally, it was reported that child labor continues with over 2 million children working in the cocoa fields in West Africa alone. And the average cocoa farmer apparently earns $0.78 against a livable wage index of $2.51. One way to help change this is, as always, to vote with your wallet. Here is a list of Fairtrade Sustainably harvest chocolate brands. Consider purchasing from them in order to support change in the cocoa industry.
The following are the brands of milk, cacao powder and sweetener that I recommend. Except for the milk, you could purchase the rest from this online source at great prices *:
If you notice, the cacao powders are not labeled Fair Trade. According to company website and/or this site, they claim to practice fair trade.
When choosing your milk, make sure it’s:
Raw, Organic, Sustainably raised and Safe Source if from an animal source. I trust and buy whole milk from Organic Pastures. They are sold at Lassens, Sprouts and Ewerhon.
Organic, non irradiated almonds if you choose to use almond milk. In my Grocery Store Tour, I share my recommended brands. I may write a post on it and what brands if any are safe to consume since so many are asking me about it. I like to make my own almond milk. Here is the Sweetened Almond Milk version and the Unsweetened Almond Milk version.
When choosing your sweetener, make sure it is:
Unrefined and Organic. If Maple syrup, choose grade B. It is less refined.
In winter, get your daily dose of protection in a mug.
Please share your comments below. If you want me to research a brand that you love, shoot me a note with the brand and product name.
*I have an affiliation with this company. Your cost will be the same. I earn a small commission if you use the links in this article to purchase the products I mentioned. I only recommend products I would use myself or that pass my test. Your purchase helps support this site and my ongoing research….which I hope you find ultra valuable.
Oba S, Nagata C, Nakamura K, Fujii K, Kawachi T, Takatsuka N, et al. Consumption of coffee, green tea, oolong tea, black tea, chocolate snacks and the caffeine content in relation to risk of diabetes in Japanese men and women. Br J Nutr. 2010;103(3):453–459
Grassi D, Necozione S, Lippi C, Croce G, Valeri L, Pasqualetti P, et al. Cocoa reduces blood pressure and insulin resistance and improves endothelium-dependent vasodilation in hypertensives. Hypertension. 2005 Aug;46(2):398–405Epub 2005 Jul 18
Davison K, Coates AM, Buckley JD, Howe PR. Effect of cocoa flavanols and exercise on cardiometabolic risk factors in overweight and obese subjects. Int J Obes (Lond). 2008;32(8):1289–1296
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