3 Reasons to Drink Hot Cocoa
During the winter months, my mom always kept a giant tub of cocoa mix in the kitchen cupboard. I have fond memories of sitting with her in the kitchen and helping her mix the ingredients together in a large, white Tupperware container. She would often give it as gifts to friends and neighbors, who always appreciated the sweet treat for the cold months ahead.
I don’t have the exact recipe that she used, but I remember that it contained milk powder, sugar, and cocoa. After a few chilly days here, I decided to mix up my own batch of this warming winter treat.
For this version, I’m using raw cacao powder in lieu of regular cocoa powder. Raw cacao powder is a superfood: a food that is nutrient-dense and usually has amazing antioxidant properties. Some of raw cacao’s healthy building blocks and benefits are explained below:
Magnesium is a very important mineral for several of the body’s functions. When we consume optimal amounts of magnesium, it regulates our sleep cycles, decreases symptoms associated with PMS, aids in energy production, and helps to repair and replicate cells in our bodies.
Cacao also has the ability to create feelings of calm and has been shown to reduce stress. I’m sure you’ve heard plenty of studies about how chocolate is “good” for you! This is only true in a conditional sense. It does not include sugar-laden milk chocolate or white chocolate (is that really chocolate, though?), as these do not have a positive effect on your health. However, including small amounts of raw cacao powder in your diet could help decrease stress while also increasing your magnesium intake.
Other foods that are rich in magnesium are almonds, spinach, pumpkin seeds, and kelp. Most Americans do not have enough magnesium in their diets. Simply add more of these delicious magnesium-rich foods to your diet, and your body will be grateful.
Chocolate, specifically dark chocolate, contains antioxidants, which neutralize free radicals in our bodies and keep us optimally healthy. Antioxidants combat the damage that can be done to our cells as they are exposed to the elements around us on a daily basis. Loading our bodies with healthy, antioxidant-rich foods can reduce cell damage that occurs from environmental factors like air quality, cigarette smoke, and physical exertion.
In addition to magnesium and antioxidants, raw cacao has a plethora of B vitamins. B vitamins are essential for good health and help with everything from increasing energy and blood circulation to keeping skin, hair and nails healthy. They also detoxify your body, aid your nervous system, and improve the function of your adrenal glands. Needless to say, B vitamins are essential in maintaining overall health in your body!
Other foods loaded with amazing B vitamins include avocado, almonds, black beans, mushrooms, nori, bananas and spinach. Strive to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds daily to increase your intake of B vitamins.
Cacao vs. Cocoa
It’s worth noting that cacao and cocoa are not always interchangeable terms. In fact, they can differ greatly, and it’s important to know what to look for when you are shopping. The best option is a raw (and, if possible, organic and fair-trade) cacao powder. If the product is not labeled as raw, it has likely been heat-processed and has lost a significant amount of its health benefits as a result. Many cocoa powders that are used for baking contain an alkalizing agent (often referred to as “Dutch process”). Try your best to avoid these as well. In short, if the package says “100% raw cacao”, you’re golden!
Now for the cocoa…
Since we now know the benefits of raw cacao, let’s put it to use in our health arsenal with this delicious hot cocoa mix! This is super easy to throw together and would make a lovely gift for friends, family, and coworkers this holiday season. It’s such a treat to snuggle up with a mug of goodness, sit by some twinkling lights and watch your favorite holiday movie!
I tried several versions of this for you -- you’re welcome ;) Use your favorite non-dairy milk in this recipe or make it with water for a less rich option. Our favorite combo was 8oz of almond milk with 1-2 TBSP of coconut milk to give it a creamier, richer taste while also adding a dose of healthy fats.
Hope you enjoy this warming winter treat!
Hot Cocoa Mix
Makes about 1.5 cups
⅔ c raw cacao powder
⅔ c coconut sugar
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
For Hot Cocoa
1-2 TBSP cocoa mix
8 oz of your favorite non-dairy milk
1-2 TBSP coconut milk (optional, but adds creaminess)
Splash of vanilla extract (optional)
Whisk cacao powder, coconut sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a bowl until combined and clump-free. (You could also throw it all in a food processor to mix it if you prefer!)
To make hot cocoa, heat 8-10 ounces of your favorite non-dairy milk (almond and flax work great!) on the stovetop. Add 1-2 TBSP of cocoa mix into a mug with a splash of vanilla (if using.) Add warmed milk and mix until combined. For extra decadence, top with your favorite vegan marshmallows.
This mix makes a great gift -- just add to a jar with a label and directions.