What do you usually associate hot cocoa with? Most probably with sweet rich deliciousness, topped with whipped cream and marshmallows. While there is nothing wrong with that, you may not want to drink it every day, as the calories from this beverage add up quickly – one cup can deliver up to 500 kcal! Still, cocoa can be one of the healthiest foods in world (yes), and there is definitely no need to give it up. Personally, I drink hot cocoa at least once a day, and now I want to show you how you can incorporate it into your daily diet. Here are some basic rules, which will definitely make your drink healthier:
- Use water as a base and milk as an addition – I usually go with ca. ¾ hot water and ¼ milk
- At times, skip full-fat milk and go for a skim version – it saves up to 30 kcal / 100ml.
- For vegan version, choose almond or any other plant-based milk.
- Change sugar for xylitol or erythritol – the latter contains NO calories.
- If you need, add some honey or agave syrup for taste.
- Use vanilla extract – it enhances the taste immediately!
My typical cocoa cup:
- 1-2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder (4-8 kcal)
- 200 ml hot water
- ¼ cup skim milk (0% fat) (15-20 kcal)
- 1-2 tsp xylitol or erithritol (0-20 kcal)
- a few drops of vanilla extract
It is not that I encourage you to obsessively count calories – definitely not! In my opinion, this unnecessary process subtracts most, if not all, of the pleasure of consuming your favourite foods and beverages. However, I think that being slightly more conscious about the nutritional value, can actually give you more comfort and freedom of choice. It can also change some non-realistic convictions about food, e.g. that hot cocoa is always sugary a guilty pleasure. Instead, I want to show you that it is actually worth incorporating into your daily diet.
Benefits of cocoa:
Heart – flavonoids present in cocoa contribute to cells protection and heart strengthening. They are also responsible for regulating blood pressure, which is an essential aspect of cardiovascular health.
Brain – researchers have linked cocoa consumptions with positive effects on memory and learning skills. The product also increases the blood flow in brain, keeping it healthy and working well.
Mood – cocoa is known for its anti-depressant properties, due to the presence of trypthofan – a neurotransmitter responsible for transport of serotonin. It is also one of the best natural aphrodysiacs.
Diabetes – cocoa has been proven to aid in metabolism of glucose, as well as in insulin resistance – both being essential in maintaing stable blood sugar levels.
Weight management – as aforementioned, cocoa regulates blood sugar levels, which decreases cravings for sugary foods. It also takes part in management of fatty acids synthesis and hence, lipid metabolism. Moreover, by enhancing the mood, it also contirbutes to stress-eating prevention.
Chronic fatigue syndrome – I have had experienced it myslelf and I have to admit that at that time I had major dark chocolate (like 85% dark) cravings. I usually ate it a few times a day, and without doing this I felt like a zombie. Cocoa contains thymbromine, a caffeine-like compound which makes you more alert, as well as increases serothonin production, leaving you ‘happier’. Moreover, it is a great source of magnesium, which deficiency can be a cause of te fatigue.
Skin – chemical compounds found in cocoa are said to decrease the UV radioation effects, as well as make the skin more moisturized and nourished.
Other uses of cocoa
It can serve as an addition to:
- Granola and youghurt
- Coffee (say hello to homemade mocha!)
- Cakes and cookies (quite obvious, right?)
- Protein shakeS
- Beauty products (face and hair masks, peelings etc.)
To sum up: