There is an important difference between hot cocoa and hot chocolate. These terms are often used interchangeably, but the distinction is in the nutritional properties. Hot cocoa is made from raw cocoa powder, which is pressed chocolate which removes the fat of the cocoa butter. Hot chocolate is made from chocolate bars melted into a cream or ground into a powder. Often hot chocolate has a very high sugar and fat content and low cocoa content. Cocoa can be very good for you, especially if you minimize the sugar and fat.
Drinking hot cocoa has been around for centuries. Modern archaeologists have found evidence of cocoa beans in Olmec tombs as far back as 1500 BC. These ancient rulers drank a bitter mixture of hot water, cocoa powder and spices. The Mayans also fell in love with cocoa beans and developed a drink they named chocolatl. The cacao beans were so valuable that they could be used as money. The rulers of the Mayan kingdom shared their love of cocoa with the Spanish who them brought it to Europe. It was in europe that sugar was added and it became the drink we know as hot cocoa.
Drink of the gods
We think of hot cocoa as a desert drink but the original drink was a hot and spicy brew containing water, wine and peppers. The Mayan aristocracy had many variations of this beverage which they considered magic. After bringing the cocoa beans back to Europe sugar and milk were added to make a sweet after dinner beverage. Soon the general population could not get enough. Confectioners experimented with the cocoa powder and began making chocolate.
Not you can stop feeling guilty about wanting to eat chocolate. Researchers are discovering the truly healthy benefits of cocoa. Cocoa has the ability to protect circulating lipids from oxidizing and it can also help you live longer. Cocoa is lterally packed with antioxidants that prevent cancer. An antioxidant is a substance that inhibits oxidation or reactions promoted by oxygen and peroxides. Antioxidants help protect your body from the detrimental effects of free radicals.
Are you Drinking Real Cocoa or just a Flavored Substitute?
Don't settle for fake hot chocolate when you can have real delicious hot cocoa. Hot cocoa not only tastes better is is so much better for you. The best way to make sure you are getting the real deal is to start with quality cocoa powder. The best cocoa powder is dark brown and will taste bitter. You can make your won hot beverage by mixing this powder with hot water or just like when you were a kid: real milk. Milk substitutes like: soy milk, coconut milk or rice milk are great for those who are lactose intolerant or who just want to try something different. You can sweeten your drink by adding sugar, honey or agave nectar.
Hot cocoa could be the best tasting nutritional supplement you have ever had. "Nowhere else has nature compressed such a store of the most valuable nutrients into such a small place as it has with the cocoa bean," the researcher Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) once said.
Eating a moderate amount of sweets pays off. Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health found that eating chocolate or other sweets several times each month live nearly one year longer than individuals who over indulge in sweets and even people who eliminate eating junk food altogether.
A study done by Cornell researchers, headed by Chang Y. (Cy) Lee, states that the reason cocoa won out over the other drinks is because of its high concentration of phenolic phytochemicals, or flavonoids. These flavanoids indicate a high level of antioxidants that perhaps prevent cancer, reduce the risk of heart disease and other health issues. Dr Lee said "Phenolic compounds protect plants against insects and pathogens, and they remain active even after food processing."
Even though cocoa beans have 500 times more anti-oxidants than blueberries; studies indicate that adding a diary product actually blocks the body's ability to properly absorb them. In order to get the most antioxidants, mix ground cocoa with non-dairy liquids for hot chocolate, smoothies or shakes. You can enjoy drinking cocoa if it is hot or cold but heating the cocoa triggers the release of more antioxidants.
Don't let the picture on the packet food you. Check the ingredients! The primary ingredient in most commercial hot chocolate mixes is sugar. The rest is fat, fillers and artificial flavors. Why settle for a facsimile when you can have the real deal? Real hot cocoa is not only better nutritionally it tastes better too!. The hot creamy cocoa you loved as a kid is now a health food. A guilt free pleasure that's good for you too. You can enjoy a rich cup of hot cocoa every day - just tell your friend it's a nutritional supplement.