Let’s celebrate “Hot Chocolate Day” by having a mug of “hot chocolate” brewed with melted chocolate which has a thicker consistency and lesser sweetness. It is commonly referred to as hot cocoa or drinking chocolate. Sometimes people love to have hot chocolate loaded with tempting toppings like marshmallows, choco chips, finely chopped nuts, candy cane pieces etc.

While enjoying the warmth of hot chocolate continue to read the blog and I will explain everything about hot chocolate that you would like to know.

Nations worldwide, have their variations on this traditional recipe for hot chocolate because it is one of the best ways to stay warm when the weather turns cold in winter.

Cocoa is most known for its use in making chocolate. Apart from this, we will use cocoa for hot chocolate, cakes and more. But did you know it has various health benefits?

Yes, it has various benefits. Modern studies show that it does contain vital substances that are beneficial to our health. To know more continue to read the blog we will discuss the important health benefits of cocoa with its advantages and disadvantages and tips to have healthy hot chocolate.

Hot chocolate: What is it?

“Maya” the culture of Central America is claimed to have been the first civilisation to consume cocoa. It was brought to Europe by Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century, and it immediately gained popularity as a remedy that promoted health.

Crushing cocoa beans and extracting the fat, or cocoa butter, results in cocoa powder. The hot chocolate recipe differs a little in each nation and it reflects the local cuisine and culture.

“Hot chocolate,” is produced from bar chocolate, which already contains cocoa, sugar, and cocoa butter.  

The “hot cocoa,” which is made from cocoa powder has low fat (ground cacao beans from which much of the cocoa butter has been removed). 

The absence of cocoa butter makes hot cocoa substantially lower in fat than hot chocolate while still maintaining all the antioxidants found in chocolate, making this the main distinction between the two.

  • Dark, semisweet, or bittersweet chocolate can be grated or broken into small pieces and mixed with milk and sugar to make hot chocolate.

  • Typically, the term “cocoa” refers to a beverage made with heated milk or water, cocoa powder, and sugar-sweetened to taste (or not sweetened at all).

  • Instant hot chocolate, also known as hot cocoa mix, can be produced using cocoa powder, powdered chocolate, or both. It frequently also contains powdered milk or substances that are similar so that it can be made without milk, as well as sugar or other sweeteners, stabilisers, and thickeners.

However, the ingredients used in their proportion and the quality of mixes might differ significantly (across nations and frequently between brands).

Overall, hot chocolate is a beverage enjoyed all over the world and is available in various forms, such as the spiced chocolate para mesa of Latin America, the extremely thick cioccolata calda common in Italy and Spain, and the thinner hot cocoa offered in the United States.

Does hot chocolate have health benefits?

1. Enhances cardiovascular health

Hot chocolate’s major ingredient – cocoa, contains numerous healthy elements such as antioxidants like flavonols and phytosterols that quickly lower LDL cholesterol levels in the blood, protecting against any early heart ailments, coronary diseases, or heart attacks.

Heart health is preserved by hot chocolate, claims the American NLM.

The Harvard study also demonstrates how chocolate can help those with atrial fibrillation (AF). According to the National Institutes of Health Research, regular hot cocoa consumption can prevent other cardiovascular illnesses.

Snack bars with cocoa flavanols include phytosterols that reduce blood cholesterol levels. Consuming hot chocolate made with cocoa powder also helps to prevent atherosclerosis, a condition that increases the risk of heart disease due to fat buildup in the arteries.

2. Increases brain capacity

According to scientific studies, cocoa flavanols raise the brain’s oxygen levels at once, directly improving the brain’s metabolism. Therefore, when flavonoid Dutch processed chocolate is consumed, all neurons are stimulated at a higher rate.

A person with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is also protected by higher oxygen levels (COPD).

Researchers from the Universities of Illinois and Birmingham have effectively demonstrated that hot chocolate has benefits which enhance cognitive function. They conducted cognitive tests on men and found that those who had consumed cocoa drinks had a substantial advantage over the others.

More research suggests that both those with and without mental problems may benefit from consuming cocoa flavanols daily.

These studies suggest that cocoa plays a beneficial role in maintaining brain health and may also have beneficial effects on neurodegenerative conditions like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. However, more evidence is essential.

3. High in antioxidants

Antioxidants are essential in the combat against the body’s free radicals. Antioxidants protect you from ageing, heart disease, and even cancer in this way!

Antioxidants are among hot chocolate’s advantages. So, there are various reasons to celebrate!

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) describes how procyanidin, flavon-3-ols, and polyphenols found in hot chocolate powder which produce antioxidants.

Hot chocolate contains a variety of biological multi-phenol components that have demonstrated anti-oxidative benefits. The Lancet claims that because cocoa contains antioxidants such as polyphenol chemicals, it aids in reducing the formation of harmful cholesterol.

Polyphenols which are abundant in cocoa, offer a number of health advantages such as lowering cholesterol and reducing inflammation, are very beneficial. However, the polyphenol content of cocoa can be significantly reduced during the production of chocolate or other goods.

4. Reducing blood sugar levels

Although excessive chocolate eating is undoubtedly bad for blood sugar regulation, however, cocoa does have some anti-diabetic properties.

According to research conducted in test tubes, cocoa flavanols can increase insulin secretion, decrease inflammation, slow down the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates in the gut, and spike sugar levels from the blood into the muscle.

The good part for all diabetic sufferers is Dutch-processed chocolate. Hot cocoa affects a diabetic patient in the opposite way from other sweets. Type 2 diabetes is reduced by it. It would be good if they consume them without any additional sweeteners or toppings in hot chocolate made with cocoa powder.

According to research findings, regular consumption of hot chocolate along with a small amount of cocoa—around 54g or 100g of chocolate—can significantly reduce diabetes risk.

The abundant polyphenol and flavonol elements in cocoa, pierce like swords through the body’s insulin imbalance. As a result, the blood sugar level returns to normal and the effects of diabetes are reduced.

5. Helps to lose weight

Hot cocoa can help you lose weight although it may sound like a false statement and it leads to a healthy lifestyle. Hot chocolate keeps you fuller for longer, which reduces your need for cravings and desired food. However, make sure you are having them without extra sweeteners, chocolates, and candies instead you can add finely chopped nuts for toppings.

Additionally, there are sufficient amounts of catechins and flavanols to form antioxidants that help with fat loss. However, drinking hot chocolate with a higher cocoa content boosts its health benefits.

Contrary to popular belief, eating cocoa, even in the form of chocolate, may aid with weight management.

It is believed that cocoa may benefit by regulating how much energy is used, lowering inflammation and appetite, improving fat oxidation, and enhancing sensations of fullness.

6. Reduces blood pressure

Hot chocolate consumption can reduce blood pressure.

Dark chocolate made from cocoa powder and other forms of cocoa may be able to reduce blood pressure.

Nitric oxide, which stimulates vasodilation in individuals, is infused into the chemically dense flavanol chocolate beverage.

To put it another way, the nutrients in a hot chocolate beverage can help to relax the arteries from the buildup of fat and support a normal blood pressure range!

The endothelium function is also enhanced by the ingredients in hot chocolate.

7. Reduces mood swings

Hot chocolate improves attention span, which reduces mood swings. According to the American Psychological Association, eating chocolate helps with mindfulness. Because the mood-lightening and pleasant hormones that are released by the polyphenols in chocolate increase tranquillity and contentment, they help to reduce your mood swings.

You can brew yourself a cup of decadent hot chocolate to relax your mind in a world full of distractions. Furthermore, a research on elderly males revealed a connection between eating chocolate and greater physical and psychological well-being.

Nature encourages balance, therefore if you want to enjoy the broader advantages of hot chocolate, you should incorporate it into a healthy diet. You can never be healthy if you dream about stuffing cocoa. That is merely wishful thinking; instead, take a balanced approach to reality and enjoy your hot chocolate.

You can concurrently enjoy the taste and enjoy the advantages in this way!

Other advantages which need further research are 

  • Polyphenols, which are abundant in cocoa and offer several health advantages such as lowering cholesterol and reducing inflammation, are very beneficial. However, the polyphenol content of cocoa can be significantly reduced during the production of chocolate or other goods.

  • Possibility of cancer-protective effects: In test-tube and animal research, the flavanols in cocoa have been proven to have promising anti-cancer capabilities, however, there is a lack of research from human trials.

  • People with asthma may benefit from theophylline and theobromine supplements which are also present in cocoa. In animal trials, the cocoa extract has shown some anti-asthmatic benefits. Before it can be suggested as a cure, though, it must first undergo human testing.

  • Cocoa has some anti-agents which act as a shield to protect your skin from sunlight and enhance circulation on the skin’s surface, and it supports moisture and healthy skin.

Disadvantages and tips to have healthy hot chocolate

  • There are a lot of calories in your cocoa. The cocoa itself has a lot of calories if you add more cream, marshmallows and extra sugar it leads to overconsumption of calories also try to use cocoa-rich chocolates and cocoa powder.

  • Overindulging in sugar and fat-filled cocoa can increase your risk of having excessive triglycerides and weight gain!

  • In addition to tooth decay and weight gain, excessive hot chocolate drinking can also result in heart disease and high cholesterol.

Therefore, a cup of hot chocolate that is dripping with sugar, covered with whipped cream, sprinkled with marshmallows, and topped with chocolate chips is never going to be healthy (even though we salivate just thinking about it).

However, cocoa powder, a key component of hot chocolate, has certain health benefits. Before being powdered, cocoa takes the form of cocoa solids, which are rich in nutrients. Keep reading to learn how to have a healthy hot chocolate.

How to make healthy hot chocolate ?

I have gone through many strategies to make your cup of hot cocoa healthier. Here are some tips to make your hot chocolate tasty and healthy.

  • The water is the best choice if you want to have a daily cup of hot chocolate with the fewest calories. Water is the lowest calorie option. It gives in a thin hot chocolate, so you don’t get that deliciously rich and creamy smoothness. However, it does have nutrients and prevents weight gain.

  • Full-fat milk is rich in nutrients and contains a wide range of vitamins, including calcium, vitamin A, zinc, magnesium, and other vitamins. Additionally, studies have linked dairy consumption to a decreased risk of heart disease and cancer. It increases bone density and guards against fractures in the elderly. Even though you can’t have it fully with hot chocolate if are not on a weight loss regimen you can add full-fat milk a little in your hot chocolate made with made to feel the richness of cream to have low-calorie hot chocolate compared to creamy and marshmallow-rich hot chocolate.

  • Full-fat milk has more calories than low-fat milk, so if you want to avoid gaining weight, you need to be mindful of your daily calorie intake. Try semi-skimmed or skimmed milk to maintain many of the health benefits without the calorie burden, but you will give up some smoothness.

  • A creamy, dairy-free option is oat milk. Due to the presence of soluble fibres, it can aid in slowing digestion and keeping you fuller for longer. Additionally, it can stabilise blood sugar levels and may lower cholesterol levels.

  • Almond milk is a wonderful choice if you are on a low-carb diet because it has fewer carbohydrates than cow’s milk. Despite having a low protein content, it is a good source of the antioxidant vitamin E. Additionally, keep an eye out for sweetened items because they can contain extra sugar.

  • Honey – Due to its antimicrobial and antibacterial characteristics, honey is frequently used as a cough or sore throat treatment. To make your hot chocolate healthy, look for high-quality honey that does not include any additives. You can also add some finely chopped nuts to make it a more delightful and healthier option.

  • Coconut sugar is a less processed version of sugar that is produced from the sap of coconut trees. This is so that the sap may be removed and dried in the heat, which gives it a brown colour. Mineral traces like magnesium and potassium are also present. It has a lot of calories though, so if you want to lose weight you will need to limit your consumption of other sugary meals.

Remember that 10% of your daily calories should come from added sugar; if you do decide to add sugar to your hot chocolate, make sure you are not eating a lot of other foods that are high in sugar.

If you want to lose weight the better option is to avoid extra calorie, fat and sugar consumption. So, try to avoid sugar if you are on a weight loss regimen.

While hot chocolate can be made healthy, it is also vital to keep in mind that, depending on how you make it, it should be consumed in moderation. Of course, this does not mean you have to stick to the low-calorie options all the time but you can enjoy them once in a while as you like.

It helps to reduce inflammation, promotes heart and brain health, maintains blood sugar levels, helps in weight management, and healthier skin are just a few health advantages of cocoa.

It is nourishing and simple to incorporate in novel ways into your diet. If you want to maximise the health advantages, use dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa or non-alkalised cocoa powder.

If you are going to utilise chocolate, keep in mind that it still includes considerable amounts of sugar and fat, so eat it in moderation and alongside a healthy, balanced diet.

Varsha M,
Senior Clinical Dietitian, Simplyweight