Creamy Antioxidant-Rich Hot Chocolate with Cacao Powder

cacao powder hot chocolate

There’s nothing like a creamy cup of cacao powder hot chocolate any time of year, in my opinion…

But December is here, and after living in TX for almost a year and a half, it’s still very strange not having any snow (hey, I’m not complaining!).

Regardless of the weather, I do love me some cozy, festive winter things this time of year (i.e. enjoying a fire in the fireplace and sipping on this creamy hot chocolate with cacao powder, to name a few). 🙂

ornament photo for hot chocolate with cacao powder blog post
(I actually snapped this photo myself in a Christmas shop back in August, during Michael’s family “beach week” in the Carolinas!)

The simple, antioxidant-rich cacao powder hot chocolate recipe I’m about to share with you has been my latest and greatest after-dinner treat these past few weeks!  It’s rich, warming, nourishing, satisfying and it realllly completes the evening meal if you ask me…

But first… What IS an antioxidant? 

Most people have HEARD of antioxidants (it’s kind of become a buzz word these days), but what I’ve found is not many people actually know what they are or what antioxidants do for us.

Antioxidants are naturally occurring substances found in certain foods/herbs, and are proven to enhance our mood/cognitive function, keep us looking and feeling younger, and cut down our risk of certain diseases, through delaying and counter-acting a process called oxidation (AKA cell damage). 

Fun fact:  Learning about antioxidants was my initial gateway into the world of nutrition back in 2004!

Food sources of antioxidants

There are literally hundreds of “superfoods” and herbs that contain antioxidants, including (but not limited to):

  • Any natural source of vitamin C
  • Berries, pomegranates, & red grapes
  • Coffee (woohoo!!)
  • Green & white tea
  • Leafy greens
  • Nuts & seeds
  • Pomegranates
  • Sweet potatoes & other orange veggies
  • Tomatoes
  • Turmeric

And… let’s not forget one of my FAVORITE ways to enjoy antioxidants – any idea?

You guessed it – chocolate (cacao)! 😀  

(As if I needed any more reasons to eat chocolate…)

What’s the difference between cocoa and cacao?

Chocolate and cocoa powder come from cacao pods, which grow on trees in central and South America.  “Cacao” is the name of the plant in its unrefined state, before it goes through some stages of processing.  When gets processed, it becomes “cocoa”. 

They taste very similar and are both delicious!  But when I’m baking at home, I use cacao powder because of the extra benefits, given they taste pretty similar.  Cacao gives us a lot more nutritional bang for our buck!

Cacao benefits

Health benefits of cacao include but are not limited to:

  • Rich in minerals including potassium, iron and magnesium
  • High in fiber, with about almost 2 grams of fiber per tablespoon of cacao powder
  • Amazing source of antioxidants and flavonoids which have been shown to support heart health by reducing inflammation, thus lowering blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Anti-aging (antioxidants in cacao help reduce oxidative cell damage which causing aging and wrinkles!)

Antioxidant bio-availability

From a food science standpoint, there are certain factors that can amplify or impair our ability to use and absorb these wonderful antioxidants from our food and beverages!  For example:

  1. When combined with black pepper, the antioxidants in both green tea and turmeric become  130-2000% more potent/bioavailable (1, 2, 3).
  2. When tomatoes are cooked, their antioxidant (lycopene) becomes exponentially more powerful (4).

However, when it comes to cacao (and coffee and tea too)…

  • When combined with proteins from cow’s milk, sadly I’ve learned the antioxidants in green/white tea, coffee,  AND in chocolate (cacao) can become somewhat neutralized/deactivated. (5, 6, 7, 8).
    • That’s the underlying reason why dark chocolate has been labeled as “better” / “healthier” – Alas, I usually use oat milk or nut milk for this recipe, but there’s no shame in using normal cows’ milk – you just won’t get the antioxidants!  (Reality check: there is more to life than just consuming as many antioxidants as possible!)
      • For the record, I still eat milk chocolate when I feel like it, for no reason other than I enjoy it un-apologetically.  😉

Of course from a health standpoint, eating superfoods and consuming antioxidants is wayyy  more effective and impactful when built on a healthy nutrition foundation.  (Check out my Kitchen Alchemy E-course to learn more about that!)

I’ll spare you more fun facts about antioxidants… for now.

Until then, cacao powder hot chocolate remains my favorite way to sip on antioxidants.

Cacao Powder Hot Chocolate Recipe:

hot chocolate with cacao powder

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups milk or sub of choice (I’ve been on an oat milk kick)
  • 1/3 cup raw cacao powder (a lot higher in magnesium, potassium, iron and antioxidants than “normal” cocoa powder – opt for it if you’d like the extra bang for your buck!)
  • 1/3 cup real maple syrup or raw honey, or liquid sweetener of choice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 pinches of salt
  • Optional:  1 cinnamon stick or pinch of cinnamon or a cardamom pod, 1 scoop collagen peptides

Directions: 

  1. Pour the milk/dairy sub into a saucepan, and heat over medium heat until it’s visibly hot (steaming/simmering but not boiling). 
  2. Add the cacao powder first, slowly and whisk it until it’s blended in well.
  3. Add liquid sweetener, vanilla, salt and spices/collagen.
  4. Continue to whisk slowly over low-medium heat until it’s completely blended to your desire.  Enjoy on its own or with toppings of your choice (cinnamon, whipped cream, marshmallows etc). 

Happy sipping!  😀

<3 Jenna

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15284381
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3535097/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5664031/
  4. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/04/020422073341.htm
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24001682
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23442632
  7. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1365-2621.2006.01239.x
  8. https://www.nature.com/articles/4241013a

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