There is nothing more pleasing than the relaxation and attractiveness of drinking a hot chocolate. This self-indulgent drink has a spot in most of our hearts as a warming winter treat. A great hot chocolate can range from the smooth potions so wickedly thick that a spoon could stand in the cup, to the velvety and creamy easy drinking chocolate. Hot chocolate powders vary between nutrient packed and healthy, to the not-so-healthy options. Here at Buddha Organics we have put this blog together to help you recognise a healthy hot chocolate and motivate you to produce an enjoyable and indulgent homemade drinking chocolate.
Are all hot chocolates the same?
Cacao, cocoa, and drinking chocolate... whilst all of these hot chocolate powders might taste amazing, there is a huge variance between the ingredients and nutrition of a healthy and not-so-healthy hot chocolate variation. Delving into the different ingredients of a hot chocolate blend is important to producing a nutritious and tasty drink at home.
Cacao vs. cocoa
The main ingredient of a hot chocolate is, of course, the chocolate, and that derives as powder from the cacao bean. Cocoa powder is also known as a cacao powder and is extracted from the cacao bean. The beans are processed to separate the cacao butter from the cacao bean and once the fat has been removed, the beans are milled into a fine powder. The important difference between cacao and cocoa is the way they are processed.
Raw cacao powder is made by cold-pressing un-roasted cocoa beans. This means that all the natural antioxidants, enzymes and nutrients remain intact. Cacao is often considered to be the healthier option.
Cocoa looks the same but it’s not. Cocoa powder is raw cocoa that has been roasted at high temperatures. Sadly, roasting changes the molecular structure of the cocoa bean, reducing the enzyme content and lowering the overall nutritional value.
Benefits of cacao powder
Cacao powder is known to have a higher antioxidant content then cocoa and has often painted as a hero superfood and rightfully so. This powder is packed with nutrients and vitamins that have great health therapeutics.
- A rich source of minerals – magnesium, iron, potassium, calcium, zinc, copper and manganese.
- Protects your nervous system – cacao is high in resveratrol, a potent antioxidant, also found in red wine, known for its ability to cross your blood-brain barrier to help protect your nervous system.
- Boosts your mood - Cacao is a fantastic mood booster. It can increase levels of certain neurotransmitters and brain chemicals, such theobromine and phenethylamine, which act as mood boosters and anti-depressants.
Hot chocolate ingredients: it's not just about the cacao
Once you have established the quality of the cacao powder, it is important to turn your attention towards the rest of the ingredients that make up your hot chocolate blend. You can have the finest cacao powder, but if it is blended with sugar, artificial additives, preservative and emulsifiers, the nutritional value of the drink will be diminished. I encourage you to become a food detective and investigate each ingredient on the label. Avoid hot chocolate powders with very long ingredient lists.