Hot Chocolate May Aid the Heart
The weather outside is getting crisp and many of us want to batten down the hatches for the winter. Of course, getting out and about is important. We need exercise to stay healthy. Being alone in our homes isn’t good for our health or our moods. We have lives that must be led, even at the time of year when we would rather just curl up on the couch with a good book.
Once our day is done and we head back home we can envelope ourselves in the coziness the season demands. One of the great perks of the season is hot cocoa. Hot chocolate can be very high in sugar and fat. That makes it feel off limits. However, lighter hot chocolate is possible. And, some research has found that it may have great health properties. That makes us feel pretty good about enjoying the delicious drink.
Cocoa is rich in antioxidants. It has twice the amount of red wine and three times as much as green tea. The antioxidants play a large role in health and can fight cancer and lower inflammation. The American Heart Association (AHA) has found that the antioxidants in cocoa can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. The flavonoids also lower cholesterol, improve blood flow, lower heart disease risk and reduce blood clots. A study found that dark chocolate helped lower blood pressure.
Another boon for the heart may be the milk in hot chocolate. Milk has been associated with lower occurrences of strokes. Cocoa has been linked to better mental health and mood, better memory and a lower risk of Alzheimer’s.
The jury is out on how much good hot cocoa can actually do outside of lab tests. Most commercially available hot chocolate is loaded with sugar and fat. Those additional ingredients tend to derail the healthy properties of other foods. We do like this hot chocolate recipe; it has only 42 calories and free of both carbs and cholesterol. With nutrition like that, we can enjoy the drink whether it’s good for us or not. Getting cozy has benefits of its own and the mental health boost from the hot beverage are well worth 42 calories in our book!
On the topic of chocolate’s benefits, the AHA isn’t sold. The amount of cocoa solids to sugar and fat in chocolate tends to lower the health benefits. However, they aren’t against chocolate as part of a healthy diet. They just don’t want people to believe it’s a cure-all. "If you enjoy chocolate," said Dr. Alice Lichtenstein of Tufts Univ., "the important thing to do is choose the type you enjoy the most and eat it in moderation because you like it, not because you think it is good for you."