When the nights get dark earlier and the word ‘hygge’ is cropping up everywhere, there is nothing I fancy more than cosying up with my favourite winter warmer!
A twist on the classic hot chocolate, this one is higher in antioxidants and is the ideal recipe for those of you who are looking for a dairy-free hot choccy!
Cacao vs Cocoa
Cocoa and cacao are the dried and fully fermented fatty seed of the fruit of the cocoa tree, Theobroma cacao. The differences between the two come from how they are processed, their taste and their nutritional values.
Cocoa undergoes more processing than cacao and is processed at a hotter temperature, causing it to lose some of its vital nutrients and antioxidants. Cocoa is often used in chocolate bars or to make cocoa powder, but it is often mixed with sweeteners and other additives.
Whilst cacao has more of a bitter taste, it is raw and retains more antioxidants than cocoa. Many of the benefits come from epicatechin, a flavanol (polyphenol compound) in cacao (Higginbotham, et al. 2015).
Without all of the usual additives and sweeteners, cocoa is still rich in phenolic phytochemicals, with many of these being investigated due to their antioxidant capacities (Lee, et al. 2003).
Studies have also shown how consuming cocoa has strong beneficial links to cardiovascular health, including the lowering of blood pressure (Sudano, et al. 2012). Not only that, but cocoa has also been proven to have the highest antioxidant activity over that of green tea, black tea and red wine (Lee, et al. 2003). Yay to more reasons for drinking hot chocolates!
Ultimately, though, both cocoa (when not mixed with additives and sweeteners) and cacao can be beneficial for your health. However, cacao is more favourable due to its higher antioxidant content, which is why we always try opt for this instead.
2 tsp cacao powder
2 medjool dates (pitted)
1 cup coconut milk or almond milk
Simply blend all of the ingredients together and then heat up on the hob, giving it a good stir. Once hot enough to your liking pour into mugs and enjoy!
Higginbotham, E and Taub, PR. (2015). ‘Cardiovascular Benefits of Dark Chocolate?’, Current Treatment Options Cardiovascular Medicine, 17 (12), p. 54, NCBI [Online]. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26456559 (Accessed: 1 August 2018).
Lee, K.W. Kim, Y.J. Lee, H.J. et al. (2003). ‘Cocoa has More Phenolic Phytochemicals and a Higher Antioxidant Capacity than Teas and Red Wine’, Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 51 (25), pp. 7292-7295, NCBI [Online]. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14640573?dopt=Citation (Accessed: 1 August 2018).
Sudano, I. Flammer, AJ. Roas, S. et al. (2012). ‘Cocoa, Blood Pressure, and Vascular Function’, Current Hypertension Reports, 14 (4), pp.279-284, NCBI [Online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22684995 (Accessed: 1 August 2018).
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