Though we've become accustomed to the little packets of instant hot cocoa, like most classic foods, Hot Chocolate originated from real, whole food ingredients. So, I thought I'd take on the challenge of concocting a delicious, wholesome version of this wintertime favorite. Whole milk, cocoa, sugar - that's the easy route! My version is packed full of nutrient rich ingredients, reducing the heavy fats & refined sugars without sacrificing that rich hot chocolate goodness. Added Bonus? It's dairy free :)
Healthy Hot Chocolate
4 cups unsweetened almond milk
12 medjool dates, pitted *
4 tablespoons raw cocao (or unsweetened baking cocoa)
seeds from one vanilla bean (or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, or to taste
In a high speed blender, combine all ingredients and blend on the highest setting until it is smooth & frothy, about 2 minutes. Add mixture to a small saucepan and heat until warmed through, but not yet simmering. Ideally, you want to keep the heat low enough to maintain the nutritional content of the ingredients, while still getting that hot chocolate experience.
* If you don't have a high speed blender, soak the dates in almond milk overnight (or for at least 2 hrs) so that they soften up. If you soak them overnight, they will blend beautifully in any blender :)
So, what actually makes this "Healthy" Hot Chocolate, and not just "A little bit better for you" Hot Chocolate? Let's take a look at this simple list of ingredients.
1. Unsweetened Almond Milk vs. Whole Milk:
Almond milk is low in calories, at only 40 calories per eight ounce serving, and low in fat (and zero saturated fat). It contains only three grams of fat per eight ounce serving. It is lactose, gluten, casein and cholesterol free, and it is higher per once in Calcium than cows milk. Additionally, it's high in a number of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin E, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, selenium, iron, fiber and zinc.
2. Medjool dates as a sweetener:
Medjool dates are a wonderful sugar alternative. Though they are indeed a high calorie food (because of their high natural sugar content), their nutritional content make them a FAR better choice of sweetener than most other sugars. They are very high in fiber, especially soluble fiber, the type that promotes and helps maintain healthy blood glucose and cholesterol levels. They are an incredibly mineral rich food - including copper, manganese, magnesium and vitamin B-6, but most notably potassium, a mineral essential to a range of basic physiological processes. According to “The Real Vitamin and Mineral Book,” body cells contain more potassium than any other mineral. It helps regulate blood pH, is required to maintain intracellular fluid balance and is used to convert glucose into usable energy. Because of this wonderful balance of nutrients, the sugar from dates will provide much longer sustained energy than from a refined sugar source.
3. Raw Cacao
In it's RAW form (which means that it has not been heat processed) Cocao powder is one of the highest antioxidant foods available on the market. Check out this chart:
ORAC scores for the Top 10 Antioxidants Foods (per 100 grams)
1) Raw cocoa powder* 95,500
2) Raw cacao nibs* 62,100
3) Roasted cocoa powder 26,000
4) Organic Goji Berries* 25,300
5) Acai Berries* 18,500
6) Dark Chocolate 13,120
7) Milk Chocolate 6,740
8) Prunes 5,770
9) Raisins 2,830
10) Blueberries 2,400
Source: US department of Agriculture/Journal of American Chemical Society
*Brunswick Laboratories MA, USA
It's also incredibly mineral rich, particularly in potassium and magnesium. Oh, and it's delicious!
Additionally, using whole vanilla bean means you are choosing a Whole Food over a Processed Food - always good! And, cinnamon is a wonderful, healthful spice boasting blood sugar regulation properties and offers support to the cardiovascular system.
BOOM! Healthy Hot Chocolate!
To your Health & Love of Food,