By Dr. Janet Brill
This is the most wonderful time of the year, the month where we celebrate loved ones, strangers, the world and ourselves. This is also the time of year where baby, it’s COLD out there! Perfect for sleeping late, keeping the flannels on and cozying up by the fire with a nice toasty-warm cup of hot cocoa. I’m not talking the super-sweet stuff—made with high fat milk and tons of sugary fake “chocolate flavored” syrup—but the palate pleasing, low fat and truly healthful calorie-conscious grown-up version. After all, we now know that dark cocoa is packed with nutrients that benefit your brain and body. So here are 4 tips for celebrating the season by making that perfect cup of sinfully delicious hot cocoa:
For the healthiest, tastiest hot cocoa you’ve ever had, start by selecting the right main ingredients…
1. Cocoa. Use natural unsweetened cocoa powder and avoid the “Dutched” variety. Look for “natural unsweetened cocoa” and avoid anything on the label that reads “processed with alkali.” That means staying away from “Dutched” cocoa, as that is sign that the chocolate has undergone processing, including alkalizing, that depletes disease-fighting antioxidants (flavanols).
2. Milk. If you go with cow’s milk and want to limit your fat intake, use 1% or fat-free milk. But cow’s milk isn’t your only option—there are plenty of unsweetened alternatives to choose from. Consider almond milk, which has fewer calories than fat-free cow’s milk and is rich in calcium and vitamin E…oat milk, which provides a type of fiber that may help reduce cholesterol…hemp milk (derived from shelled hemp seeds), which contains fatty acids believed to fight heart disease and arthritis…rice milk, which tastes much like cow’s milk but can be tolerated by some people who are allergic to cow’s milk…or regular or light (reduced-fat) soymilk, which contains heart-healthy soy protein.
3. Sweetener. Experiment to see how little sugar you can add to your hot cocoa and still satisfy your taste buds—you may be pleasantly surprised at how the other flavors come through when they’re not overpowered by sugar. Or swap sugar for a low-calorie sweetener, such as Splenda or stevia.
4. Spices. Cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger are packed with disease-fighting antioxidants. Experiment with these and other favorite spices and flavorings to put your own personal spin on your cocoa.
Give yourself the gift of health and celebrate this most wonderful time of year by indulging in a daily cup of flavanol-packed hot cocoa. It’s a guiltless pleasure that your body and mind will surely thank you for!
A Happy and Healthy Holiday Season to All!
Dr. Janet’s European-Style Thick Soy Cocoa
In a saucepan, mix cocoa, sweetener, cornstarch and cinnamon. Whisk in 6 ounces of the milk to dissolve dry ingredients and create a thick paste (like chocolate frosting). Add the remaining 6 ounces of milk and whisk until smooth. Place over low heat and stir until steaming (do not boil). You might consider topping with a fat free whipped cream to complete your guiltless splurge.
Recipe excerpt from the book: BLOOD PRESSURE DOWN: the 10-step program to lower your blood pressure in 4 weeks–without prescription drugs