Never has there been a food that means so much to so many. Chocolate is revered by people across the world for good reason. It's botanical name, Theobroma cacao, literally translates to "Food of the Gods." There's no better time to highlight this superfood than February when Valentine's Day, American Heart Month and hot chocolate season all collide.
Though chocolate has been a part of Valentine's Day for as long as we know it, its drool worthy, rich flavor also boasts some impressive health benefits to stake its mark in American Heart Month. While this is great news for chocolate lovers, it's important to distinguish the differences among the different types of chocolate. Four pumps of chocolate syrup in your latte or marshmallow filled candy bars don't quite come with the same benefits as 100% raw cacao, which is loaded with flavanols, a super healthy phytonutrient. These flavanols can support cardiovascular health, circulation, and much more.
Let's look at some of the science behind this powerful health food and see how you can apply it to your own daily routine. A study out of the University of Barcelona found daily consumption of 40 grams of cocoa powder with skim milk for 4 weeks boosted HDL (the heart healthy cholesterol) and reduced LDL (the dangerous cholesterol).
Another recent review, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, looked at the results of 42 studies to determine overall effects on cardiovascular disease. This review supported the study above, with improvements in cholesterol, but also found reductions in blood pressure, improved circulation and improved insulin resistance. And these results may not be limited to just adults. An Australian study found 7 grams of dark chocolate (equal to about 1 Tbsp of Navitas Raw Cacao Powder) daily improved children's blood pressure as well.
Isn't it nice to know science supports the benefits of having a little homemade hot chocolate on a cool February evening? Here's my favorite recipe:
Antioxidant Powerhouse Hot Chocolate (by Dr. Christopher Mohr, Ph.D RD)
2 Tbsp Navitas Naturals Raw Cacao Powder
1 to 2 Tbsp Navitas Naturals Coconut Sugar
1 Cup unsweetened, Vanilla Almond Milk (or low-fat Dairy Milk)
1 tsp Vanilla extract
dash Cayenne Pepper (optional)
Mix all ingredients with milk in a medium saucepan. Heat it over low to medium heat, without causing it to boil. Stir continuously with a whisk to dissolve the sugar and distribute the cacao. Serve when hot.
Want another way to enjoy the heart healthy benefits of cacao? Try sprinkling Navitas Cacao Nibs in a high protein Greek yogurt. This adds a boost of flavor and gives a nice little crunch.