Don’t feel too guilty about making a cup of hot chocolate on a rainy day. Cocoa powder has a myriad of benefits if you go easy on the sugar.
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Many people avoid chocolate because they believe that it is fattening and unhealthy. Although it is true that many chocolate products are unhealthy and calorie dense, it is due to the addition of substances such as sugar and not because of the cocoa itself. In fact, cocoa powder, which comes from cocoa beans, provides numerous health benefits.
The cacao tree produces clusters of pod-shaped fruits that contain seeds (or beans), which are fermented to develop their flavour and brown colour. They are then dried, roasted and grounded into paste. The fat, or cocoa butter, is removed from the paste, leaving the dry and unsweetened cocoa powder.
What are the benefits of cocoa powder?
Two tablespoons of cocoa powder contains only 25 calories and 1.5g of fat. It also provides 8 per cent of your daily recommended intake of magnesium, and 14 per cent of fibre and iron needed daily, which are essential minerals for overall health. Cocoa also helps to lessen LDL cholesterol or bad cholesterol, improves blood flow to arteries and lowers blood pressure.
Cocoa is also a potent source of flavonoids, which are powerful antioxidants that help to fight cancer, heart disease and ageing. It also possesses anti-depressant, mood-elevating properties. This is why chocolates are usually the feel-good snack we turn to when we feel down, or when we need to de-stress after a long day at work.
Hot chocolate is one of the most common and tastiest use of cocoa powder. It is also frequently used as an ingredient for desserts such as milkshakes and brownies, or sprinkled on top of fruits or pancakes for a fuss-free breakfast.