Hot chocolate: over-indulgent or health-friendly?

Hot chocolate: over-indulgent or health-friendly?

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Whether you view hot chocolate as an indulgent late-night treat or a harmless way to warm up on a cold day, there's no denying that this classic drink is comforting. But is hot chocolate actually healthy?  

Let’s explore the best ways to enjoy luxurious, smooth hot chocolate without overdoing it on the sugar and decadence.

Is hot chocolate healthy?

Unfortunately, there’s no hard and fast answer to this! As with many treats, hot chocolate can be made healthy or unhealthy depending on how to prepare it, how often you drink it, and the ingredients you include.

A cup of sweetened hot chocolate loaded with marshmallows, syrup, and whipped cream is certainly not going to be as nutritious as a cup of herbal tea. High in fat, sugar, and empty calories, this kind of beverage is not ideal for regular consumption. 

That being said, there are some positive health effects associated with drinking cocoa-rich hot chocolate. Cocoa powder is packed with nutrients, including iron, magnesium, and calcium that are great for your complexion. Meanwhile, its high fibre content can promote digestive health.

What’s more, cocoa also contains flavonoids (flavanols). These powerful antioxidants are thought to be responsible for a whole host of health benefits:

  • Studies suggest that flavonoids may reduce blood pressure by improving nitric oxide levels in blood and enhancing your blood vessel function. 
  • They also reportedly improve blood flow to the brain, boosting cognition and reducing the risk of strokes and dementia.
  • If you’ve ever found comfort in chocolate when feeling stressed or emotional, this could be to do with the cocoa content. Several studies have shown how cocoa’s flavanols can promote a sense of calmness, leading to feelings of contentment and happiness.  
  • Counter-intuitively, cocoa may also lower your risk of Type 2 Diabetes. Of course, it’s vital to enjoy cocoa products sensibly and in moderation if you have Diabetes or may be at risk of it. If you’re interested in learning more about safe amounts of cocoa and chocolate when navigating Diabetes, speak to your doctor.

What’s the most healthy hot chocolate?

When it comes to hot chocolate, there are many different ways to make it. However, not all of them are equally healthy…

Powder or chocolate flakes? 

Often, instant hot chocolate powders are packed with sugar. You may also find that cheap hot chocolate powder contains palm oil or refined vegetable fats in place of cocoa butter. At Love Cocoa, we’ve endeavoured to create a hot chocolate powder that’s mellow and soothing yet still features a higher cocoa content than many other options on the market. Our 40% Hot Drinking Chocolate is palm oil-free and has no milk powder, making it vegan-friendly.

In general, you’re likely to find that hot chocolate made with real chocolate flakes is healthier than commercial powders. As well as offering an irresistibly creamy texture, hot chocolate flakes (which you can melt straight into hot milk) usually contain less sugar, more cocoa, and no palm oil. Instead, cocoa butter lends a melt-in-the-mouth creaminess for a satisfying experience. 

White, milk or dark? 

Another consideration when looking for the healthiest hot chocolate variety is the type of chocolate you go for. 

White chocolate is often much sweeter than milk or dark chocolate. It’s a great choice for those who enjoy a more subtle flavour. If you enjoy white hot chocolate, look for one that contains a higher percentage of cocoa butter. This is less likely to be brimming with sugar. You also want to avoid artificial sweeteners, flavourings, and colourings. 

Milk hot chocolate is a delightfully mellow choice. It usually contains more calcium than milk or dark chocolate (due to the milk content) and is, in general, healthier than white hot chocolate – providing you choose good quality chocolate with at least 40% cocoa. Our Milk Hot Chocolate Flakes contain a minimum of 45% cocoa and are free from palm oil. A hint of vanilla extract adds gentle sweetness without too much sugar.

Dark hot chocolate is usually the healthiest, due to its higher cocoa percentage. As with other varieties, look for dark hot chocolate with a lower sugar content. Our vegan-friendly Dark Hot Chocolate Flakes are packed with a minimum of 60% cocoa solids. We also only use natural peppermint flavouring in our Dark Mint Hot Chocolate Flakes – nothing artificial.

How to enjoy hot chocolate in a healthy way

As you can see, dark hot chocolate, made from real chocolate, could be considered the most healthy option – it all depends on the individual brand and variety you go for. You may indeed find a low-sugar milk hot chocolate powder that ticks all the right healthy boxes.

Once you’ve found the ideal hot chocolate base for you, how can you make sure you drink it in the most healthy way possible? Here are a few tips to get you started.

Enjoy in moderation

As tempting as it may be to have a comforting mug of hot chocolate morning, noon, and night, this is not the way to enjoy it healthily. As with any sweet treat, hot chocolate is best handled as a bit of a luxury. Moderation is key.

Besides, by keeping hot chocolate as an occasional indulgence, rather than an everyday drink, you can savour it more. Too much of a good thing may put you off – and where’s the fun in that? 

Why not try drinking your hot chocolate slowly, allowing each sip to delight your taste buds? That way, you can appreciate every mouthful without going overboard and ensure you still love hot chocolate just as much the next time you make it!

Consider your portion size

As well as sticking to hot chocolate as an occasional treat, you could also look at downsizing your portions. While you may be persuaded to go for the largest cup at your favourite well-known chain cafe, when making hot chocolate at home, you can always whip up a more petite serving. 

Instead of filling your largest mug to the brim, you could opt for a smaller cup. This is also a good time to consider the content of your drink. Often, a richer hot chocolate with a higher cocoa percentage will be more satisfying. As a result, you may not feel the need to guzzle down huge amounts. Go for quality over quantity and choose a premium hot chocolate variety.

Look for a high cocoa percentage

As we’ve mentioned, chocolate with a high cocoa content tends to include less sugar, making it a healthier choice for your hot chocolate. By opting for dark chocolate with a minimum of 70% cocoa, you’ll not only get a deeper, more nuanced flavour, but you’ll also benefit from less excessive sweetness and higher levels of antioxidants.

Think about your milk

If your go-to milk for hot chocolate is full-fat, you could try switching it up for a healthier treat. For a lower fat content, go for semi-skimmed or skimmed milk instead of whole. Cow’s milk also contains lactose, a type of sugar. Why not explore plant-based milk options to give your drinking chocolate a healthy makeover?

Whether you’re vegan or not, there are plenty of dairy-free milk varieties that are considered healthier than cow’s milk. Soya, oat, almond, and coconut milks can be a delicious addition to your hot chocolate. Most brands fortify their plant milks with calcium and B vitamins, so you won’t be missing out on the nutrients from cow’s milk. What’s more, most plant milk types tend to be lower in fat. 

If you choose plant milk, look for an unsweetened variety. You could consider using water instead of milk, too. Just remember that, while this may be good for boosting your water intake and lowering the calorie content of your drink, it may not be quite as rich and satisfying, leading you to drink more.

Refrain from decadent toppings

Marshmallows, whipped cream, chocolate syrup… the list of childhood favourites goes on when it comes to hot chocolate toppings. However, these additions tend to bring little in terms of nutritional value. Instead, they provide a whole load of sugar, artificial flavourings and colourings, and empty calories. 

A simple way to make a healthier hot chocolate is to stay away from those tempting toppers. Besides, by stripping things down and focusing on the hot chocolate itself, you can appreciate all those nuanced cocoa flavours more intensely. 

Luxury hot chocolate from Love Cocoa

As an occasional decadence or mixed into a healthier treat, hot chocolate makes a luxurious self-care delight or thoughtful gift for a loved one. And at Love Cocoa, our hot chocolate flakes are made with ethically sourced, high-quality cocoa for a satisfying drink that tastes delicious and guarantees cocoa farmers a fair price. 

Explore our hot chocolate collection today.