Next time you’re in the mood for a drive-through mocha, skip the line and make your own hot chocolate. “Chocolate has long been known to soothe the soul, but dark chocolate that has at least 70 percent cocoa has been scientifically proven to help the heart,” says Norman Love, founder of Norman Love Confections in Naples. “Dark chocolate also contains the amino acid tryptophan, which produces serotonin in the brain, promoting feelings of calm and well-being.”
The almond-shaped cocoa bean is heralded for its polyphenols, plant compounds said to help with everything from digestion to Type 2 diabetes to brain health. It also has a treasure trove of minerals such as sodium-balancing potassium, oxygen-carrying iron, and immunity-boosting zinc. For a healthful holiday treat, try Norman Love’s recipe for the Ultimate Hot Chocolate.
2 cups milk
In a small, heavy-bottom saucepan, heat milk over low-medium heat. Try unsweetened coconut, almond, or oat milk as dairy alternatives. Coarsely chop about 1/2 cup of dark chocolate as the foundation for your hot cocoa. Love prefers 70 percent Andoa Chocolate Bar ($7) made from organic, fair trade–certified cocoa beans from Peru. Slowly stir in the chocolate chunks until they melt. Stir to mix and then serve in individual mugs.
So Delicious Coconut Whipped Topping has just 2 grams of sugar and about a third less saturated fat than whipped cream. It rivals in taste to the starchy carb-and-corn-syrup-laden marshmallows.
Navitas Organics Cacao Nibs delivers an added boost of antioxidants. Unlike store-bought chocolate sprinkles, these have a bitter, fruitier flavor that can be mellowed with light roasting, giving your hot cocoa a s’mores-like essence.
Hailed for their anti-inflammatory benefits, cinnamon and cayenne pepper convert a plain hot cocoa into a fabulous Mexican hot chocolate. This flavor infusion means you can skip crushed peppermint candies.