(NaturalNews) From happy childish squeals of delight during a snow storm to a cozy winter corner wrapped in the seductive lusciousness of sweet warmth, nothing touches the heart or belly like a cup of delicious hot chocolate. The food of the gods, according to ancient Mayans has recently taken center stage on the medical scene because of its amazing healing properties; making sacred chocolate one of the best loved, and most devoured superfoods on the planet. And because earth is the only place you can get chocolate, you may as well stay healthy and stick around to drink more.
If you're addicted to chocolate, it's because your body knows a good thing. The healthy benefits from chocolate are derived from high levels of antioxidants that increase nitric oxide levels in the blood vessels, enhancing circulation. Additionally, chocolate reduces blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, protects the retina, enhances moods, stops coughing, increases blood flow to the brain, prevents diabetes and protects skin against UV damage. Bet you never knew eating chocolate and vegetables were both good for you when you were a kid.
Unsweetened cocoa or Dutch processed?
Natural, unsweetened and Dutch processed cocoa are both tangy, and vaguely bitter tasting; however, natural cocoa is slightly acidic. The acidity helps balance the body's pH and retain the full impact of its health benefits. Dutch processed cocoa is treated with an alkalizing agent to smooth the taste; removing the acidity. The process destroys many of the flavanols, reducing its superfood powers.
The heavenly elixir
Originally, ancient Olmecs and Mayans made hot chocolate by mixing ground cocoa beans with water, wine and chile pepper. Over time, sugar and milk became common additions. Today, nations around the world have their special hot chocolate mixes and you can take advantage of some of them for treating various health conditions.
Consider adding a pinch of cayenne pepper to help clear chest congestion or an upset stomach. A small piece of raw or candied ginger improves blood flow and circulation, calming nausea. A dash of red wine helps the heart. Antitussive properties of honey relieve a cough. Adding cinnamon and replacing sweetening with stevia helps control blood sugar. A sprig of mint or basil relieves a case of acid reflux.
Vegan or not - The recipe
There are as many hot chocolate recipes as there are hot chocolate aficionados. Adjust as you like for quantity and richness. This is a wonderful recipe for vegans or for those who prefer real cream. Makes one serving.
In a 14-16 oz. mug add two well-rounded teaspoons of cocoa powder, preferably a premium, unsweetened organic chocolate. Heat 12 oz. coconut milk. Remove from the heat just before it starts boiling and pour a very small amount into the cup, stirring with a spoon or whisk until the cocoa melts. Add the rest of the coconut milk, leaving room for additional cream. Add a pinch of sea salt to the steaming mug, one cinnamon stick, about half a teaspoon of vanilla extract or a pinch of raw vanilla powder, stevia to taste, and organic or raw heavy cream, plain or whipped.
Coconut whipped cream may be substituted and is easy to make from a chilled can of coconut cream. Or add marshmallows, nutmeg, or a tiny pinch of cayenne.
For a richer chocolate taste, substitute bittersweet, Mexican or white chocolate for the cocoa powder. Between one and a half to two ounces of chocolate makes a comparable cup of chocolat chaud.
Check the links below for various international hot chocolate recipes such as Belgian, French, Aztec, Mexican, Italian and Jamaican. Each provides its own distinctive twist.
JB Bardot is an herbalist and a classical homeopath, and has a post graduate degree in holistic nutrition. Bardot cares for both people and animals, using alternative approaches to health care and lifestyle. She writes about wellness, green living, alternative medicine, holistic nutrition, homeopathy, herbs and naturopathic medicine. You can find her at The JB Bardot Archives at www.jbbardot.com and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jbbardot23 or on Twitter at jbbardot23 or https://twitter.com/jbbardot23