Do you and your kids love hot chocolate? There is an easy way to make it far healthier – and it will taste just as delicious! This therapeutic hot chocolate is very comforting and has a calming effect on the mind and nervous system which makes it a great night cap. I love having it myself as a satiating healthy “dessert”.
Here is a list of ingredients with a description of each. You’ll find the recipe below.
RAW CACAO POWDER:
Cacao powder comes from the same source as cocoa powder – the cacao beans of the cacao tree. Both are de-fatted (most of the cacao fat is removed). The difference is in the processing. Raw cacao is unheated, keeping enzymes and other nutrients intact. It has a more full-bodied, fruity and bitter flavor. I prefer it actually.
One of my kids likes it and the other far prefers cocoa powder (totally fine, I think this drink is super healthy even with the cocoa).
If you choose to purchase raw cacao, it is found in the supplement section of natural grocery stores and is usually quite expensive. I’ve found better deals on Amazon (I’ve purchased this one before) and in stores such as Marshall’s or TJ Maxx.
Behind cacao’s full-bodied flavor is a wealth of nutrients. It is chock full of antioxidants (20 times that of blueberries!) and magnesium (which explains why people crave chocolate when they are deficient in Mg). There are numerous other benefits that you can read about here.
In recipes, you can use raw cacao powder in place of natural cocoa powder (but not dutch-processed which has been made alkaline). I’ve used it in muffins, brownies, smoothies and in frosting for cupcakes (YUM)!
Collagen is a protein that is stockpiled with amino acids (good for brain health, building muscle and healthy skin, hair and nails). It is sourced from the connective tissues of animals and has higher concentrations of inhibitory (calming) amino acids than does muscle meat.
Collagen is especially high in glycine which is one of the most important inhibitory neurotransmitters. Glycine plays a role in a slew of functions from regulating digestion and blood sugar levels to stabilizing emotional health to building muscle (it is one of the three aminos that form creatine). But it is probably best known for its calming effect on the mind and nervous system. It has been shown that oral glycine supplementation does elevate brain levels of the neurotransmitter (source).
We use marine collagen because it has a slightly better profile of aminos for brain health and seems to be the cleanest and most metabolically compatible variety for humans (source). I like this brand which is sourced from wild-caught Hawaiian red snapper scales and third-party tested for heavy metals. It is pricey, but lasts a long time! Flavorless too!
One of our children was found to be deficient in a couple of amino acids after taking the OAT (organic acids test). It’s probably fairly common, but there were some symptoms linked to the deficiency (recurring tongue blisters) that signaled a need to do something about it.
Instead of supplementing with single amino acids, we are opting to use collagen regularly to boost all aminos in balance. It seems to be helping, in conjunction with a few other things we are doing.
Single amino-acid supplementation has its place, but I prefer a more conservative approach, especially with the kids. Amino acids compete with each other and using free amino acids (rather than a combination as is found naturally in foods) can throw off the balance which can lead to trouble.
I also use collagen in pancakes, muffins and smoothies.
I don’t make a big deal out of the sweetener. My favorite to use is coconut palm sugar, but maple syrup or honey would also be great. My son is having his with regular organic sugar which is fine. I’m more concerned about him getting the collagen into his system.
We are alternating between almond milk and raw cow’s milk from a local, trusted farm. Other good milks to try would be coconut milk, hemp milk, goat’s milk or a blend. Or try this homemade walnut milk! If I use a lowfat milk, sometimes I whisk in a little ghee for added healthy fat (you can also emulsify it in with a hand blender).
RECIPE: THERAPEUTIC HOT CHOCOLATE
Makes one small cup
2 teaspoons raw cacao powder
2-3 teaspoons collagen (I use two for the kids and three for adults)
2 teaspoons sweetener of choice (coconut sugar, maple syrup, etc., to taste)
6 ounces very hot milk
Pinch of salt (optional)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
Spoon cacao, collagen and sweetener into a cup. Pour in very hot milk and stir until the powdered ingredients are dissolved. (I usually stir again once it has been sitting a minute to get anything that might have settled.) If desired, add in a pinch of salt and vanilla extract.
Photo credit: Deepa Paul