You say Cacao, I say Superfood – Hold the Milk and Sugar, Please!

Cocoa TeaFrom the SF Gate Healthy Eating:

Dark chocolate may reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, according to information from New York University’s Langone Medical Center. Cocoa powder has even more of the substances responsible for chocolate’s health benefits, and unsweetened cocoa has the advantage of being low in calories. It also contains essential minerals that support your heart, bones and immune system.

A popular breakfast drink in the Caribbean is Cocoa Tea.  The following recipe is the base, most of us add lots of sugar and condensed or evaporated milk to make it sweet and creamy, some even thicken it with flour.  Try it without the embellishments for a superfood breakfast experience with your saltfish and itals.  Your first cup will be a strange voyage, but you will find that pure cacao has lots of flavors and textures by itself, and you will spare yourself more of the stuff that causes the problems the cocoa can help your body keep at bay.

Ingredients:

Nutmeg from Dominica
Nutmeg from Dominica

One stick of Spice (or Cinnamon, in the Caribbean, there’s a different variety of Cinnamon than in the US, we call it Spice, but they are very similar and interchangeable)

One branch of Ginger, halved

One whole nutmeg, fresh grated (or 2 tsp ground nutmeg.  Fresh grated is best if possible)Spices and Cocoa

3-4 ounces of unsweetened Caribbean cacao or bakers chocolate (make sure it is pure nib with no additives)

Method:

In a large saucepan,  place the spice stick, the ginger and the grated or ground nutmeg in about 1 quart (1 1/4 liters) of cold water. Bring to a boil.

Turn the heat down to a simmer.  Add the cacao or chocolate in whole pieces – they will melt in the water.  Strain into cups and drink.

For stronger flavor from the ginger and spice, boil those and then allow to soak in the hot water for at least an hour before turning the fire back on to a simmer and adding the chocolate.

More health benefits of unsweetened chocolate:

Just 1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder contains 3 to 9 percent of the recommended daily intake of iron, manganese, magnesium and zinc. In addition to carrying oxygen, iron helps make red blood cells and is essential for your immune system. Manganese is a component of enzymes that form cartilage and bones, metabolize nutrients and function as antioxidants inside every cell in your body. Magnesium helps produce energy and maintain a normal heart rhythm. Zinc is vital for the production and development of new cells, including immune system cells. Without enough zinc, the number of bacteria-fighting cells goes down and you become more susceptible to illness.

Flavonoids are the plant-based substances responsible for many of cocoa’s health benefits. There are many different types of flavonoids, but cocoa is a good source of two: epicatechin and catechin. Natural unsweetened cocoa powder has 196 milligrams of epicatechin in every 100 grams of powder, compared with unsweetened chocolate squares which have 142 milligrams and dark chocolate candy with 84 milligrams. Sweetened cocoa mix and milk chocolate have even fewer flavonoids. The flavonoids in cocoa function as antioxidants that help prevent systemic inflammation. Epicatechin relaxes the muscles in blood vessels, which improves blood flow and helps lower blood pressure, according to research published in the March 2012 issue of the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.”

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