Friday, February 3, 2012

Heart-y Hot Chocolate

February is American Heart Month to raise awareness about the leading cause of death in our nation, cardiovascular disease. Unfortunately, despite the billions ($444 billion in 2010 per the CDC) spent, nothing is as effective as dietary changes. Those who consume a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, beans/legumes, and whole grains have a lower risk of heart disease. In fact, some studies have concluded a vegetarian (vegan) diet is more effective than cholesterol lowering medication in addition to lowering blood pressure. Think it's too late?? Nope...several researchers including Dr. Dean Ornish have shown that even if people with advanced cardiovascular disease adapt a low fat vegetarian diet, along with a few other lifestyle changes, the progression of heart disease can be stopped, even reversed. Now that's reason to have an apple a day.

We can always find new ways to tweak our healthy habits or shift away from the more unhealthy options. By using unsweetened cocoa powder and full fat soy milk in this recipe, we've still managed to create the desirable richness, but with a fraction of the fat/saturated fat. Bonus: 1 cup has 6g of soy protein that may help decrease cholesterol. I don't know about you, but I could go for hot chocolate more often than not. Think of it as another healthy treat to consume in moderation... after all, that relaxing warm sensation has to soothe the stressful heart.

Hot Chocolate

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar, depending on how sweet you like it
1/3 cup hot water
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 cups soy milk, regular or vanilla
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract (if using regular soy milk)
dash of cinnamon, if desired

1. Combine first three ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat. 
2. Stir regularly until mixture begins to boil. Boil, still stirring, for 1 minute.
3. Remove from heat and stir in milk and vanilla, if using.
4. Pour into 4 mugs and sprinkle with cinnamon.

**Want a mocha? When you stir in the milk, add desired amount of brewed coffee.
**Like mint? Dissolve a hard mint while hot chocolate is still hot on burner.


  1. I've heard a lot of hype about coconut milk and almond milk. I generally drink skim milk and on occasion soy milk. What’s the difference between these four types of milk?

    1. Almond, soy, and coconut milks are all plant based. cholesterol, fat/saturated fat, or hormones associated with animal products. The plant based milks can all be used in cooking, your favorite baked goods, or consumed like you regularly would. The vitamine fortification will vary, but most of the plant based milks have more Calcium, Vitamin D, and Vitamin B12 added.

      When it comes to choosing what plant based milk will work best for you, it's really more about preference. The varieties of flavors (regular, vanilla, chocolate), brands, and light vs regular will all taste a little different. If you don't like the first one you try, I encourage you to try a couple more before throwing in the heart and health will thank you for it!