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Healthy Eats and Repeat

Highlighting Food, Recipes, and Ideas for a Healthy Lifestyle
Cocoa Powder

Cocoa Powder

Posted by Caitlin Huth - water

This winter weather is not lending itself well to writing about fruits and veggies. Alas, nothing seasonal in Illinois right now. So this month, I am going to focus on chocolate, specifically cocoa powder.

This seems like a good month to talk about cocoa since February hosts Valentine's Day and American Heart Month, both of which often include chocolate during celebrations.

From the cacao tree, cocoa beans are removed from their pods, dried and roasted to a desired point, and ground into a paste called cocoa liquor. The liquor can be pressed to separate cocoa butter (primarily fat) from cocoa solids. The solids are ground into a powder.

Nutritionally, a tablespoon of cocoa powder contains 12 calories, less than 1g fat, 3g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 1g protein, 12mg of caffeine, and small amounts of some vitamins and minerals. Cocoa contains flavonoids, a class of antioxidants, which some research shows may benefit heart health by making blood vessels more flexible and helping lower blood pressure.

With cocoa butter removed, cocoa powder adds great chocolate flavor to recipes without adding in lots of fat and calories. Be aware cocoa powder is different from bars of chocolate, which are rather high in fat and calories since they retain the cocoa butter. (I will save the chocolate discussion for another post.)

  • Buy: Look for unsweetened cocoa powder, which is what most recipes are designed to use. While sweetened cocoa powder (a blend of sugar and cocoa powder) may be available, use it with caution as your recipe may not turn out the way you expect – and will add extra calories and sugar.

For the highest flavonoid content, choose regular unsweetened cocoa powder over Dutch or Dutch-processed cocoa. Dutch cocoa includes an alkaline ingredient (such as baking soda) which can help the cocoa blend better in water, but destroys much of the flavonoids.

If using cocoa in premixed products – such as instant hot cocoa mix, brownie mix, cookie mix, etc. – be aware the calories, fat, and sugar will be higher because of the other ingredients. Of note, avoid products with trans fat. These fats raise your risk of heart disease. If you find the phrase "partially hydrogenated" in the list of ingredients, there is some trans fat in that product.

Some mixes may say "sugar free" or "no sugar added" which often indicates the addition of artificial sweeteners. If that is of concern to you, buy products without those sweeteners.

  • Price: Different brands will sell at different prices, so decide what fits into your budget and meets your taste preferences.
  • Store: Keep cocoa powder in its original container or move to an air-tight container. Store in a dark area, such as a closed cabinet, at room temperature. Cocoa powder will have the best flavor when used within about a year. Since cocoa powder contains a little bit of fat, it may develop off flavors after a while as fats begin to turn rancid.
  • Prepare: Measure as much as you need for your recipe. If cocoa powder settles or clumps, stir or press out clumps with a fork before measuring.

If you have a recipe calling for a square of unsweetened chocolate, try this substitution: 1 (1-oz.) square of unsweetened chocolate = 3 tablespoons cocoa powder + 1 tablespoon oil

  • Eat: Cocoa powder is useful in a variety of baked goods, drinks, and even in savory dishes. Ever added a little cocoa powder to your favorite chili recipe?

References:

Hot cocoa is a classic way to use cocoa powder. This recipe is just as easy to make as opening a premixed packet.

Hot Cocoa (Serves 4)

For a ready-to-use mix, combine the cocoa, sugar, and cinnamon in an air-tight container and store for about 6 months. Like it less sweet? Reduce the sugar by about half.

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp cinnamon (optional)
4 cups (32 ounces) skim milk plus additional milk

1. In a small bowl, combine cocoa, sugar, and cinnamon, if desired.
2. Divide evenly among 4 mugs.
3. To each mug, stir in just enough milk to cocoa mixture to make a thick paste.
4. Heat 4 cups of milk in a microwave for 3 minutes on high or until hot. (Or heat milk in a saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until hot.)
5. Slowly add 1 cup (8 ounces) of hot milk to each mug, stirring to dissolve cocoa paste mixture.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 210 calories, 2g fat, 105mg sodium, 44g carbohydrate, 4g fiber, 10g protein



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