Why You Should Ditch Coffee For Hot Cacao This Winter

Nothing says "cozy winter afternoon" like a warm beverage in your favorite mug—next to a crackling fire, perchance? But when that treat happens to be coffee or tea, it also says "full of rage, can't sleep 'til 2am."

Solution: Hot cacao offers all the belly warming and generalized cozying provided by its more commonplace counterparts—minus the often intense caffeine jolt you get from those rivals.

Why not make this season the Winter of Hot Cacao? Check out these convincing reasons to make hot cacao your cold-month beverage of choice.

1. It's the perfect nutritional boost

By sipping hot cacao, you're not just treating yourself to something delicious (that too, though!). Cacao powder offers up fair amount of iron, magnesium and potassium, minerals that support healthy bodily functions by delivering oxygen throughout the body, helping regulate blood sugar, enabling your ability to build muscle, and more.

Then, of course, there's the antioxidant factor. Cacao (chocolate before it's been processed) is one of the richest sources of flavanols, free radical fighting agents that have been linked to better cholesterol levels, blood vessel health, lower blood pressure and more. In a classic study from Cornell University, hot cacao had an antioxidant concentration that was close to twice that of a similar serving of red wine, between two and three times the strength of green tea and as much as five times stronger than black tea.

Helpful hint: Look for cacao powder that's been cold pressed, a process that preserves these vital nutrients by utilizing beans when they're raw rather than roasted. Big Tree Farms' cacao powder, for example, is clinically proven to be two and a half times higher in antioxidants and twice as high in calcium and magnesium than conventionally processed cacao powder.

2. It's an unmatched all-around antidote for the colder months

From bummed-out mood to defeated immune function and dull skin, it seems like there's nothing the cold and gray of winter can't depress. Guess what? Cacao addresses a bunch of them.

The stuff's antioxidant load keeps your body's cells healthy and ready to fight infection by cold, flu or other common wintertime bug. And that blah-looking skin? Antioxidants can fight wrinkles and premature aging (seriously: some people use cacao powder as facial masks).

Hot cacao may even deliver you from the doldrums. Cacao is high in certain amino acids that act as precursors of dopamine, a hormone in the body that prompts feelings of pleasure.

3. It's a pick-me-up that won't turn your afternoon into a rousing session of chase-the-mood

With its snack-portion caloric content and mild caffeine bump, hot cacao provides just the right amount of energy stimulus without setting you up for coffee's trademark jitters and lovely crash-and-burn finish.

Enjoy hot cacao a few hours after lunch and you're getting about a sixth of the caffeine content compared to a cup of coffee. So reasonable.

4. It's not the sugar bomb you think it is

The key to taking advantage of all that hot cacao has to offer? Stop thinking about the conventional stuff. Just as coffee and tea enthusiasts have learned not to make a habit of the calorie-laden "frap" drinks available at major retailers, a hot cacao connoisseur knows that the prepped hot chocolate drinks you find on the shelf aren't a component of a healthy midday snack. In fact, companies such as Big Tree Farms suggest hot cacao be enjoyed with just water to let the simple ingredients shine!

Hot cacao doesn't have to be weighed down by gram after gram of health-harming sugar. For starters, consider healthier sugar alternatives like coconut sugar, which delivers bonus minerals and all the sweetness, minus cane's appetite-boosting sugar high (Big Tree is the only brand that tests its sugar's glycemic index, by the way). You can control how much sugar you add—it should be just enough to barely overcome the bitterness of the cacao powder.

We just have to mention—you can come taste Big Tree Farms' cacao powder just minutes after harvest. Enter our Win A Trip To Bali (yep, that's our locale) contest through end of February and…you know the rest!

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