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Eat Well Oct. 25. 2013

McKel’s Hot Chocolate

Oct. 25. 2013
McKel Hill, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel Hill, MS, RDN, LDN


Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate, chocolate. In lieu of the National Chocolate Day on October 28th and Halloween on the 31st,  I thought it was perfect timing to share with you all some of the nutrition facts about chocolate, different forms of chocolate, health benefits, and my favorite simple recipe on this celebratory day! Let’s be real, I don’t need a “national holiday” to celebrate chocolate, I treat almost everyday as a national chocolate holiday by satisfying my sweet tooth with chocolate in some form, mostly with what I call McKel’s Hot Chocolate.

Chocolate, cocoa, cacao…

Many of the health related benefits you see with chocolate and that I’m referencing to are unprocessed cacao powders, raw chocolates, and dark chocolates all of which contain no added preservatives, colorings, dairy, and do not come in a candy shell. Unfortunately, many people generalize health benefits and research on cocoa for all types of chocolate giving themselves and excuse or justification that eating whole candy bars daily is okay… that’s not what I’m suggesting. I’m recommending incorporating unprocessed or least processed forms of cacao in your diet instead of mass produced and poorly grown/harvested/manufactured chocolates.

Chocolate has many health related benefits, most of them coming from an active compound in cacao (a.k.a. chocolate), called theobromine. Theobromine is a bitter alkaloid which acts as a natural vasodilator (a.k.a. dilates your blood vessels to allow more blood flow and oxygen), a diuretic (a.k.a. increasing urination to rid body of excess fluids), and a heart stimulant. You can see how these benefits just mentioned can have a positive effect on reducing high blood pressureheart healthcholesterol lowering benefits, PMS, and possible mental focus/acuity.

Nutrient breakdown of CHOCOLATE

  • Calcium
  • Copper
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorus
  • Sodium
  • Iron
  • Manganese
  • Zinc
  • Caffeine } 230mg/100g, which is the equivalent to about 2 cups of fresh brewed coffee (variants with coffee type)
  • Theobromine } 2057mg/100g
    • Darker varieties of chocolate will contain higher amounts of theobromine compared to milk/lighter chocolates.
  • Flavonoids

Ladies, ever wonder why we may crave chocolate during our time of the month with menstruation? It’s not just for emotional comfort or out of habit, but it may be our bodies natural way of telling us that we need more magnesium in our diet. Magnesium is often in lower quantities during women’s menstruation due to the minerals lost at this time. Let’s get a little nutrition nerdy here. Chocolate is perfect for not only replenishing our bodies with magnesium, but also improving our mood as chocolate contains bioflavonoids such as penylethylamine (PEA a dopamine copycat), anandamide (“chemical bliss”), and serotonin among other brain chemicals which act to increase the both dopamine (a hormone that helps control our brains reward/pleasure centers) and serotonin (a hormone that stabilizes mood, regulates appetite, and gives focus/energy), which help control our cravings and improve moods.


  • Cocoa Powder // Also called, cacao, cacao powder, or cocoa solids. This is the mixture of solids after the cocoa butter (fat) has been extracted from the cacao bean.
  • Cacao Beans // the foundation of chocolate, a fully dried and fermented bean used for processing and making into different forms, i.e. butter, nibs, powder, etc.
  • Cacao Nibs // the cacao bean that has been chopped and broken into very small pieces. These nibs since are part of the bean contain high amounts of theobromine. Nibs can be eaten as is or ground to a thick paste to be used in chocolates.
  • Cocoa Butter // fatty component of the cacao bean. It comprises of about 50% of the dry weight of the cacao bean and also gives chocolate the ability to melt. It’s a pale yellow fat derived from the cacao bean, which can be used for eating but also in natural skincare products as an all natural moisturizer.
  • Milk Chocolate // sugar + cocoa solids + milk powder or condensed milk
  • White Chocolate // sugar + cocoa butter + milk solids, it doesn’t contain actual cocoa powder solids and many countries don’t recognize white chocolate as chocolate at all!
  • Dark Chocolate // cacao solids + fat + little sugar
  • Raw Chocolate // a minimum of %75 cocoa solids, contains higher amounts of magnesium because of no processing is done.
  • Baking Chocolate (unsweetened) // cooled, hardened chocolate liquor, unprocessed with sugars


Do I need to purchase chocolate fair trade?


There’s a lot of controversy about the chocolate production and processing around the world, mainly due to child labor and other acts of slavery used in cocoa farms. I’m going to link several informative blogsarticles, and more articles about this topic, as it needs it’s own dedication. I highly suggest and recommend you start ONLY purchasing fair trade chocolates!

Brands of chocolates that you can welcome into your home and share: Alter Eco, Endangered Species, Madecasse Chocolate, Equal Exchange, Green & BlacksTheo, Taza, DAGOBA, and Sweetriot, Nutiva Naturals raw powder.

I wanted to showcase cocoa in a very simple recipe today and one of my favorites for this cold season, hot chocolate. This hot chocolate is full of flavor with minimal ingredients and a little kick of heat from the cayenne. I love using warming spices such as cinnamon and cayenne (amongst others) around this time of year to heat my body from the inside out and also keep the metabolism and digestion strong, efficient, and moving. The combination of cayenne, chocolate, and cinnamon aid in this warming effect in the body and also taste wonderful together!

McKel’s Hot Chocolate
Author: McKel Hill, MS, RD, LDN
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 2
A rich, creamy, non-dairy hot chocolate with a hint of spice.
  • 2 cups almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons of raw cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon of organic coconut oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • pinch of sea salt
  1. In a small saucepan, bring the almond milk to a gentle simmer and take off heat.
  2. Add all remaining ingredients in and whisk for 2 minutes or until everything has combined.
  3. Pour in your favorite hot tea/coffee mug.
  4. Top with Coconut Whip (recipe on blog) and a dash of cinnamon.
  5. Serve warm/hot.
  6. Enjoy!

What’s your favorite form of chocolate to eat? Have you tried the other forms of chocolate before such as cacao? Share below, I love hearing what you all have to say. I hope you celebrate this day and enjoy McKel’s Hot Chocolate! Send me some pictures and don’t forget to use the hashtag #nutritionstrppd so I can see all your beautiful creations on Twitter/facebook/Instagram!

xx McKel

The Recipe

Serves 2



  • 2 cups almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons of raw cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon of organic coconut oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • pinch of sea salt


  1. In a small saucepan, bring the almond milk to a gentle simmer and take off heat.
  2. Add all remaining ingredients in and whisk for 2 minutes or until everything has combined.
  3. Pour in your favorite hot tea/coffee mug.
  4. Top with Coconut Whip (recipe on blog) and a dash of cinnamon.
  5. Serve warm/hot.
  6. Enjoy!

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Did you try it out?

Share Your Thoughts & Images

  • I never knew there was so much to know (nutritionally) about chocolate until I read this. Consider me enlightened! I love picking out new chocolate bars to try when I go to Whole Foods. One or two squares is the perfect after dinner treat.

    • Yey for chocolate Enlightenment! I’m glad you enjoyed this post and I’m sure you’ll love the hot chocolate 🙂

  • Love making homemade hot cocoa, and you are so right about craving it during that time of the month. I always add a dash of cinnamon and sea salt – makes all the taste difference.

  • If the name of my blog is not obvious enough, I love chocolate. I eat dark chocolate basically every day. Good to know it’s not too bad for me 😉

  • This was such a fabulous recipe!! I added a little bit of coconut sugar because I like mine sweetened. My mom, sister, and I are now all enjoying a creamy mug of this hot chocolate along with some fall apples dipped in your raw caramel. Thank you so much for sharing these, because we can now enjoy healthy treats without worrying that it’s going to mess with our digestion! 🙂

  • I LOVE Taza’s darkest chocolate! It is sold at the farmer’s market that comes to the Boston University campus every week and it’s amazing. Not only is it made locally, but it’s also the least processed, with the least amount of ingredients, yet most delicious chocolate bar I’ve ever found-and it’s been a long search! So glad it makes the list of acceptable brands. 🙂

  • Theresa

    Hey! I don’t have cacao powder available to me and only have the Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa powder available. Do you think it’s not nutritious because it has been processed? Are baking chocolate(unsweetened) a healthy choice to have? Thank you!

    • Hi Theresa, great question you can use any unprocessed cocoa powder- but if you don’t have access to any of those use a unsweetened very dark chocolate! 🙂

  • Marla

    Mmmm, this hot chocolate is so good. I’ve had it two days in a row now. I do add a bit of sweetener, but I was surprised how good it was even though it had less than the average amount of sweetness. I use Equal Exchange cocoa powder, which is processed with alkali, but I’ll try Rapunzel raw cacao the next time I need cocoa powder. Thanks.

    • Hi Marla, I’m so glad you’ve been enjoying it! Thanks for sharing and hope you come back soon 🙂

  • sujata rai

    i always crave for chocolate before and during my menstruation and i never understood why until i found you…thank god…but i have one specific question, i am really trying hard to get flat tummy…so is it ok in this situation to include this hot chocolate in my diet???

    • Hi Sujata!
      I’m so glad you’ve found my blog as well! Great question- yes, if you make this hot chocolate with no added sugar/honey/maple syrup and just use stevia it’s essentially very low calorie. Enjoy xx -m.h.

  • Sarah

    Great recipe. The coconut oil reminds me of bulletproof coffee – brilliant addition here, works really well. I added a bit of organic cane sugar because my almond milk is unsweetened, but otherwise made the recipe as is and am really enjoying it.

  • sujata rai

    thank you so much for you response….

  • Christina

    Hi McKel! I was wondering how you store your cacao powder? Should it go in the fridge? I’ve picked up a bunch of super foods and I’m still learning about where everything should be stored to preserve all the nutritional goodness! Thanks!

  • Monika

    I surely want to try this hot chocolate milk. I just want to make sure if this is good for diabetics as well.

  • Hi McKel! I was wondering, is the addition of coconut oil just for the taste or does it have another function?

    And I just wanted to say that I love your blog and you inspire me with every recipe!

    • The coconut oil helps emulsify the cocoa powder and all the ingredients! It also tastes amazing while giving a boost of healthy fats 🙂

  • Karen R

    Your recipe sounds amazing, but I am confused… I looked at the brands you recommended but don’t see raw cocoa powder available for sale. Did you grate the chocolate bar or use a powder? What brand do you use? I am anxious to try this. Help… 🙂

    • Nutiva naturals makes a great raw cocoa powder, otherwise just make sure it’s unprocessed which you can find anywhere!

  • Ruth

    I made this almost every Saturday morning. I usually add 1 1/2 tsp. Of lovely raw honey for just a little bit of sweetness. This surely beats Starbucks hot chocolate which has a lot more sugar in it.

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