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

McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Dietitian, Founder and CEO

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