A warm mug of hot chocolate is a comforting treat after spending time outside in the cold and frosty weather. And while the classic drink is a good pick for warming up, you may be wondering, is hot chocolate good for you and your health?
Depending on how you prepare your hot chocolate, the beverage may provide some beneficial vitamins and minerals. But — we repeat — the preparation and nutritional contents of your drink will make all the difference, as some cocoas contain more sugar than anything else.
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Take a look at the nutritional differences between popular preparation methods below so you can learn to make yourself the most nutritious mug of hot chocolate possible.
Hot Chocolate Nutrition Info
Different brands of hot chocolate will vary at least slightly in terms of their calories, fat, sugar and carbohydrates. The type of milk (or water) you use will also affect the hot chocolate's nutritional profile. The following data represents the nutrition facts for an average, 1-cup serving of homemade hot chocolate made with low-fat milk, according to the USDA:
- Calories: 221
- Total fat: 3.4 g
- Saturated fat: 2.1 g
- Carbs: 38.3 g
- Fiber: 1.2 g
- Sugar: 32.8 g
- Protein: 9.4 g
If you're wondering if drinking hot chocolate can be good for you, you'll be pleased to know the beverage is a good source of certain vitamins and minerals, per the USDA:
- Calcium: 312.5 mg
- Vitamin D: 2.5 μg
- Potassium: 558 mg
- Phosphorus: 307.5 mg
This average cup of hot chocolate contains 24 percent of the recommended Daily Value (DV) of calcium, 12 percent of the DV of vitamin D, 12 percent for potassium and 25 percent for phosphorus, according to the USDA.
Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate Nutrition
Maybe you're in the mood for a nostalgic taste of your childhood, or perhaps you're just genuinely craving Swiss Miss. The ease of the Swiss Miss envelope has made it a popular hot chocolate pick.
Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate is a brand of instant hot chocolate made from dark European cocoas. Depending on your nutritional needs or preferred taste, you can find a variety of products under the Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate label, including:
- Milk chocolate with or without marshmallows
- No sugar added
- Reduced calorie
- Dark chocolate
- Cocoa coffee blends
Of the Swiss Miss instant cocoa mixes, the Reduced Calorie Hot Cocoa Mix provides the least amount of calories. The nutritional profile for this mix is:
- Calories: 40
- Total fat: 0 g
- Carbs: 6 g
- Sugars: 6 g
- Protein: 3 g
While a serving of Swiss Miss Reduced Calorie Hot Cocoa Mix won't impede much on your diet goals, it's worth noting that the drink contains very few vitamins and minerals, especially when made with water:
- Calcium: 80 mg
- Vitamin D: 0 μg
- Potassium: 250 mg
Cocoa Powder Nutrition
While the two can look very similar, cocoa powder is a different substance than what generally comes in a hot chocolate mix. In other words: Cocoa powder and hot chocolate powder are not the same. The calories and fat content in cocoa powder is also different from that of hot chocolate.
Cocoa powder is an unsweetened chocolate product. It comes from cocoa beans, which are produced by the cacao tree that is farmed in many tropical countries. The beans are processed into chocolate liquor, most of the fat is removed and the remaining paste is dried and powdered, according to the International Cocoa Organization.
In larger servings, cocoa powder is a great source of protein, iron and other nutrients.
Because of its nutritional profile, some people, including body builders, may consider cocoa powder a health food. While you wouldn't need a full cup of the powder to make a hot chocolate drink, a 1-cup serving does have an impressive nutritional profile.
One whole cup of cocoa powder contains, according to the USDA:
- Calories: 196
- Total fat: 12 g
- Saturated fat: 6.9 g
- Carbs: 50 g
- Fiber: 32 g
- Sugar: 1.5 g
- Protein: 17 g
A 1-cup serving of cocoa powder is also rich in vitamins and minerals — particularly iron.
- Calcium: 110 mg
- Potassium: 1311 mg
- Phosphorus: 631 mg
- Iron: 12 mg
The same amount of cocoa powder contains 8 percent of the DV of calcium, 28 percent of the DV of potassium, 50 percent of your phosphorus and 66 percent of your iron, per the USDA.
Cocoa powder is used in many chocolate recipes, like for cake, cookies and yes, even drinking chocolate. Because it lacks a sweet taste, it'd be unlikely for someone to drink cocoa powder without adding anything to it (like milk and a sweetener). This help explains why the nutritional profile for cocoa powder is so different from that of hot chocolate.
For drinking chocolate, you'd likely use only a small amount of cocoa powder, which you'd then add to milk.
Cocoa powder nutritional information for 1 tablespoon is as follows, according to the USDA:
- Calories: 12
- Fat: 0.7 g
- Carbs: 3.1 g
- Sugar: 0.1 g
- Protein: 1.1 g
Some may drink cocoa powder for its caffeine content, as it is considered a mild stimulant — but the amount of caffeine hardly compares to that in coffee.
A cup of coffee brewed with water contains 95 milligrams of caffeine, and a cup of cocoa made with 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder, contains just 12 milligrams of caffeine, according to the USDA.
Beyond caffeine, cocoa contains theobromine, a chemical also found in tea, but not in coffee. This stimulant, reportedly milder than caffeine, is perhaps part of the reason chocolate seems to elevate mood, per the USDA.
Cocoa powder can function as a flavor enhancer. The dutching process— in which cocoa beans are soaked in an alkaline solution, according to King Arthur Baking Company — mellows the acidity of the flavors and allows the more intricate flavors to come through.
The complexity of these flavors provides a great flavor boost to what might otherwise be boring "health foods." This may be one of the reasons so many healthy children's snacks contain some cocoa.
- USDA: "Cocoa powder"
- National Institutes of Health: Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Iron
- Harvard School of Public Health: Fats and Cholesterol
- Mayo Clinic; Added Sugar: Don't Get Sabotaged by Sweeteners; April 2011
- USDA: "Hot Chocolate made with low-fat milk"
- Swiss Miss reduced calorie hot cocoa mix
- USDA: "Top 10 Chocolate Products Highest in Theobromine"
- King Arthur Baking: "Dutch-process vs. natural cocoa"
- International Cocoa Organization: "Processing Cocoa"