Chocolate Lover’s Revenge! Hot cocoa tops the list for antioxidant punch

Researchers at Cornell University have shown that hot cocoa contains more antioxidants per cup than a similar serving of red wine or tea. The study adds to growing evidence of the health benefits of cocoa and points to a tasty alternative in the quest to maintain a diet rich in healthy antioxidants – chemicals that have been shown to fight cancer, heart disease and aging, the researchers say.

Many recent studies have touted the health benefits of red wine and tea, both of which are known to be high in antioxidants. Although researchers have been aware for some time that cocoa is also rich in these compounds, its relative contribution in comparison to other beverages has been unclear. Using special analytical techniques to evaluate the total antioxidant content in each beverage, the researchers showed that, on a per serving basis, the antioxidant concentration in cocoa was the highest: It was almost 2 times stronger than red wine, 2-3 times stronger than green tea, and 4-5 times stronger than that of black tea.

One limitation of the study is that the “hot chocolate” used was simply cocoa powder and water – without the milk and sugar common in most commercially available mixes. It is not clear what effect these additives would have on the antioxidant properties or comparative health benefits. For those who want the tasty treat but also want to avoid extra sugar and dairy products, healthier alternatives are possible: Skim, soy or rice milk can substitute for regular milk, while stevia can replace the sugar. Although you can enjoy cocoa either hot or cold, the hot version tends to trigger the release of more antioxidants than its cold counterpart, the researcher says.

American Chemical Society, Nov 5, 2003