A recent Japanese study found that a daily cup of hot cocoa may help prevent cold and flu. This study, including animal and human trials, found that cocoa extract helped cells fight off Influenza A and B viruses and several strains of avian flu. The scientists concluded that there were three ways cocoa does this:
1. It helps cells avoid absorbing the virus
2. It helps the body activate its immunity response
3. It has an anti-inflammatory effect
Another interesting note from these researchers was that hot cocoa’s healing compounds remain in the mouth, throat and stomach - places where the flu virus is often also found.
Of course, over –processed cocoa mixes with high sugar content do little to help prevent sickness. In fact, the amount of sugar can offset any health benefits that cocoa may have. To get the greatest health benefit from hot cocoa, it’s important to look for the darkest chocolate. It’s also important to find organic when possible. Several companies like Equal Exchange and Aztec offer organic and Free-Trade instant hot cocoa mixes. These will also have lower sugar content than some national brands.
Some other health benefits of hot cocoa are its high antioxidant and flavanoid content, increased blood flow and help with coughs. There was also a recent Italian study that showed cocoa’s effectiveness in treating stress and depression. So a hot cup of cocoa may just be the perfect holiday drink this year.