Despite its decadent-sounding name, pure cocoa powder—made by roasting and grinding the bean of the cacao plant—contains no sugar and is low in fat. In addition to drinking it in hot cocoa (more on that below), try dusting the powder on fresh fruit, oatmeal, or yogurt for a yummy kick that can help control sugar cravings.
Sweet Dreams: Relax: Enjoying a mug of hot cocoa after dinner probably won't leave you tossing and turning. A 2-Tbsp. serving of cocoa powder contains 25 mg of caffeine—about half what you'd sip in a cup of black tea (and a sixth of the jolt you'd get from coffee).
Don't Miss a Beat: Cocoa powder is a great source of flavanols, the same heart-healthy antioxidants found in berries and red wine. Here's how to maximize your dose:
- Opt for Natural. Many brands of cocoa powder are treated with alkali to neutralize acid, a technique known as the Dutch process. But that mellower taste means fewer antioxidants. Choose non-Dutch-processed cocoa, often sold as "natural," which has a stronger and slightly more bitter flavor. (But avoid substitutions when baking.)
- Mix it with soy or almond milk. Research suggests that proteins in cow's milk can reduce the body's absorption of flavanols. Consider making hot cocoa with water or a nondairy milk alternative, particularly if you're using Dutch-processed powder.
Fresh Factor:That half-empty can that's been in your cupboard since last winter? Go ahead and finish it. When stored at room temperature in an airtight, opaque container, cocoa powder maintains its taste and antioxidant levels for at least a year.
Avoid Sugar-Overload: Heaps of sugar turn hot cocoa into a calorie bomb. Instead, try adding just a pinch to your cup with ¼ tsp. of pure vanilla extract to kick up flavor. Or swizzle briefly with a peppermint stick.
Fabulous Fiber: A 2-Tbsp. scoop of cocoa powder delivers 4 g of fiber—roughly the amount in a serving of oatmeal!