Anti-Inflammatory Cacao Drink
Welcome back for a special one today. This is one of my favorite drinks of late. A healing elixir of note. A milk-less hot cacao drink. The perfect way to start the day – packed with so many good things like maca powder, chaga powder, raw cacao powder, turmeric, cinnamon and star anise as well as a good dose of freshly grated ginger to add a pinch and a punch for any day of the month. Honestly, this drink got me through exams. Giving me a good energy boost and a perfect study break pick-me-upper. What’s great about this drink, too (besides the fact that’s its really delicious) is that it has no milk - not even plant based milk. Although you can add some if you really want to. To be honest though, you don’t even miss the milky-thang in this recipe. Particularly if you make it with the intention of it being a healing hot elixir drink. The thing with drinking creamy, milky things is that it can often lead to mucus production – even if it’s a plant based milk. Changing over to a plant based milk definitely reduces the mucus-forming nature of the milk, but doesn’t eliminate it. Hence why after a creamy vegan latte sometimes you can still feel slightly nasal-y and phlegmy. So, when making this healing drink I wanted to create something that was delicious, but something that was light and “clear”. I had personally never had a “hot chocolate” drink without milk, and initially I thought it wouldn’t be very nice. But this hot cacao drink is truly delightful.
I’ll give a small overview of each ingredient and why it’s so darn good and healing below. If you’d like to skip straight to the recipe, keep scrollin’.
Let’s talk about superfoods for a moment. Firstly, I would like to make my position on Superfoods clear. I think Superfoods are great, they are an awesome supplement to ones’ diet – providing an intense boost of vitamins, minerals and micronutrients that aid in maintaining ones’ health. They are nutritional powerhouses, there is no doubting that. They are nutrient-dense, and when you look at the definition of “nutrient-dense” you understand why these foods are deemed nutrient-dense and thus "superfoods". Nutrient dense foods are foods that contain a vast and varied amount of nutrients for a relatively low amount of energy/calories. This is why superfoods like spirulina, maca, chia seeds and the like are considered superfoods. Because for very few calories/energy/volume they give an extraordinary amount of bio-available nutrients to the body. Note how it’s mostly (if not only!?) plant foods that are considered superfoods.
However, I am a firm believer in the fact that one should eat a nutrient-rich diet and simply use superfoods as a supplement if that option is available to you. But, superfoods are by no means essential to increasing health provided you are eating a varied, colorful, abundant diet full of fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts & seeds. Our everyday dietary choices and food items can be considered superfoods if we make the right food choices. Think kale, broccoli, chard, dandelion greens, peas, tahini, watercress, arugula. All of these foods are incredibly nutrient dense. In my opinion health lies in all the everyday choices you make - ranging from what you eat, to your internal self-talk, to your patterns and behaviors, to the people you choose to surround yourself with. Including nutritious foods into your everyday meals, will help to make every meal an opportunity to heal and nourish yourself.
Having said all of that, I do love a good superfood kick from time to time. And I am fortunate enough to be able to. This drink is one such superfood kick.
In Siberian folklore, the chaga mushroom was deemed the “King of Mushrooms”. It is one of the most nutrient-dense medicinal foods out there and has potent immune-supporting properties. Chaga is especially high in vitamin B2 and D2. It is also extremely high in antioxidants – there are various sources that claim it is the highest antioxidant food out there above raw cacao and then other sources say it is second to raw cacao. Either way, it is very high in antioxidants which help to protect the body against free radical damage. It is supposedly good for psoriasis due to its’ powerful immune-supporting properties (psoriasis is an auto-immune skin disorder). It is most commonly consumed as a tea, in smoothies and other drinks/elixirs.
Maca is a Peruvian superfood, grown at extremely high altitudes in the Andes mountains. It is said that the Inca warriors ate maca root before going into battle because it was seen as a warriors’ foods that would give them strength, stamina and immense power. It has a wide variety of trace minerals and other phytonutrients. Maca is high in vitamin B1, B2, C and E. It is also high in minerals and trace minerals such as magnesium, copper, selenium, potassium, calcium, and then zinc, iodine, copper to name a few. It contains 20 amino acids, seven of which are essential amino acids. Maca is a potent adaptogen, meaning it works with your body to provide what it needs in order to enable an improved overall adaptability of the body to various conditions. Some of the benefits of maca powder are increased energy, endurance and vitality, balanced hormones, immune-system support, improved clarity and mental function and an elevation of mood to name a few.
Raw cacao is an incredibly healing and health supportive item to be reckoned with! It is known to have the highest antioxidant levels in any one food item on the planet. But before you go running to the shops to buy chocolate candy bars, it is only this nutritionally potent when in its’ raw, unadulterated state. Raw cacao is one of the richest sources of antioxidants found in food! It also has anti-depressant properties due to a compound called monoamine oxidase inhibitors which cause the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine to remain in the blood stream for longer, thus elevating mood. Raw cacao is also a wonderful source of magnesium. Magnesium plays a very important role in the overall functioning of the body – particularly with regards to metabolism of food, transmission of nerve impulses and synthesis/formation of fatty acids and proteins. So let’s get cacao-ing!
Turmeric is part of the ginger family. It has powerful anti-inflammatory properties and is therefore linked to reducing pains of arthritis when taken regularly. There are three potent phytochemicals found in turmeric and together they are referred to as curcuminoids. Curcumin is responsible for the slightly bitter taste of turmeric and is the active compound within turmeric that holds all the healing power.
Cinnamon is harvested from the “inner bark of several tree species from the genus Cinnamomum”. Cinnamon is high in antioxidants, it is anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and immune-boosting. It has high levels of manganese and also has relatively good levels of calcium, iron and vitamin K. It has various other trace minerals and vitamins too, making cinnamon a great source of adding not only a warming, soothing flavor to dishes but also adding in extra nutrients.
AND NOW, to the long awaited recipe!
· ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
· ¼ teaspoon turmeric
· 1 cardamom pod
· 1 star-anise
· 1 teaspoon chaga powder
· 4 teaspoons raw cacao powder
· 1 teaspoon maca powder
· Heaped ¼ teaspoon freshly grated ginger
· 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon sweetener – maple syrup, brown rice syrup, honey etc
· 4-5 drops liquid stevia (if you’re like me and like it a little sweeter)
· 1 ¾ cup boiling water
· ¼ cup cold water
1. In a glass jar or big mug, place the cinnamon, turmeric, chaga, maca, raw cacao, star-anise, grated ginger and sweeteners.
2. Crush the cardamom pod with the bottom end of your knife, or if you’re lazy like me sometimes, just use your teeth. Add to the mug/jar.
3. First place the cold water into the jar to ensure the heat of the boiling water does not destroy any of the nutrients in the powders. Then add the boiling water, mix well and let it sit for 1-2 minutes to let it steep. Taste and adjust to your palette.
4. You can strain it if you’d like to but personally, I like getting all the bits and bobs – more nutrients and it makes it more interest to drink.
NOTE: sometimes, I add a rooibos teabag in there, too which adds a lovely gentle smoothness to the drink.