Researchers at Cornell University have shown that the hot beverage cocoa contains more antioxidants per cup than a similar serving of red wine or tea and may be a healthier choice.
The study, said to be the most complete comparison to date of the total antioxidant content of these three popular drinks, adds further evidence to the health benefits of cocoa.
Many recent studies have touted the health benefits of red wine and tea, all of which are known to be high in antioxidants, chemicals that fight the free radicals responsible for aging and disease such as cancer. 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, said the Cornell team.
"Although we know that antioxidants are important for good health, nobody knows the exact daily amount required per person," said Chang Yong Lee, head of the study and a professor of food chemistry in Cornell's department of Food Science and Technology.
The study, published in the December 3 issue of theJournal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, tested a cup of hot water containing two tablespoons of pure cocoa powder, roughly equivalent to the amount of cocoa in a normal-size packet of instant hot chocolate; a cup of water containing a standard size bag of green tea; a cup of black tea; and one glass of red wine (California Merlot).
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 - almost twice as strong as red wine, two to three times stronger than green tea, and four to five times stronger than black tea.
Although cocoa can be consumed either hot or cold, the hot version tends to trigger the release of more antioxidants than its cold counterpart, the researcher said. Other popular beverages, such as coffee and cranberry juice, also contain high levels of antioxidants but were not evaluated in this particular study.