I’m a cold-natured person, and I love warming up with a mug of hot chocolate. I’ve bought packets from mainstream brands like Swiss Miss and specialty brands like NibMor. For a long time, I even made it myself with two parts sugar to one part cocoa powder in a mug of hot water. Hot chocolate is one of my favorite beverages, but I have to be careful due to cocoa’s high copper content. I discovered a very different experience with one brand of hot cocoa mix over another, and each had very similar ingredients.
Hot chocolate became an obsession of mine when I would get cold, mainly in the evenings, at home while watching TV or relaxing in other ways. I would make myself a mug and enjoy it to warm up. I really liked Swiss Miss’s Dark Chocolate Sensation, but when I went dairy-free a few years ago, I had to find an alternative. At the time, I wasn’t aware of any brands at the store that were dairy-free, so I just made up my own with two parts sugar to one part cocoa in a mug of hot water. I enjoyed this hot chocolate very much and continued drinking it well after I had reintroduced dairy into my diet. However, at times I would end up with symptoms from wheat/gluten contamination, probably from contaminating either or both of the sugar and cocoa powder through improper handling, so my solution was to switch back to hot chocolate packets. These were easy to handle, and I don’t recall ever having issues with cross-contamination from the packets. I found Swiss Miss’s Simply Cocoa Milk Chocolate, which has just five ingredients. The instructions say to mix a packet with hot milk, but I’ve found that it’s just fine with hot water. It was good to be able to enjoy my hot chocolate obsession again. Even after I had to correct my diet for copper toxicity, I was able to continue enjoying it. I have not had issues with high copper from this hot cocoa mix.
Recently, I’ve noticed feeling colder at the office. I keep tea bags and sweetener at the office to make hot black tea when I need the caffeine after taking Benadryl. The black tea would have been just fine to drink for warming things up, but I really wanted hot chocolate. One evening after work, I had to go to Earth Fare to get a few things, and I thought while I was there I’d see what kind of hot cocoa mixes Earth Fare had. I looked and found one with ingredients very similar to the ones in the Swiss Miss Simply Cocoa, Dagoba Authentic Drinking Chocolate. Here are the ingredients for comparison.
Swiss Miss Simply Cocoa Milk Chocolate: sugar, cocoa (processed with alkali), nonfat milk, salt, natural flavor
Dagoba Authentic Drinking Chocolate: Cane sugar, cocoa, chocolate, milk
The extra chocolate in the Dagoba was actually a pretty minor difference. I maybe had two or three of the small pieces of chocolate in each serving of the hot cocoa I drank.
When I first tried a mug of the Dagoba Authentic Drinking Chocolate, it was on a day that I felt I’d had a decent amount of zinc-rich foods. While I noticed a little bit of a copper effect from it, it didn’t seem like it was very much. However, the next morning, my breakfast was pretty low in both copper and zinc. I had a mug later that morning and noticed more of an effect. It lasted on past lunch and later into the day. While it wasn’t major, it definitely made itself known, and it concerned me. The Swiss Miss never caused me issues. I began to suspect that the Dagoba mix just had more cocoa in it than the Swiss Miss. The Dagoba mix wasn’t sweet like the Swiss Miss one was, and the cocoa flavor definitely stood out more. When I looked at the ingredient labels again, I saw that the Swiss Miss had nineteen grams of sugar to the Dagoba’s fourteen. Other differences were in the protein and fiber content. The Swiss Miss had less than one gram of each. The Dagoba had three grams of protein and four grams of fiber. Those should have been good clues to indicate that the Dagoba had more cocoa, and therefore more copper, per serving than the Swiss Miss. While a good fix to the problem with the Dagoba mix would have been to use hot milk instead of water to add some zinc, it would have been more trouble than it was worth to buy a carton of milk for the office. Also, I didn’t want to have to worry about balancing the copper from what should have been a nice treat with a comparable zinc source later. I wanted to be able to enjoy my treat without having to figure out how to balance it later or beforehand. I decided to leave the Dagoba mix in the break room for others to enjoy and pick up a box of the Swiss Miss to keep at the office. I actually used two packets of it the following day and didn’t notice issues like the ones I was having when I drank one mug of the Dagoba. I was happy to have a delicious and safe hot cocoa mix to use at work to make hot chocolate when I wanted the treat.
This experience was definitely a learning one for me in picking out something safe for a diet to prevent copper toxicity. What I learned is that a similar list of ingredients does not provide the entire picture. I should have considered the nutrition facts and possibly other information to help me evaluate whether or not a particular product is possibly going to cause effects from high copper. Looking at the nutrition facts and taking note of any significant differences could have been helpful in deciding whether or not to pick out this brand of hot cocoa mix. I had my smart phone with me, so I very well could have used it to look up the information on the Swiss Miss hot cocoa mix while I was at Earth Fare evaluating the Dagoba mix. Next time, I will definitely be more careful in trying to determine whether or not a particular product is going to be an issue for high copper!
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