Q. Is it true that cocoa is a better antioxidant than green tea? If so, how can I make hot cocoa without all the sugar?

A. Yes, cocoa has been found to have more beneficial antioxidants than green tea, according to recent research (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2003, vol. 51, no. 25). This study looked at the total antioxidant capacities of cocoa, red wine, green tea, and black tea. Although all of the foods contained high amounts of plant-based antioxidant compounds, such as flavonoids, cocoa had the highest levels. Per serving, cocoa was far stronger in flavonoids and antioxidants than green tea, suggesting that cocoa is more heart-healthy than teas and red wine. Studies have shown that eating flavonol-rich cocoa may reduce risk for cardiovascular disease. Keep in mind, however, that most of the flavonoids have been removed from processed cocoa and chocolate, so buying organic cocoa and chocolate products is a healthier bet.

Also, because some processed cocoa powders are chock-full of sugar and trans fats, whip up your own sugar-free, fat-free cup of hot cocoa: Mix 1 tablespoon of pure cocoa powder into 1 cup of hot nonfat milk. Stir well and add a natural sugar substitute, such as stevia, to taste.

This Ask the Expert was written by Victoria Shanta Retelny, RD, LD, who practices medical nutrition therapy at the Northwestern Memorial Hospital Wellness Institute in Chicago.