Is Chocolate Milk Good For You?

Introduction

Not to be confused with milk chocolate, chocolate milk is made by mixing cacao and sugar with cow’s milk. And no, chocolate milk does not come from brown cows (although it does sound quite convincing!). 

Chocolate milk, often thought of as a children’s drink, is also occasionally chosen as a favourite drink by some adults. It is not a surprise as it is a delicious drink after all. If you are adventurous or have time, you can make homemade chocolate milk with chocolate syrup. 

However, chocolate milk is more than just a delicious drink. It offers several health benefits. On the other hand, some people are concerned that the sugar level in chocolate milk might outweigh its health benefits.

So, is chocolate milk good for you? 

Nutrition Information

Before we dive deep down into what chocolate milk can offer us, let’s learn more about its nutrient facts. 

Given that it is dairy milk, it provides several essential nutrients, including calcium, protein, vitamin A, and vitamin D. 14 According to National Dairy Council, it also contains abundant other components such as phosphorus, riboflavin, vitamin B12, and vitamin C. 24

Health benefits of chocolate milk

Since chocolate milk is a powerhouse nutrient, it is not surprising that it provides several health benefits explored below. 

Contains fluid and electrolytes

After sweating, you will lose fluids and electrolytes in your body. Several examples of electrolytes are sodium, potassium, calcium, and phosphate.12 Having a balanced amount of fluids and electrolytes is essential to ensure your body functions properly. It can even lead to life-threatening illnesses if they are imbalanced. 12 

Fear not, as chocolate milk is here to save the day! 

Chocolate milk, as several studies suggested, contains fluid and electrolytes that can replace your sweat losses. 1, 2 More bonus points for chocolate milk as it is more effective than carbohydrate-electrolyte and sports drink in delaying time to exhaustion. 1, 2 Thus, chocolate milk can be your go-to drink after your workout or exercise. 

Protein source

Chocolate milk is rich in protein. 2 A previous study shows that chocolate milk contains two types of protein: casein and whey protein. 7,8 

Protein is crucial for human health. Studies suggested that high protein milk aids in the absorption of calcium which is vital to maintain your bone health in the long term. 3,4 Apart from maintaining your weight after weight loss 5, 6 chocolate milk aids muscle performance as well as muscle recovery. 7,8  

Previous research in 2007 also showed that high protein dairy milk is more effective than soy milk in increasing muscle strength 13, although further study is needed. However, it doesn't mean you shouldn't drink soy milk or force yourself to drink chocolate milk. 

Carbohydrate source

Chocolate milk is also a good source of carbohydrates.2 It has a carbohydrates to protein ratio of 4:1. 10 

Carbohydrate beverages might help prevent hypoglycemia or low blood sugar in your body, especially during exercise longer than 2 hours.9 Carbohydrate beverages can also make you feel energetic longer and improve your performance. 9 Most importantly, a researcher suggested that chocolate milk might be better than carbohydrate supplements in enhancing exercise performance in adults. 10 

Replenishes vitamins

Chocolate milk contains vitamin A and vitamin D, providing several health benefits. 

Vitamin A helps your body fight against disease as well as improve your immune system. 14 It is also essential to maintain your eye vision. 14 Vitamin A deficiency can impair your ability to taste, lead to night blindness, and increase your susceptibility to infection. 15

Meanwhile, vitamin D is crucial to increasing calcium absorption, which is essential for bone health. 16 Moreover, previous studies show the link between vitamin D deficiency and increased fractures and falls in older adults. 16

Harmful effects of chocolate milk

Despite its beneficial effects on our bodies, chocolate milk has its own downsides listed below.

High calorie content

Chocolate milk has high-calorie content. 25 Excess intake of high-calorie drinks can lead to several diseases. Scientists suggested that a high-calorie diet can cause diabetes and stroke, eventually leading to brain damage. 27 Furthermore, long-term consumption of high-calorie intake also can increase vulnerability to depression. 27

High sugar content

As mentioned before, the high level of added sugar in chocolate milk is quite concerning. 18 In fact, it has twice as much sugar as unflavoured and plain milk despite containing the same nutrients. 18 

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends people reduce their daily sugar intake as it can lead to several illnesses and health complications. 19 A research suggested that people who consume high added sugar are more likely to gain weight. 21 They also have a higher tendency to develop cardiovascular disease.22,23

Research suggested that high added sugar levels in chocolate milk can lead to tooth decay and diabetes among children. 17 

Risk factor for being overweight/obese

Chocolate milk has a high level of added sugar and calorie content. 

Another detrimental effect of added sugar is it increases the risk of developing obesity. 20 At the same time, calorie content  can also lead to obesity.27 Thus, you should be aware of how much chocolate milk you drink. 

Why is chocolate milk better than regular milk?

Chocolate and regular milk provide similar vital nutrients that are crucial to ensure your normal bodily function.14 You might wonder; which milk is better? Is it chocolate milk or regular milk? Well, it depends on which perspective you want to see. 

In the case of taste and colour, chocolate milk might be better than regular milk. It is sweeter and has a delightful taste than regular milk. Therefore, some people, especially kids or people with a sweet tooth, might favour chocolate milk over unflavoured, plain milk. In fact, flavoured milk can be an excellent incentive to increase milk consumption among adults and children. 25,26

Why is chocolate milk recommended to athletes?

Based on the health benefits mentioned in the article, chocolate milk is a good drink to have after exercising or working out 

Athletes continuously use their bodies to train and do exercise that requires muscle strength, agility and stamina. A review published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition elucidated that chocolate milk is a good choice of recovery drink for athletes. 2 The review suggested chocolate milk improved the time to exhaustion for athletes. 2 The effect of chocolate milk on recovery is also similar or better than commercial drinks. 2 Thus, chocolate milk is a perfect drink for athletes after their training.

Conclusion

Indeed, it is not only an apple a day that can keep the doctor away. Chocolate milk contains several essential nutrients for your body's health. However, too much chocolate milk can have a detrimental effect on your health. Therefore, it is crucial to continuously monitor your diet and eat healthy.

References

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  2. Amiri M, Ghiasvand R, Kaviani M, Forbes SC, Salehi-Abargouei A. Chocolate milk for recovery from exercise: a systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled clinical trials. Eur J Clin Nutr [Internet]. 2019 Jun [cited 2022 Jun 14];73(6):835–49. Available from: Nature 
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  14. Peckham JG, Kropp JD, Mroz TA, Haley-Zitlin V, Granberg E. Students choosing fat-free chocolate milk during school lunch consume more calories, total sugar, protein, minerals and vitamins at lunch. Public Health Nutr [Internet]. 2021 May [cited 2022 Jun 16];24(7):1818–27. Available from: https://www.cambridge.org/core/product/identifier/S1368980021000161/type/journal_article 
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Sentia Racha Keyulong

Bachelor of Science - BSc, Psychology, The University of Edinburgh, Scotland, Scotland

Sentia is an experienced Research Assistant and Medical Writer.

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