If you think of chocolate milk as nothing more than a childhood favorite, it’s time to reconsider this delicious drink. Chocolate milk is not only a treat that can help bring back fond memories, but it also offers a number of nutritional benefits. Most varieties are made by adding chocolate flavoring to milk, with some brands using cocoa powder. Chocolate milk usually contains more sugar than regular milk, but it also provides some extra nutrients. Read on to find out more about the potential health benefits of chocolate milk.
It May Boost Exercise Performance
Chocolate milk may be just what you need to refuel after a workout.
A small study showed that drinking chocolate milk following strenuous exercise helped improve recovery compared to drinking a carbohydrate-only beverage (13).
This is because chocolate milk has the optimal 3:1 carb-to-protein ratio that’s thought to aid exhausted muscles in rebuilding and refueling.
What’s more, a review of twelve studies suggested that consuming chocolate milk after exercise may improve markers of muscle damage, recovery and subsequent exercise performance similarly to or better than other recovery drinks (6). They concluded that while evidence is limited and more research is needed, chocolate milk can at least be considered as an option when choosing a post-exercise recovery drink.
It May Enhance Brain Function
Dark chocolate or cocoa powder has been linked to improved mood and brain health, and milk may further enhance these effects. This is because dark chocolate contains flavonoids, which are types of antioxidants that can help protect your brain cells from damage (12).
Cocoa contains compounds called flavanols, which have been linked to improved blood flow and reduced risk of stroke. Milk may help increase the absorption of these compounds (12).
Milk also contains a type of saturated fat called medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). Unlike other types of saturated fats, MCTs are promptly metabolized and used for energy by your body and brain (8).
That means the nutrients in chocolate milk may help improve blood flow to your brain and also provide a quick source of energy.
It Helps Replenish Electrolytes
Electrolytes are minerals that play an important role in fluid balance, nerve function and muscle contractions. When you sweat, you lose electrolytes through your skin. This can lead to dehydration, especially in hot weather or during strenuous exercise.
Chocolate milk is a good source of electrolytes, including calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and potassium. These minerals can help replenish electrolytes lost through sweat and help prevent or treat dehydration (6).
It May Help You Gain Lean Muscle
As part of a regular workout and recovery routine, chocolate milk may help you gain lean muscle mass. Milk is a rich source of protein, which is essential for building and maintaining muscle.
It May Help Reduce Exercise-Induced Oxidative Stress
Exercise can lead to oxidative stress and inflammation, but this isn’t always a bad thing. It is a normal response that helps your muscles repair and rebuild after exercise.
Chocolate milk has been hypothesized to help reduce exercise-induced oxidative stress and inflammation due to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of cocoa flavanols.
One review of clinical trials found that cocoa polyphenol intake seemed to reduce exercise-induced oxidative stress but not inflammation (8).
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It May Strengthen Bones
Chocolate milk is a good source of calcium, phosphorus and other minerals that are essential for bone health.
Athletes are not the only beneficiaries of chocolate milk’s bone-strengthening potential. Older adults are at risk of developing osteoporosis, a condition characterized by weak and fragile bones.
Since chocolate milk is rich in bone-building minerals, drinking chocolate milk might help improve bone density over the span of one’s life, potentially helping to prevent osteoporosis later on (3).
It Can Help You Meet Your Nutritional Needs
If you’re looking for a nutritional powerhouse, look no further than chocolate milk. Just one cup (240 ml) of low-fat chocolate milk provides a good amount of several essential nutrients, including (4):
- Calories: 180–211
- Protein: 8 grams
- Carbs: 26–32 grams
- Sugar: 11–17 grams
- Fat: 2.5–9 grams
- Calcium: 23% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Vitamin D: 15% of the DV
- Riboflavin: 35% of the DV
- Potassium: 9% of the DV
- Phosphorus: 20% of the DV
Chocolate milk also contains smaller amounts of several other vitamins and minerals.
It Tastes Good
One of the best things about chocolate milk is that it tastes delicious. If you don’t like the taste of plain milk, adding some chocolate can make it much more palatable.
Plus, there are many different ways to enjoy chocolate milk. You can buy it ready-made or make your own at home using chocolate milk mix. You can also experiment with different types of milk, such as almond milk, soy milk or coconut milk.
It’s Easy To Find And Convenient To Drink
Chocolate milk is widely available in grocery stores, gas stations and vending machines. It’s also easy to pack for a quick snack on the go.
A key for success when embarking on a fitness journey is to find foods and drinks that you enjoy and can stick with long-term. If drinking chocolate milk helps you reach your fitness goals, then it’s a great choice.
How Does Chocolate Milk Affect Your Health
Despite the health benefits of chocolate milk, it’s important to remember that it can have adverse effects depending on the ingredients and quantities you consume:
High Quantities Of Added Sugars
About half the carbs in chocolate milk come from sugar. While this may not be a problem for some people, consuming too much sugar can lead to weight gain and other health problems.
Some brands use high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), a sweetener that is thought to be associated with an increased risk of obesity and other chronic health conditions (14).
To limit your sugar intake, opt for chocolate milk that is made with low-fat milk and is low in added sugars. You can also make your own chocolate milk at home using unsweetened cocoa powder and a sugar substitute.
Added Food Dyes
Chocolate milk often contains artificial food dyes, which may be of concern for some people. These dyes can cause allergic reactions in some people and some of them have been linked to behavioral issues in children (2).
If you’re concerned about food dyes, opt for chocolate milk that is made with natural ingredients or make your own at home.
High Fat Content
Whole milk chocolate milk contains about 8 grams of fat per cup (240 ml). This is nearly double the amount of fat in low-fat milk (4).
While some fats are necessary for good health, consuming too much can lead to weight gain and other health problems. Saturated fat, in particular, has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease (7).
If you’re looking for a lower-fat option, choose chocolate milk that is made with low-fat milk or skim milk. You can also make your own at home using these kinds of milks.
Chocolate milk contains lactose, a type of sugar found in milk. People with lactose intolerance have difficulty digesting this sugar, which can lead to symptoms like nausea, bloating and diarrhea (10).
If you’re lactose intolerant, opt for chocolate milk made with lactose-free milk or soy milk. You can also make your own at home using these kinds of milks.
May Be Linked To Certain Cancers
Diets rich in milk and other dairy products have been linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer (11).
The link may be due to the hormones present in dairy products, which might theoretically promote the growth of cancer cells. Furthermore, added sugars and saturated fat in chocolate milk may also increase the risk of cancer (11).
On the other hand, milk consumption has also been linked to a reduced risk of certain other types of cancer. Talk to your doctor about your personal risk factors and what they may recommend regarding dairy intake.
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How To Drink Chocolate Milk To Gain Health Benefits
Below are a few tips on how to drink chocolate milk so you can gain the health benefits:
Choose Low Fat Varieties
Chocolate milk is available in different fat content options. Choose the low-fat variety to reduce the amount of saturated fat you consume.
Watch Out For These Ingredients
Learning how to read labels will help you make healthier choices. When buying chocolate milk, check the label for these unhealthy ingredients:
- High fructose corn syrup – This is a type of sugar that is thought to be linked to weight gain and obesity. Also be aware of the added sugar content in general.
- Artificial sweeteners – These are chemicals that are used to sweeten food and beverages. Some people avoid them out of concern for possible negative effects.
Choose Fortified Chocolate Milk
Some brands of chocolate milk are fortified with vitamins and minerals. These include calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin A. These nutrients are important for bone health, blood pressure, and heart health.
Drink Chocolate Milk In Moderation
Even though chocolate milk has some health benefits, it is still a source of sugar and calories. Therefore, it should be consumed in moderation.
The American Heart Association recommends no more than six teaspoons (25 grams) of added sugar per day for women and no more than nine teaspoons (38 grams) for men (1).
A single cup of chocolate milk can have up to eight teaspoons of sugar. This means that if you drink a lot of chocolate milk, you may be consuming too much sugar. Therefore, it is important to limit your intake of chocolate milk or choose low added sugar varieties.
Make It At Home
You can also make your own chocolate milk at home using cocoa powder, milk, and a little sugar. This way, you can control the ingredients and the amount of sugar used.
The Bottom Line
Chocolate milk is a delicious and convenient way to get essential nutrients. It can also help you reach your fitness goals. However, it’s important to be aware of the potential drawbacks of drinking too much chocolate milk.
Choose a brand that is low in added sugars and doesn’t contain food dyes, and opt for low-fat or skim milk to limit your fat intake. If you’re lactose intolerant, opt for lactose-free or soy milk.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Added Sugars and Cardiovascular Disease Risk in Children: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association (2016, pubmed.gov)
- Artificial Food Colors and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Symptoms: Conclusions to Dye for (2012, nih.gov)
- Chocolate and chocolate constituents influence bone health and osteoporosis risk (2019, pubmed.gov)
- CHOCOLATE MILK (2019, usda.gov)
- Chocolate Milk and Endurance Exercise Recovery: Protein Balance, Glycogen, and Performance (2011, researchgate.net)
- Chocolate milk for recovery from exercise: a systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled clinical trials (2018, fisiologiadelejercicio.com)
- Consuming high amounts of saturated fats linked to increased heart disease risk (n.d., harvard.edu)
- Effect of Cocoa Products and Its Polyphenolic Constituents on Exercise Performance and Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage and Inflammation: A Review of Clinical Trials (2019, nih.gov)
- Effects of chocolate milk consumption on markers of muscle recovery following soccer training: a randomized cross-over study (2010, nih.gov)
- Lactose Intolerance, Dairy Avoidance, and Treatment Options (2018, nih.gov)
- Milk Consumption and Prostate Cancer: A Systematic Review (2020, niih.gov)
- Milk lipids in diet and health-medium chain fatty acids (MCFA) (2002, researchgate.net)
- The effects of low fat chocolate milk on postexercise recovery in collegiate athletes (2011, pubmed.gov)
- The Health Implications of Sucrose, High-Fructose Corn Syrup, and Fructose: What Do We Really Know? (2010, nih.gov)