Chocolate milk on a hot day, a day off, or any day is a classic sweet treat that has some health benefits, too. It is good for you, but in moderation. The sweeter your chocolate milk is, the worse it is for your health. Milk and dark chocolate are the healthiest components. Try to limit fat (aim for 1% or skim milk instead of 2% or homogenized milk) and sugar (using dark chocolate or making your own with cocoa and reduced sugar) in your chocolate milk. But chocolate milk consumption some has health benefits. How is chocolate milk good for you?
Health Benefits of Chocolate Milk
It might improve recovery after exercise
Chocolate milk can be enriched with several essential nutrients, including Omega-3 fatty acids. A recent study found that after exercise, Omega-3 enriched chocolate milk was beneficial for rats. The protein, electrolytes, and carbohydrate boost after their workout improved the whole-body damage attained from the exercise. Also, the enriched chocolate milk consumption reduced muscle damage and increased the production of enzymes essential for muscle recovery (1).
Another study found that chocolate milk can be a decent post-exercise recovery beverage and is competitive with sports drinks in effect. It also has more calories and protein than many sports drinks, increasing its performance-enhancing abilities and boosting endurance (2, 3). Several studies support chocolate milk as a viable alternative as a post-exercise recovery supplement (4, 5, 6, 7).
If you like to drink Powerade as post-exercise boost, you can’t miss our article “Is Powerade Bad For You?”
Enriched with inulin and stevia can reduce sugar intake
For people with diabetes, chocolate milk presents a conundrum because of its high sugar content. With little to no fiber and protein to slow it down (depending on the variety), this drink can rapidly spike blood glucose levels. Using stevia (a plant-based, sugar-free sugar alternative) and inulin (a type of fructose-based sugar, considered a prebiotic) could remedy this problem. A chocolate milk drink containing 50% stevia and 6% inulin had no significant difference in taste and texture from the same beverage sweetened with sugar. It is suggested by the researchers to be a good alternative for those watching their sugar intake (8).
Interested about stevia? Check “Stevia or Monk Fruit.”
Chocolate milk can increase milk consumption of growing children
Milk provides many of the nutrients and vitamins (including calcium, iodine, phosphorous, B vitamins, and vitamin D) needed for growth, particularly during childhood (9, 10). It is also essential for avoiding malnutrition in young children, especially when included in school lunches (11, 12). Because of this, milk is recommended for growing school-age children. A recent study examining the removal of chocolate milk from school cafeterias (to reduce caloric intake as the obesity epidemic continues to be a problem) found that this decreased overall milk consumption, along with its associated nutrients (13). While reducing sugar and calories is good, for some children, the chocolate milk at school may be their only opportunity to gain these essential milk-based nutrients, which poses the question if complete elimination of this beverage is a good idea.
Health Benefits of Chocolate
Cocoa has several health benefits
Cocoa, the primary ingredient of chocolate, can reduce oxidative stress, prevent cardiovascular disease, reduce diabetes risk, and lower high blood pressure. The antioxidant content of chocolate is thought to be particularly beneficial for health, reducing inflammation, improving neuron health, and boosting exercise recovery. Chocolate also contains caffeine, which can act as a diuretic and muscle relaxant (14). For all of these reasons, a little chocolate now and then isn’t a bad thing for your health!
Chocolate consumption could improve bone health
A recent study found that while postmenopausal women did not affect bone health when consuming more chocolate, adolescents who added cocoa to their diet (particularly dark chocolate) had better bone health (15). This could be a good preventative measure against osteoporosis and other bone-related diseases that often develop in later years of life, but more studies are needed in this area.
Chocolate consumption is linked to disease reduction
Consumption of chocolate has now been linked to reducing cardiovascular disease, acute myocardial infarction, and diabetes (noted by a reduction in insulin resistance markers in trial subjects). These are based on small clinical trials, but the results are nonetheless interesting (16). More studies on the effects of cocoa and chocolate are certainly needed, but this suggests that this is an area worth looking into further.
In conclusion, how is chocolate milk good for you?
The studies say that a bit of dark chocolate a day may keep the doctor away. Chocolate milk can be high in fat and sugar, so read your nutrition labels and ensure you limit these (unless your goal is to increase your calories as a post-workout supplement). Chocolate and milk both separately and together can provide an abundance of nutrients and disease-fighting properties, and a bit of this cold, sweet drink now and then is not at all detrimental to your diet.