Health Benefits of Chocolate Milk

Medically Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on March 15, 2023
3 min read

Chocolate milk, whether served hot or cold, is more than just a favorite drink that many people have loved since childhood. It’s also a great source of several important nutrients. It also has a long and interesting history.

Theobroma cacao, the scientific name for chocolate, translates to “cocoa, food of the Gods.". The Aztecs ground it into powder, mixed it with spices, water, and sometimes honey, and consumed it as a drink.

The shift from chocolate water to chocolate milk came early. As far back as 1494, according to historian James Delbourgo, people in Jamaica brewed “a hot beverage… from shavings of freshly harvested cacao, boiled with milk and cinnamon."

Each 8-ounce serving of 2% chocolate milk contains:

  • 188 Calories
  • 7 grams of protein
  • 5 grams of fat
  • 30 grams of carbohydrates
  • 2 grams of fiber
  • 24 grams of sugar

Chocolate milk is also an excellent source of:

  • Calcium
  • Vitamin D
  • Potassium
  • Phosphorous
  • Magnesium

The nutrition profile depends on whether you choose whole milk, 2% or skim. For instance, if you prefer chocolate milk made with whole milk, an 8-ounce serving contains:

  • 206 calories
  • 8 grams of protein
  • 8 grams of fat
  • 26 grams of carbohydrates
  • 2 grams of fiber
  • 24 grams of sugar

The difference is not just in the fat content and the calories. With whole milk, you also get more protein and fewer carbohydrates.

So, which kind should you choose? It depends on your taste and your nutritional goals.

The protein, calcium, and vitamin D in chocolate milk, as well as other minerals and electrolytes, provide important nutritional benefits.

Bone health. Milk is naturally rich in calcium, an essential nutrient for your bones and teeth. In addition, most of the milk available in the U.S. and many other countries is fortified with vitamin D. This combination of nutrients makes milk a bone-health powerhouse. 

U.S. dairy producers began adding vitamin D to milk in the 1930s to help eliminate rickets, a bone-weakening disease. Rickets, which at the time was common in children, is caused by vitamin D deficiency and makes bones softer and weaker than they should be.

In adults, vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteomalacia, a softening of the bones that increases the risk of fractures. Both diseases can be prevented by eating foods high in vitamin D — and that’s where milk, including chocolate milk, comes in.

Muscle mass and endurance. Chocolate milk is rich in protein, which helps build muscle mass. Several studies have also found that drinking chocolate milk significantly increases endurance, which helps you keep exercising longer.

As a result, chocolate milk can help you build muscle mass directly, by providing protein, and indirectly, by enabling you to exercise longer. Some evidence also suggests that it may be even more effective than sports drinks for increasing endurance and reducing post-workout exhaustion. 

Weight management. Unlike other sugar-rich drinks such as juice and soda, chocolate milk is high in protein, and the non-skim versions also contain fat. Some evidence shows that protein and fat both help you feel full, and that feeling full can help you eat less.

Research shows that a diet high in protein — with enough vitamin D and lower calories — may help you lose. Older adults with obesity who increased their protein intake maintained more muscle mass and lost more weight than those who didn’t add protein to their diets. 

Compared to regular milk, chocolate milk does contain added sugars and added calories, both of which can contribute to obesity, which contributes to many different medical issues. So it's not the best choice if you're trying to keep your sugar and calories in-check.

Also, if your doctor has told you that you need more calcium, it's important to know that oxalic acid, a compound that occurs naturally in cocoa, can make it harder for your body to absorb calcium.

And of course, those with milk allergies or lactose intolerance may not be able to digest chocolate milk without discomfort.

For those with lactose intolerance, there are lactose-free chocolate milk options available. If you're concerned about the added sugar or calories, you can make smoothies with fruit and honey that can give you the same punch without the worry.