Chocolate Milk: Bad for Kids, But Great for Runners?

If you're confused about chocolate milk, then you must be following the news. While schools are banning the kid favorite, athletes are championing it as a wonderful recovery tool. In a complicated twist, both the proponents and opponents of chocolate milk may be correct.

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chocolate milk obesity public schools

Kicked Out of the Cafeteria

From Seattle to Washington, D.C., many school districts are banning chocolate milk from cafeterias. Recently, the Los Angeles Unified School District became the nation's largest to follow suit. The schools are motivated by the belief that chocolate milk is contributing to the growing childhood obesity problem. In Los Angeles, the move was motivated in part by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, who crusaded against chocolate milk on several TV appearances this year.

Critics of chocolate milk cite the sugar content of the drink, which can be comparable with soda. It should also be noted that the chocolate milk found in schools can be loaded with sweeteners, including the widely derided high fructose corn syrup. By eliminating chocolate milk from schools, it's hoped, students will make healthier choices and the schools won't be contributing to the obesity epidemic.

Embraced by Runners

Coinciding with the rise in school chocolate milk bans is the explosion of chocolate milk as a recovery drink for athletes. Several recent students have shown that chocolate milk can improve endurance and speed up muscle recovery time after intense workouts. It's becoming especially popular as a drink among those involved in high intensity and particularly draining activities, such as distance running, cycling and swimming.

Chocolate milk's water content aids in avoiding dehydration. And unlike water, the drink offers a high protein and carbohydrate content; it's notably stronger in these areas than plain milk and sports drinks, too. Plus, the sugar and sodium that are seen as perils for schoolchildren are highly desired in athletes seeking to retain water and boost energy.

The Future of Chocolate Milk

Chocolate milk may have sugar, but it's also a terrific source of the calcium, vitamin D and potassium that kids need. Additionally, it contains riboflavin, protein, vitamin A, niacin and other vitamins and nutrients that sodas lack. While non-flavored milk contains all of the vitamins and minerals of chocolate milk without the added sugar, it fails to excite kids. Milk consumption has been shown to drop by approximately 35% when flavored milk isn't available in cafeterias.

As Jaime Oliver noted, chocolate milk isn't the only unhealthy food in a typical cafeteria. Unfortunately, it's become a scapegoat because it's easily replaced by plain milk. Aided by the good buzz from athletes, chocolate milk may have a future in schools, much to the delight of kids everywhere.

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