With the latest development on instant chocolate drinks, many of our readers are confused. Are they healthy or unhealthy? Some sources say there is too much sugar, while others claim that if diluted properly, it is not as sweet. Should I stop taking these drinks?
Let us examine all the questions scientifically.
Are they really unhealthy?
For the purpose of illustration, we are going to highlight three most common instant chocolate drinks in Malaysia. Milo™, Ovaltine™ and Vico™. Please note that we refer to the instant chocolate drink powder that are not premixed with milk, etc, in other words, NOT the 3-in-1 types.
Table 1: Macro-nutrients of common instant chocolate drinks vs Daily Reference Value 2016 (DRV) by USFDA. (Vico Sugar content not listed on packaging)
As we can see from the table, all three instant chocolate drinks contain similar nutritional values. Please note that we are only comparing the macronutrients (which are Carbohydrate, Fats and Protein) while micronutrients (Vitamins and Minerals) are not explored. They all contain approximately 6% of the total daily caloric needs of an average adult and provide carbohydrates mainly through sugars.
Although the sugar content of these drinks may appear high at about 40%w/w, a person taking one to two drinks in a day in accordance to the suggested serving size (which delivers about 6 – 12% of DRV for carbohydrates and 25-60% of DRV for sugars) cannot be deemed as unhealthy. When compared to cola, which contains only sugars, these drinks indeed do provide more nutrition.
If I dilute it further, it will taste less sweet, and it will be healthier, right?
Unfortunately, this is not true. If we follow the suggested serving size, which is 28-30g of instant chocolate drink powder, it will still contain the same amount of nutrients (be it sugar or fats) no matter how much water it is diluted in. Let’s take Milo™ as an example. The suggested serving is to dilute 30g of Milo™ powder in 200ml of water which they claim will provide an optimal taste.
Figure 1: Diluting the same 30g of Milo™ powder in 200ml or 400ml of water may result in different concentrations of Milo™ drink, hence less sweet in the case of dilution in 400ml, but the total amount of Milo consumed is still the same, which is 30g.
As explained in the figure above, the amount of water used to dilute instant chocolate powder does not matter, it is the amount of instant chocolate powder used per serving that makes the real difference!
Should I stop taking these drinks?
Don’t be so quick to boycott or throw out your instant chocolate powder. These drinks do contain other vitamins and minerals that are useful to the body too. They only become a problem when individuals overconsume them.
Malaysians and our southernly neighbours, Singaporeans, love our instant chocolate drinks. So much so that we often add in much more than what is recommended by the manufacturers to ensure that our drinks are rich and flavourful. To make matters worse, we often add condensed milk which contains lots of sugar too. This leads to overconsumption of sugar and carbohydrates. Those who are slightly more health conscious may swap condensed milk for milk powder and sugar, which, unfortunately, still contain a lot of sugar/carbohydrates.
Furthermore, those with certain disease such as diabetes, should be wary of refined sugar content in instant drinks as they have high glycemic index causing a surge in sugar levels in the body. Speak to your dietitian, pharmacist or doctor if you are worried about this.
Otherwise, you may still consume these drinks, but be sure not to exceed the serving suggestion and do not add other sugar containing additives to it.
Remember, moderation is key.
P/S This article is not supported by any company or industry. However, readers are welcome to make contributions to keep the site running ;P
- Milo™ Packaging
- Ovaltine™ Packaging
- Vico™ Packaging
- USDA: https://www.nal.usda.gov/sites/default/files/fnic_uploads/energy_full_report.pdf