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Can Milk Raise Glucose Levels?

author image Emily Creasy
Emily Creasy began writing professionally in 2010. As a registered and licensed dietitian her writing focuses on weight loss, disease-specific diets and diet-friendly cooking. She holds a Bachelor of Science in human nutrition, foods and exercise from Virginia Tech and a Master of Science in dietetics from James Madison University.
Can Milk Raise Glucose Levels?
Young boy with a glass of milk Photo Credit: Dave & Les Jacobs/Blend Images/Getty Images

Blood glucose levels are directly affected by the amount of sugar we eat. Sugar is found in foods in the form of carbohydrates. These carbohydrates are then broken down in your body into sugars that your body can use for energy. Whether you drink skim milk, whole milk, 1 percent or 2 percent, all milk contains a type of carbohydrate sugar called lactose. When you drink these milk sugars they will raise your blood glucose levels.

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How Much is a Serving of Milk?

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a serving of skim, whole, 1 percent or 2 percent milk is considered 8 oz or 1 cup. The nutrition label on the milk carton tells you all the nutrients contained in 1 cup. It may help to use measuring cups initially until you can visually determine what 1 cup of milk looks like.

Will it Raise my Blood Glucose?

A 1-cup serving of milk contains about 12 g of carbohydrates. Milk carbohydrates are also known as lactose. The lactose is broken down into glucose and galactose for your body to use for energy and causes a rise in blood glucose levels. A 1-cup serving of orange juice contains close to 30 g of carbohydrates. They both contain a type of sugar and will both raise your blood glucose, but the milk will raise your blood sugar much less because it contains fewer carbohydrates. Chocolate milk has added sugar for sweetness and this will raise your blood sugar higher than skim or low-fat milk -- and likely more than orange juice.

Should People With Diabetes Drink Milk?

While it does have some carbohydrates, and it can raise your blood sugar, low-fat milk is an excellent source of protein, vitamins and minerals. Milk can easily be included in a healthy diabetic-friendly diet plan. Like any food, it is important to keep serving sizes in mind and be aware of how much milk you are drinking at each meal or snack.

Does Lactose-Free Milk Raise Your Blood Glucose?

As previously mentioned, milk contains a type of sugar called lactose which can raise your blood glucose. Does this mean that lactose-free milk contains no sugar? Unfortunately, no. Lactose-free milk has the enzyme lactase added to it. This enzyme breaks down the lactose into glucose and galactose making it more easily digestible for those with lactose intolerance. It contains about the same amount of carbohydrates as regular milk and will raise your blood glucose level.

Are Soy and Almond Milks a Better Choice?

Soy milk does not contain lactose but is typically sweetened with sugar. Because of this, it contains about the same amount of carbohydrate as regular milk and can raise your blood glucose levels. Unsweetened soy milk generally contains about 5 g of carbohydrates. Of the few carbohydrates it does contain, many are in the form of dietary fiber and can be beneficial for heart health. Almond milk does not contain lactose but does contain added sugars to help with taste. There are unsweetened versions available which can contain as little as 1 g of carbohydrate per serving. Unsweetened almond milk is a high-protein, low-calorie, low-carbohydrate, and low-saturated-fat beverage that may be a good option for those watching their blood glucose levels. Be sure to consult with a doctor to see if either choice would be a good option for you.

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