Best Milk Options for People With Diabetes Type 2
Pre-diabetic and diabetic individuals need to meal plan correctly to best manage their health. Milk products are an essential part of any diet, but not all dairy products are the same for diabetics.
It’s challenging to know which dairy products are best for you, since nutritional profiles differ from product to product and company to company, even for similar products.
This article will discuss different milk products, how they affect the human body, and which dairy products are best for diabetics.
We want to help you answer the question: "What are the best milk options for people with Type 2 diabetes?"
Is Dairy Bad for Type 2 Diabetes?
The simple answer is it depends. With Type 2 diabetes, you want to lower your blood sugar levels. High blood sugar can lead to hyperglycemia, various forms of heart disease, and clogged arteries. The lower your blood sugar and sugar intake are, the more manageable your diabetes will be.
Like any other food, dairy will affect your Type 2 diabetes in either a positive, neutral, or negative way. You can check the impact that an individual dairy product will have on your blood sugar levels by checking the product's glycemic index, and by measuring your blood sugar before and after you consume your dairy products.
Suppose you cannot find the glycemic index for a food item. In that case, a handy calculation can help you to manually calculate it: digestible carbs = carbs - fiber and sugar alcohols (all measured in grams).
Knowing your favorite foods' glycemic index is crucial because you need to monitor your blood sugar levels closely.
How Does Dairy Intake Affect My Blood Sugar Levels?
Different types of dairy, like milk and cheese, have different sugar levels. By choosing the low-sugar option, even natural sugars, you can lower your levels. Skim milk is a popular choice for many due to its lowered calorie, fat, cholesterol, and sugar content. One popular Canadian brand even contains 9 grams of protein per cup. Your local brand should have similar nutrition statistics.
Contrast fat-free or skim milk with chocolate full-fat milk, where sugar is addable to increase the sweetness and taste. Your blood sugar levels will likely rise much more, so you will need to drink less chocolate milk to compensate.
Dairy is not good nor bad on its own. You should meal plan with moderate consumption, whether you are drinking milk, eating cheese, butter, or other dairy products. If you have concerns about consuming dairy, it’s recommended to consult a doctor or a dietician.
Does Milk Lower Blood Sugar?
Milk can lower blood sugar, especially if you drink milk rather than eat unhealthy, sugary foods. On its own, milk can raise blood sugar a little because most milk products contain natural sugar. However, when comparing low-fat, low-sugar milk to other foods, milk is not that bad.
To minimize the increase in blood sugar levels when drinking milk, choose a sugar-free brand and limit the amount of milk you drink. Water and tea are great milk alternatives.
Which Milk Is Best for Type 2 Diabetes?
From a health standpoint, sugar-free milk is best for individuals with Type 2 diabetes. You want to control your blood sugar levels as much as possible. However, milk that is low in sugar, like almond or soy milk, can be a healthy addition to your diet as well.
There are many different milk product types that you can buy, all of which have slightly different effects on your blood sugar levels, including:
- Whole milk
- 2% milk
- Raw milk
- Lactose-free milk
- Almond milk
- Goat milk
- Cow milk
- Rice milk
- Chocolate milk
- Strawberry milk
Why Are Some Types of Milk Better Than Others?
Some milk types are better than others because of two main reasons—raw ingredients and the manufacturing process.
Almond milk and cow's milk are both "milks" but almonds have a different nutritional profile than animal products. Also, the manufacturing process is different, resulting in different nutritional profiles between different products at the same company.
We recommend always checking the label to get the most up-to-date information.
While cow's milk, for example, does contain sugars, these sugars break down in the body. The issue with milk occurs when sugar is added, like in chocolate milk. Always read the label before purchasing, and make sure the milk and dairy products you consume complement your meal plan.
CuraLife can help you determine which types of milk are best for you. With many articles geared towards diabetes education and lifestyle, we can help you determine a diet that works best for you and your goals.
Join our Winning Type 2 Diabetes Together group on Facebook to see what milk other diabetics are drinking.
Does Milk Raise Insulin Levels?
All foods have the potential to raise insulin levels. Milk and dairy are no different.
Insulin levels are likely to rise quicker in diabetic individuals than non-diabetics because their bodies cannot break down glucose (sugars) as well.
The higher the sugar content is, the more adversely milk consumption will affect your insulin levels. The key is to find a balance between your blood glucose levels and your insulin levels. Your doctor can help you with treatment.
Does All Milk Raise Insulin Levels Equally?
No. The nutritional profiles for all milk products will vary depending on their source ingredients and the manufacturing processes (or lack thereof).
Each milk and dairy product will affect you and your digestive process differently. Some milk products will raise your insulin levels more than others.
Is Lactose-Free Milk Good for Diabetics?
While lactose is a sugar present in milk, it will not affect your blood sugar levels. However, some diabetic and pre-diabetic individuals might have other valid reasons to avoid lactose. For those individuals, lactose-free milk is a great alternative.
Lactose-free milk, however, is often more expensive than non-lactose-free milk. If you are not lactose intolerant, you should not worry about purchasing lactose-free milk. It will not have a measurable impact on your health.
Why Should I Drink Lactose-Free Milk?
You may be lactose-intolerant. If your body cannot break down lactose, you may feel bloated and become gassy.
If you are vegan, you will avoid animal-based milk, which naturally contains lactose. Almond milk, by contrast, does not. You might also drink lactose-free milk for the taste—it tastes slightly sweeter than animal-based milk.
Which Milk Has the Least Amount of Sugar?
Typically, the milk with the least amount of sugar, natural or processed, will be fat-free or plain milk. However, some manufactured milk products and milk alternatives, like coconut milk, almond milk, and soy milk, can be manufactured with little to no sugar. The manufacturing process breaks down the natural sugars present and removes them.
Check your supermarket for available brands. The milk product labels should state "Low Sugar" or "Sugar-Free" or some similar labeling to that effect.
Is Almond Milk Good for Type 2 Diabetes?
Almond milk is the result of adding water to the almond pulp. Almonds do not naturally contain liquid like coconut does, for example.
Almond milk may be suitable for pre-diabetic and diabetic individuals. Since all almond milk is manufactured, be sure to choose unsweetened or sugar-free products with limited to no chemical additives.
Almond milk even has a distinct taste, so you can swap regular milk with it whenever you get bored of the taste!
You can make almond milk at home for a healthier alternative to supermarket brands. You will not only result in healthier milk, but you can save money if you buy the almonds in bulk.
What Can Diabetics Drink?
The best drinks for people with diabetes are low in sugar, fats, calories, and carbohydrates. Water, tea, and coffee are all great choices that fit these criteria. The key is to limit the number of carbohydrates you consume.
Low-fat or fat-free milk is also suitable for people with diabetes. The amounts of proteins and fats present in milk affect the absorption rate of sugars. If you use a milk or dairy product with low sugars but a moderate amount of fats and proteins, your body should be able to process those sugars over time, leading to a manageable increase in blood glucose levels.
Does This Mean I Cannot Drink Things Like Alcohol, Eggnog, or Milkshakes?
You can still benefit from a diet that is 98% healthy. It’s all about moderation and understanding how your body and blood sugar levels respond to unhealthy drinks.
If you really want something unhealthy—like a milkshake, consider adding a small serving once per week as a reward for following your diet. When it comes to eggnog, try only consuming it as a treat around Christmas.
What about alcohol? This one's a bit trickier since it lowers inhibitions, resulting in the potential for you to eat unhealthy foods that raise your blood glucose levels.
Remember, diabetes does not take time off. It requires constant management and maintenance. If you include alcohol in your meal plan and diet, make sure you do so in moderate amounts so that you can continue to regulate your diet even while intoxicated.
Is Dairy Good for Diabetics?
Dairy can be beneficial for people with diabetes. Consider that dairy is often high in protein and low in fats, sugars, and calories.
Various dairy producers provide alternative products for diabetics and others with health issues. Work with a dietitian to incorporate dairy into your meal plan. Moderate amounts of different foods lead to a varied and healthy diet.
How Do I Know If Dairy is Right For Me?
Look at your meal plan. You want a varied diet to get many vitamins and minerals and promote good health. Dairy can help. Add various forms of dairy throughout the week while checking to ensure that your blood sugar levels will not spike.
Does Milk Spike Insulin?
Milk may spike your insulin levels. Depending on its sugar content, milk may increase your blood sugar levels.
As a person with diabetes, your body will not break down glucose, leading to increased insulin levels and insulin resistance. At this point, you may develop hyperinsulinemia, a condition that is related to Type 2 diabetes.
How Can I Lower My Insulin Levels While Enjoying Milk?
Choose a milk product that is low in sugar. Skim and fat-free milk and synthetic kinds of milk like almond and coconut are great options. Check the label before drinking, as each manufacturer has different nutritional standards for what they consider low-sugar.
Can Diabetics Drink Milk?
People with diabetes can drink milk. By itself, milk is not a bad food, and adding it to your diet is not a harmful thing to do. However, you need to know the impact that various milk and dairy products will have on your diet. Working with medical professionals like dietitians and your doctor is paramount to finding a diet that works for you. Milk may be a part of that diet.
Some people have additional concerns beyond diabetes, like lactose-intolerance or veganism, which may impact the types of milk and dairy products they want to consume.
There are many options to add dairy to your diet. You need to be aware of the various nutritional profiles of the products you add and how each product will affect your glycemic index and insulin levels.
Is Chocolate Milk Good for Diabetics?
Chocolate milk may be suitable for people with diabetes but in moderation. "Good" is often a personal judgment. Fat-free milk is better for you than chocolate milk, which has a higher sugar content, but both milk types are better than a can of soda.
If you are drinking chocolate milk, make sure you do not drink too much at one time without checking your blood sugar levels. Pace yourself. Depending on your snack and meal plans, a cup of chocolate milk each day can be a great dessert, or it may be too much for your body to handle.
CuraLife: Helping You Find Balance in Your Diet
Not all milk and dairy products are harmful to Type 2 diabetics. CuraLife can help you find a balance, offering diabetes lifestyle and nutritional advice.
We also recommend joining our Winning Type 2 Diabetes Together group to see how other diabetics approach dairy products like milk.