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April 23, 2024
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Milk, a staple in many diets, is often praised for its nutritional benefits. Beyond its calcium and protein content, milk's glycemic index has garnered attention in recent years. Despite being a carbohydrate-rich beverage, milk generally has a low glycemic index, meaning it causes a slower rise in blood sugar levels compared to high-glycemic foods.¹ This characteristic can be particularly beneficial for individuals managing diabetes, as it may help regulate blood sugar levels more effectively. Furthermore, the presence of bioactive compounds like whey protein and calcium in milk may contribute to its favorable glycemic response.²'³ 

This article aims to explore the nuanced relationship between milk consumption and blood sugar management, shedding light on its potential health implications beyond conventional nutritional wisdom.

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Glycemic Index Table

To calculate the glycemic index (GI), carbohydrate content, and glycemic load (GL) of milk per 100g serving, we need to refer to reliable sources. Milk typically has a low glycemic index ranging from 15 to 40.¹ The carbohydrate content of milk varies slightly depending on the type, but on average, it contains around 4.7g of carbohydrates per 100g serving.⁴ 

To calculate the GL per serving, we use the formula GI * (carbohydrate per serving / 100). For example, for milk with a GI of 30 and 4.7g of carbohydrates per 100g serving, the GL per serving would be 30 * (4.7 / 100) = 1.41.

It's important to note that cooking milk does not significantly affect its glycemic index, as the carbohydrate composition remains relatively stable. However, processing methods, such as adding sweeteners or flavors, may alter the glycemic response.

Glycemic Index

15-40

Serving Size

100g

Carbohydrate* per Serving (g)

4.7 g

GL per Serving

1.41

Nutritional Facts

Milk is a nutrient-rich beverage that provides essential vitamins and minerals, including calcium, vitamin D, and protein, crucial for bone health and overall well-being. Additionally, milk contains healthy fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids, which support heart health and cognitive function. These nutritional components make milk a valuable part of a balanced diet.

The nutritional information below is for 100 g of whole cow’s milk.⁴

Calories

51 kcal

Carbs

4.7 g

Protein

3.38 g

Fiber

0 g

Cholesterol

8 mg

Vitamins

C (0 mg)

Sodium

48 mg

Total Fat

1.97 g

Is Milk Good for Weight Loss?

Milk can be a beneficial component of a weight loss diet when consumed in moderation and as part of a balanced eating plan. Low-fat or non-fat milk options provide essential nutrients like protein, calcium, and vitamin D, which can support muscle maintenance and bone health during weight loss efforts. 

Additionally, the protein content in milk may help increase satiety and promote feelings of fullness, potentially reducing overall calorie intake. However, it's essential to consider the calorie content of milk and adjust consumption accordingly within daily calorie goals for weight management.

Is Milk Good for People Living with Diabetes?

Milk can be a part of a healthy diet for individuals with diabetes, but it's crucial to consider factors like fat content and portion size. Low-fat or non-fat milk options are generally recommended for those with diabetes to help manage blood sugar levels and reduce the intake of saturated fats, which may impact heart health. 

However, individual tolerance to dairy may vary, and some individuals with diabetes may need to monitor their blood sugar response to milk consumption closely. Incorporating milk as part of a balanced diet, alongside other nutrient-dense foods, can provide essential nutrients like calcium and vitamin D.

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Allergies

Milk allergies, often seen in infants and young children, occur when the immune system mistakenly identifies milk proteins as harmful substances, triggering an allergic reaction. Symptoms can range from mild, such as hives and digestive issues, to severe, including anaphylaxis. It's essential for individuals with milk allergies to avoid milk and dairy products while also being cautious of hidden sources of milk protein in processed foods.

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FAQs

What is Glycemic Index?

The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how quickly a carbohydrate-containing food raises blood sugar levels compared to a reference food, usually glucose. It ranks foods on a scale from 0 to 100, with higher values indicating a faster rise in blood sugar. The glycemic index (GI) scale is typically categorized as follows: Low GI [55 or less], Medium GI [56-69], High GI [70 or higher]. Foods with a high glycemic index digest rapidly and can cause dramatic fluctuations in blood glucose or glucose spikes.

What is Glycemic Load?

Glycemic load (GL) takes into account both the quality (glycemic index) and quantity (carbohydrate content) of carbohydrates in a specific serving of food. It is a measure of how much a particular food will raise blood sugar levels. GL is calculated by multiplying the glycemic index of a food by its carbohydrate content and dividing it by 100. It provides a more accurate representation of the overall impact of a food on blood sugar compared to the glycemic index alone.

Does Milk Spike Insulin?

No, milk does not spike insulin. Milk contains a combination of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, which are digested and absorbed at different rates. The carbohydrates in milk, mainly lactose, are broken down into glucose and galactose, which are absorbed slowly and do not cause a rapid increase in blood sugar levels. As a result, milk has a low glycemic index and does not cause a significant spike in insulin levels.

Is Milk Low Glycemic?

No, milk is not considered low glycemic. Milk contains lactose, which is a type of sugar that can raise blood sugar levels. The glycemic index (GI) measures how quickly a food raises blood sugar levels, and milk has a moderate GI. However, it is important to note that the impact of milk on blood sugar levels can vary depending on factors such as the individual's metabolism and the amount consumed. It is always recommended to consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian for personalized dietary advice.

Can People Living with Diabetes Eat Milk?

Yes, people living with diabetes can consume milk. Milk is a good source of essential nutrients such as calcium, protein, and vitamin D. However, it is important for individuals with diabetes to choose low-fat or skim milk options to manage their blood sugar levels effectively. Whole milk and flavored milk products may contain higher amounts of sugar and fat, which can impact blood glucose control. It is always recommended to consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian for personalized advice on managing diabetes and incorporating milk into a balanced diet.

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References

  1. The University of Sydney. (2023, May 1). Glycemic Index – Glycemic Index Research and GI Newshttps://glycemicindex.com/
  2. The Nutrition Source. (2021, July). Milkhttps://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/milk/
  3. Lesgards J. F. (2023). Benefits of Whey Proteins on Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Parameters and Prevention of Cardiovascular Diseases. Nutrients, 15(5), 1294. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu15051294
  4. USDA FoodData Central. (2019, December 16). Food Details - Milk, whole, 3.25% milkfat, with added vitamin D. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/746782/nutrients

About the author

It is a long established fact that a reader will be distracted by the readable content of a page when looking at its layout.

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About the author

Brittany Barry is a national board-certified health coach and NASM-certified personal trainer based in South Carolina.

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Please note: The Signos team is committed to sharing insightful and actionable health articles that are backed by scientific research, supported by expert reviews, and vetted by experienced health editors. The Signos blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. Read more about our editorial process and content philosophy here.

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