Like all individual foods in our diet, there’s often debate about whether they are good or bad for our health – and milk doesn’t escape this analysis.
When it comes to milk and diabetes, you have full fat, skim milk and low fat options for dairy milk. Then you have soy milk, rice milk, almond milk and coconut milk for non-dairy options. So overall, what is the best option?
Let’s explore this topic in more detail, starting with dairy milk…
On the one hand, dairy products have long been promoted as healthy inclusions in our diet – they contain calcium (for strong bones), along with magnesium, vitamin D, and whey proteins.
Milk proteins in particular are considered high quality proteins, which according to research may help in reducing body fat and insulin resistance, along with showing benefits for glucose regulation and metabolic health.
On the other hand though, milk also contains fat and carbs. For many the major concern is the fat content, which is why it’s often assumed that skim milk or low fat options are best. Before delving into this further, let’s just compare the nutrition facts for dairy milks.
Per half cup
Full cream milk
Notice something about these? They all have the same carb and protein content, the only difference is the calories and fat content.
Because they are so similar, you can really choose any of the options. Don’t be scared of full fat as studies suggest there is no association between intake of full fat dairy and type 2 diabetes – which basically means they are not necessarily good or bad.
As for cardiovascular disease, research indicates that dairy consumption (full fat or not) may have a beneficial effect, reducing the risk of stroke and diabetes. And in regard to dairy’s contribution to blood cholesterol, the only dairy product showing any kind of slight implication was butter – even then associations have been small.
So the message here is, feel free to drink milk – and full fat milk, too. Just be aware however that dairy milk does contain lactose, which is a form of sugar, half cup is 6 grams of carbs so it’s not a great idea to go drink a huge dairy milk smoothie or milkshake!
And one other cautionary word: Dairy can be inflammatory in some people.
Dr Mark Hyman, diabesity expert, suggests that dairy is one of the two most common inflammatory foods. You may not have a major allergic reaction to dairy, but on a cellular level your body may be reacting.
If you want to lose weight and find that your scales don’t budge, or you have any nasal congestion, bloating, indigestion, rashes, muscle aches, or mood swings, don’t discount dairy as a possible culprit. Cut it out for a while and see if you get better results.
There have only been a few studies on soy milk and type 2 diabetes, overall, they don't really show any benefits either way, other than for probiotic soy milk, which may have a slight blood pressure-lowering effect.
And of course, non-dairy sources will not contain as much calcium as dairy. This is not necessarily a problem as you get calcium from various other food sources.
Nutrition facts for half cup soy milk:
- Calories 94
- Carbs 14
- Protein 2.6
- Fat 2.6
Soy milk has more than double the amount of carbs than dairy milk and is also higher in calories while being lower in protein. Being that we encourage a low carb diet (because it works best), soy milk is not really a great choice in this regard.
There are no available studies on rice milk for type 2 diabetes. But again, this is a higher carb milk so isn't one we'd recommend in a low carb diabetic diet.
Unsweetened rice milk, half cup:
- Calories 56
- Carbs 11
- Protein 0.3
- Fat 1
When it comes to the lowest carb options, almond milk does win the race. For smoothies and milkshakes, almond milk makes a great low carb selection, though it's not as creamy as other milks.
Blue Diamond Almond Breeze, unsweetened, half cup:
- Calories 15
- Carbs 0.5
- Protein 0.5
- Fat 1.25
Overall everything is lower, but with that said you do get a reasonable amount of calcium, potassium, sodium, and vitamin A.
Coconut milk is higher in saturated fat – mostly medium chain – it's the long chain fatty acids that have the major link with health issues.
Coconut milk, canned, half cup:
- Calories 222
- Carbs 3.2
- Protein 2.25
- Fat 24
Coconut milk is also higher in calories so although great to use in sauces such as curries, if you're trying to lose weight and keep calories a bit lower, don't go overboard on this one.
Milk and diabetes top picks?
Lowest carb: Almond milk
Best coffee creamers: Dairy milk, almond milk, coconut milk or a dash of cream.
Best avoided: Soy milk and rice milk – much higher in carb content.
What type of milk do you drink?
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