Picture of Mary Ellen Phipps, MPH, RDN, LD

Mary Ellen Phipps, MPH, RDN, LD

Mary Ellen Phipps, MPH, RDN, LD, the founder of Milk & Honey Nutrition, is a diabetes dietitian (Registered Dietitian Nutritionist) renowned for combining her knowledge of diabetes and culinary expertise into easy-to-follow recipes and articles!


Milk and Diabetes: All Your Questions Answered

Article Overview

glass of milk in antique glass milk and diabetes

There’s lots of confusion around milk and diabetes, so let’s dive into everything you need to know!

People often have a lot of questions surrounding milk and diabetes. Most commonly, I get asked what type of milk is best, is it ok to drink it, and how to enjoy it.

This post is sponsored by the a2 Milk® Company. All thoughts and ideas are my own. 

a2 milk and diabetes

Is milk good for people with diabetes? 

Milk can be a part of a balanced diet, and can be a great option for people with diabetes. Milk does contain carbohydrate though, so it’s understandable that people with both type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes would have questions about if they can drink milk and what is the best way to enjoy it?

Can people with diabetes drink milk?

Yes! People with diabetes, both type 1 and type 2, can drink milk! (Unless of course you have an allergy or direct medical reason given by your doctor not to consume milk.)

In fact, past research has shown that intake of high-fat dairy products may lower a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes. 

***This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis, opinion, treatment or services. This article and the links contained in it provide general information for educational purposes only. The information provided in this article is not a substitute for medical care. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or registered dietitian.***

Does milk have carbohydrates?

Milk (cow) does contain carbohydrate. One glass (8 fl oz.) of milk provides 12g carbohydrate. Lots of people have concern about the carbs in milk and if it’s ok to drink. Just like any other food or drink, as long as we are balancing our meals and snacks with fat, fiber, and/or protein, we are good to go! And the great thing about milk is that it offers fat and protein in addition to carbohydrate. 

glass of milk

Does milk have sugar? Does milk have natural sugar?

Many people wonder how much sugar is in milk. The 12g of carbohydrate in a plain (unflavored) glass of milk are actually 12g of a naturally occurring sugar called lactose. Compared to flavored milks, plain milk is what some people will call a low sugar milk. Flavored milks (think chocolate, strawberry, etc.) have additional sugar added. 

What is the milk glycemic index?

Thebest milk for people with diabetes, just like any other food, isn’t necessarily a straight forward answer. Everyone living with diabetes has their own unique needs and responses to food. 

The glycemic index of milk ranges from 30-40 depending on what sources you look at and what type of milk you are considering. So, regardless of type, milk is considered a low glycemic food. 

What type of milk is best for diabetes: whole, 2%, 1% or skim?

When it comes to milk and diabetes and deciding what type is best, we need to remember to think on the individual level. For reference, here’s a quick chart with the carbohydrate, protein, and fat content of the 4 main types of cows milk…

Nutrition in 8fl oz. of cow’s milk
Type of milkCarbohydrateProteinFat

Protein and carbohydrate content is fairly consistent across the board. It’s the fat content that varies. And what does fat impact? Taste and satisfaction. Two very important components when thinking about what type of milk to enjoy. Do you like the way it tastes? Does it satisfy you? 

And as always, if your healthcare team has advised you on a certain type of milk that’s best, check with them before switching. 

latte made with whole milk for diabetes

What time of day can people with diabetes enjoy milk?

Technically, people with diabetes can enjoy milk any time of day! However, there are certain times of the day that some people may be more insulin resistant, and thus may choose to limit their carbohydrate intake. This is definitely one of those things to consult with your personal healthcare team on. 

Most people with diabetes can enjoy milk any time of day. 

What is a2 milk®?

But, what if you think you have a diary intolerance? How do you enjoy the nutritional benefits of milk if it causes discomfort?

Well, enter a2 milk®. While some people with diabetes may have a true lactose intolerance, some may actually have an intolerance to a certain type of protein found in common cows milk, called A1 protein. Not the lactose.

a2 milk in glass

a2 Milk® benefits

Traditional cows milk has two types of protein: casein and whey. And, casein can have two forms: A1 and A2. Many people who think they are lactose intolerant, may actually have an intolerance to A1 casein. So, this is especially relevant if you’ve ever thought you have a lactose intolerance, but still don’t tolerate lactose free dairy products. 

a2 Milk® comes from cows that naturally produce only the A2 casein protein and no A1. a2 Milk® is easier on digestion and may help some people avoid the discomfort they feel when drinking traditional cows milk. A new study out of Purdue University finds that some people who suffer from stomach discomfort after drinking regular milk may significantly reduce their symptoms if they drink milk that contains only A2 protein.

And, unlike lactose free milk, a2 Milk® is 100% real dairy milk from local US farms.

a2 Milk® contains the same amounts of calcium and other important minerals and nutrients as cows’ milk because it IS real cows’ milk. This means that for millions of Americans a2 Milk® may be a great choice.

a2 Milk® and diabetes

So, how does all of this relate back to our discussion on milk and diabetes? Since a2 milk is 100% dairy milk from cows, it has the same nutritional properties and benefits as regular cows milk, just without the A1 casein protein. Thus, a2 milk has the same potential positive impact for people with diabetes as does regular milk.

But, what’s VERY interesting and I am very much looking forward to hopefully seeing more research on is the connection between A1 casein protein and type 1 diabetes. Some animal studies have shown an association between higher A1 casein consumption and development of type 1 diabetes. This is not a cause/effect relationship, but they may be related. 

Where to buy a2 Milk®

If you want to try a2 milk for yourself, there are a number of retailers across the US that carry it!

latte made with whole a2 milk for diabetes

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7 Responses

  1. Thank you so much for this post! I have been researching this information only to come up more confused and frustrated. Thank you for breaking it down for those of us that are new to the dreaded diabetic regimen.

  2. So, what IS the best milk for a diabetic? I am very thin, so I don’t have to worry about gaining weight.

      1. Are there any companies that produce sugar free milk. I am a hugh coffee drinker and find the milk shoots my sugar levels very high. I have tried the alternatives almond rice oats etc but I dislike the taste. I have type 2 diabetes. On tablets and insulin

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