Diabetics can have milk, but What is the Best Milk for Diabetics? It may surprise you. Milk is an important part of everyday living. In some way or another, we incorporate milk into our daily diets. From yogurt to cheese to cream, we somehow find a way to interact with this “pearly silk”. I always loved milk. Let’s see what milk is good for you as a diabetic.
Milks Good to Drink if you Have Diabetes
If you live with diabetes, it may be a struggle to keep up with drinking milk. The constant need to carb-cut and regulate sugar levels make it a worry to sustain a level of milk intake.
But do diabetics need to stay away from all forms of milk? Do they have to completely avoid ingesting milk? Or are there certain types of milk that diabetics can take as viable alternatives? Hey! That’s why we’re here; to find out. So without further ado, let’s begin.
To Begin, Let’s Understand Diabetes
Diabetes Mellitus, commonly known as simply diabetes, is a metabolic disorder characterized by high blood sugar levels over a sustained period of time, accommodating symptoms like frequent urination, increased thirst and increased hunger.
Diabetes can occur in three main forms:
- When the pancreas (an organ behind the stomach) is not producing enough insulin (Type 1 diabetes),
- When the cells of the body do not respond properly to the insulin produced by the pancreas (Type 2 diabetes),
- And a special case where pregnant women, without a previous history of diabetes, develop high blood sugar levels (Gestational diabetes).
These three forms are all linked by one thing. INSULIN. Essentially, insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar level. When the body does not produce enough or fails to respond properly to insulin, the body’s ability to process blood glucose (blood sugar) gets impaired and as a result, a spike in blood sugar levels is observed. They key to diabetes is to keep it under control.
Diabetes, unfortunately, has no cure (YET). Without careful monitoring and management, diabetes can lead to an accumulation of blood sugars in the blood which can increase the risk of very dangerous complications like stroke and heart disease. Consequently, people living with diabetes are thoroughly advised to avoid certain foods for their health; foods that could potentially facilitate the production of carbohydrates or glucose in the body.
This brings us to the topic of milk. We all know that diabetics should avoid sugary drinks and high carb diets, but what about milk? Milk is a staple in all diets and serves as an important source of proteins and vitamins that is essential for the body.
It’s common sense that milk does contain sugar (lactose) which could be a nightmare for diabetics, but does that mean that diabetics should completely stifle their supply of milk? Are there any other alternative options to satisfy this need? Let’s take a look:
Milk and Meal Plans for Diabetics
According to a 2015 statistic, about 400 million people all over the world suffer from at least one form of diabetes. This figure is expected to double in the next decade. As a result, the World Health Organization as well as the American Diabetes Association made efforts to recommend several meal plans geared towards controlling high blood sugar levels and sustaining a lifestyle capable of moderating the effect of diabetes (as well as preventing early onset of diabetes).
Besides the options of regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight and regular checkups, some of the dietary plans include:
- Portion control; to promote non-starchy vegetables and limit starches and protein
- Carb-counting; which allocates a specific carb target for each meal. The American Diabetes Association’s nutrition plan recommends 45 to 60 grams of carbohydrates per meal, which includes one serving of dairy (an equivalent of one serving of milk).
- The Glycemic Index (GI); a food ranking scale from 0-100 to select foods based on how they affect blood sugar levels. In essence, carbohydrates with a low GI value (<55) are more slowly digested and metabolized and consequently cause a lower and slower rise in blood glucose and insulin levels. This is the best way to lower your blood sugar and it really works!
Now let’s consider milk. Milk contains fats, sugar (lactose), carbohydrates, proteins as well as cholesterol. The quantities of these components are tallied on the labels of the specific types of milk. Diabetics are advised to look for the least amount of sugar per serving and completely avoid milk with a high quantity (per 100g) of saturated and trans fat.
This ensures that the GI index of milk for a diabetic patient remains as low as possible in order to prevent that dreaded blood sugar level spike!
So, What Type of Milk is Best for Diabetics?
Various types of milk have very diverse nutritional content. It is important that diabetics understand the numerous varieties of milk that exist on the shelves of grocery stores and make decisions accordingly.
Whole Milk (Regular milk) contains: 8g of Total Fat (Saturated, Trans, Polyunsaturated and Monounsaturated. Poly and monounsaturated taken in moderation can, however, be good for the heart.), 150kcal of calories, 24mg of Cholesterol, 15-20g of Total Carbohydrates, 7.7g of protein and up to 15g of Sugar [per serving].
It only makes sense that diabetics choose alternatives that are much lower in terms of fat, carbohydrate and sugar quantities to ensure that blood sugar levels are controlled and optimized to prevent a spike.
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Below are some of the many types of milk suitable for diabetics. Note that the unsweetened varieties of these milk types are recommended as the addition of sweeteners can increase the sugar and carbohydrate quantities and ultimately result in an undesirable blood sugar level spike.