Dairy and Diabetes: What You Need to Know

Dairy and Diabetes: What You Need to Know

Is dairy good for people with diabetes?

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) say Yes!

Sources of dairy products in your diet is an easy way to get calcium and high-quality protein. As carbohydrates cause blood sugar levels to rise, the effect isn’t as strong when carbohydrates are eaten along with protein and fat, as is the case with dairy products.


Studies have indicated that increased dairy intake may reduce risk of being overweight and insulin resistance syndrome.

Consuming a low-calorie diet high in dairy products can help you lose more weight and improve your ability to tolerate glucose better than following a standard low-calorie diet.

But data directly relating dairy intake to type 2 diabetes remain sparse.

Dairy consumption and diabetes

ADA recommends two to three servings of low-fat milk (or other low-fat dairy food such as cheese and yogurt) each day. Some dairy foods, however, can be high in fat and saturated fat, so choose lower-fat alternatives as much as you can.

Recent studies on how dairy products consumptions might lower diabetes risk don’t all reach the same verdict. Nor do they agree about exactly which types of dairy and which fat contents are best.

Some studies have found that yogurt has a strong effect on cutting diabetes risk, but not other dairy products.

Calcium and vitamin D, as well as magnesium in dairy products may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes through their role in modulating insulin resistance, pancreatic beta-cell function, and inflammation.

But up till now, The American Diabetes Association has no policy on dairy to lower diabetes risk.

What effect does eating dairy foods have on blood sugar levels?

Dairy and Diabetes: What You Need to KnowThe glycemic index (GI) tells us whether a food raises blood glucose levels quickly, moderately or slowly. This means it can be useful to help you manage your diabetes.

Carbohydrates are digested and absorbed at different rates, and GI is a ranking of how quickly each carbohydrate-based food and drink makes blood glucose levels rise after eating them.

Dairy products are mostly low on the glycemic index, which means they have scores of 55 or lower.

Dairy GI score

Sweetened condensed milk and ice cream are two exceptions. Yogurt has a GI score between 23 and 38, depending on the type you choose, and milk has a GI score between 11 and 34.

Cheese is similar to foods in the protein group that contain predominantly fat and protein, and it has a lower GI than yogurt or milk.

For example: one slice of American cheese has only 1 gram of carbohydrate, causing a very minimal impact on blood sugar. To keep calories and saturated fat low, choose a low-fat version of your favorite cheese.

Best dairy choices for diabetics

Go for low-fat or fat-free dairy products, since whole-milk dairy products are high in saturated fat, which diabetics need to limit due to their increased risk of heart disease.

Plain non-fat yogurt, light non-fat yogurt without added sweeteners and non-fat or 1% milk are recommended as the best dairy choices by the ADA.

Dairy products and there servings:

– Fat-free or low-fat (1% milk)

– Plain non-fat yogurt OR Non-fat light yogurt (regular or Greek yogurt)

– Cheese reduced fat

– Substitutes for Dairy Products There are plenty of substitutes for dairy products. Just look around your local supermarket. You have, however, to be careful that they do not contain any casein which is often sneaked in as an additive or food supplement. Substitutes for animal milk include soy milk, oat milk, rice milk and almond milk, and a host of other milks made from plants.

Connect with Expert Yumna Sadiq.