You may wonder how to manage your blood sugar levels if you eat dairy products. But the answer is not as straightforward as it may seem.
That’s because dairy foods such as yogurt, ice cream, cheese, and milk can all have different effects on your glucose levels depending on the number of carbs they contain and the time after they’re ingested.
Generally, the speed at which your body processes milk compounds and absorbs their nutrients into your bloodstream will determine how they affect blood sugar levels afterward. This means that processing time and assimilation of nutrients play important roles in how dairy affects blood sugar levels.
Dairy products with less than 5g of carbohydrates per serving (or less than 20g per day) typically have a low glycemic index (e.g., yogurt or skim milk) and will not affect your glucose levels much at all. In fact, research shows that dairy products may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes in men. (1)
However, dairy products with more than 5g of carbs per serving (or more than 20g per day) tend to have a high glycemic index and they may significantly increase your blood glucose levels, depending on how fast you digest them. Dairy products that have a moderate GI (50-69) include lactose-containing dairy products (e.g., cheese, ice cream, milk) and fermented dairy products such as kefir. (2)
It is important to note that the effects of dairy on blood glucose levels are related to their glycemic index but not to their protein or fatty acid content since these compounds don’t affect your blood sugar levels in any way.
Best Type of Dairy For Your Blood Glucose
Another study also found that yogurt consumption 30 minutes before a meal reduced hunger, increased fullness, and delayed subsequent eating. This could make a lot of difference, especially when you’re trying to lose weight. (5)
In general, yogurt and skim milk have a negligible impact on your blood sugar levels.
What if you have Lactose Intolerance?
However, most some people with lactose intolerance can tolerate small amounts of lactose. For example, your body may handle the small amount of milk in your tea but probably not the amount you would get from a bowl of cereal.
In fact, recent research proves that many people with lactose intolerance can take up to 12 grams of lactose in one sitting. (6)</span
That said, if you’re thinking of including some dairy in your diet, then you should strongly consider yogurt, as research shows it causes fewer symptoms in people with lactose intolerance than other types of dairy. (7)
Here are some other factors to consider if you want to include dairy products in your diet and make sure they don't affect your blood glucose levels:
- Choose low glycemic foods for snacks. Examples include vegetables (e.g., cucumber), seeds (e.g., sunflower), and some fruits (e.g., cherries, dried apricots).
- Choose a low-carb food to eat before or after eating dairy foods.
- Keep Consume yogurt, milk, and fruit between 20 – 30 minutes before or after a meal. If you do consume eat them right away, have them with a snack containing protein (e.g., protein bar, turkey breast) that delays the effect of the carbohydrates in these foods on your blood glucose levels for at least 30 minutes afterward.
- If you get the urge to eat dairy products immediately after your meal, then go ahead and have them. But do so 30 minutes before bedtime.
The key thing is to avoid dairy products with more than 5g carbohydrates per serving or more than 20g carbs per day.