Expert-reviewed by Ashwini S.Kanade, Registered Dietician and Certified Diabetes Educator with 17 years of experience
For most of us, milk and milk products are a staple in our diet, because we consider them a good source of calcium. However, they also contain carbohydrates. So, if you’re on a diabetic diet, you must factor in the calories you’re consuming with foods like milk, yoghurt, cheese, butter, ghee and paneer.
According to the American Diabetes Association, the recommended quantity of carbohydrate is between 45 and 60 grams per meal. If you’re drinking a glass of milk (having approx. 27 grams of carbohydrates) as part of breakfast, you need to then count the number of calories that this will add to the meal. Learn how to balance your meals to make them diabetes-friendly.
Types of milk and which one to have
- Milk with all its ingredients, including the cream, is called whole milk. Whole milk is high in fat content and thus richer in calories.
- The milk from which fat has been removed is called skimmed milk. While this milk has little to no fat, it does contain carbohydrates.
- A good substitute for cow/buffalo milk is almond milk as it is low in carbohydrates.
- The points we just discussed lead us to believe that cow/buffalo milk is not healthy for people with diabetes. However, recent research has painted a different picture.
Whole Milk may be good for type 2 diabetes!
A 2013 review of several studies suggested that whole milk may actually have a protective effect against diabetes and heart disease. This action is attributed to a compound called trans-palmitoleic acid that’s found in milk fat and helps to improve the body’s sensitivity to insulin. (1,2)
A newer 2016 paper gave the results of a 15-year study about 3,300 healthy persons aged between 30 and 75 years of age. This publication showed that persons with higher dairy fat levels had a 44% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to persons who stuck to low-fat foods. Of course, as the authors advise, more studies are required to understand this surprising effect of fat obtained from dairy products. (3)
Camel milk is good for type 1 diabetes
Interestingly, a review of research on camel milk found that camel milk helps in reducing blood sugar levels and insulin need in persons with type 1 diabetes. (4) The same publication also found that the use of camel milk was associated with fewer diabetic complications such as kidney and liver problems and slow wound-healing.
Milk products and diabetes
A study in the US found that adults with higher intake of yoghurt have a lesser risk of type 2 diabetes. (5) Another review of studies on dairy products and risk of diabetes also found that consumption of such products and cheese was related significantly to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. (6)
Now you’re probably asking – so, does this data show that I can consume milk and milk products without worrying about the effect on my diabetes? There is no clear answer; the one simple guideline we suggest is this: include these foods in your diet in moderation. Make sure you count the calories they contribute and if necessary, err on the side of caution, to ensure your blood sugar levels stay in check.
- D. Mozaffarian, H. Cao, I.B. King, R.N. Lemaitre, X. Song, D.S. Siscovick et al. Trans-Palmitoleic Acid, Metabolic Risk Factors, and New-Onset Diabetes in U.S. Adults. Annals of Internal Medicine, December 21, 2010. Available online at
- M. Kratz, T. Baars, S. Guvenet. The relationship between high-fat dairy consumption and obesity, cardiovascular, and metabolic disease. Eur J Nutr. 2013 Feb;52(1):1-24. doi: 10.1007/s00394-012-0418-1.
- M.Y. Yakoob, P. Shi, W.C. Willett, K.M. Rexrode, H. Campos, E.J. Oray et al. Circulating Biomarkers of Dairy Fat and Risk of Incident Diabetes Mellitus Among US Men and Women in Two Large Prospective Cohorts. Circulation. 2016; https://doi.org/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.115.018410
- A.B. Shori. Camel milk as a potential therapy for controlling diabetes and its complications: A review of in vivo studies. Journal of Food and Drug Analysis. December 2015; 23(4): 609-618 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jfda.2015.02.007
- M.Chen, Q. Sun, E. Giovannucci, D. Mozaffarian, J.E. Manson, W.C. Willett et al. Dairy consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: 3 cohorts of US adults and an updated meta-analysis. BMC Med 2014;12:215. Available online at https://bmcmedicine.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12916-014-0215-1
- D. Aune, T. Norat, P. Romundstad, L.J. Vatten. Dairy products and the risk of type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of cohort studies. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. October 2013; 98(4): 1066–1083 https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.113.059030