The Levels of Carbs in Different Varieties of Milk

The Levels of Carbs in Different Varieties of Milk

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Different types of milk have slightly different carb counts.

John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images

If you're a label reader and you're counting carbs, you may be a little shocked at not only the carb count in cow's milk, but that all those carbs come from sugar. But when it comes to nutrition quality, you can't compare a cup of milk to a cup of soda. The carbs in milk come with a host of health-promoting nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D. That being said, if you're trying to reduce carb intake, some fortified plant-milk alternatives may make a good choice.

Carbs in Cow's Milk

The fat content in your milk might change, but carb count doesn't. Whether it's 1 cup of whole milk or 1 cup of skim, each serving has 12 grams of carbs, all of it in the form of sugar. Milk sugar is called lactose, which is a two-molecule compound like the sugar in your sugar bowl, but not as sweet.

Carbs in Plant Milks

If you're trying to reduce carbs, you may prefer some varieties of plant milk over cow's milk, although not all plant milks are low in carbs. Almond milk, for example, makes a good low-carb choice with 2 grams per cup, but hemp and rice milk may not with 20 to 22 grams of carbs per cup, respectively. Soy milk falls in between with 8 grams per cup. Look for brands fortified with calcium and vitamin D, so you get some of the same benefits as cow's milk without the carbs.

About Those Carbs

Whether the sugar comes from milk or a cup of soda, your body turns it into glucose to use for energy. However, the sugar in milk is digested more slowly than the carbs in soda, which means it provides a steady stream of energy to keep you going longer. And the carbs in the milk come with nutrients that are good for you, including high-quality protein, calcium, and vitamin D, while the soda doesn't offer any nutritional value and only provides calories in the form of sugar.

Concerns With Lactose Intolerance

Not everyone can enjoy a cup of cow's milk. If you're lactose intolerant, your body can't digest the carbs in cow's milk, so you suffer with abdominal pain, bloating and diarrhea. While cow's milk may be out for the lactose intolerant, the carbs in plant milk aren't in the form of lactose, so you should be able to enjoy those milks without any discomfort. You can also try lactose-free cow's milk, which contains the same amount of carbs as regular milk, but has been specially treated to break down the lactose for you.


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