The glycemic index is a measurement of how quickly a food or drink raises your blood sugar. The glycemic index of beverages (like milk) can be helpful to know if you’re on a low-carb diet, have blood sugar problems, or are simply health conscious.
Some of the kinds of milk with the highest glycemic indexes include rice milk and sugar-sweetened milk, among a few others.
In this article, we’ll go over a few types of milk that are likely high on the glycemic index scale, as well as discuss what types of factors make milk high or low on the glycemic index.
What is the glycemic index?
The glycemic index (GI) measures how much a single food affects your blood sugar levels. The scale for the glycemic index goes from 0-100, with pure glucose (the same type of sugar in your bloodstream) having a score of 100.
Foods and drinks can be classified as low, medium, or high on the glycemic index scale. Here is how these categories are broken down:
Low GI: 0-55
Medium GI: 56-69
High GI: 70-100
Which factors impact the glycemic index in milk?
Milk that is high in carbohydrates and low in either fat and/or protein can raise the glycemic index. Why?
Carbs (including sugar) turn into blood sugar quickly, whereas fat and protein delay the rise in blood sugar (remember that the glycemic index measures how quickly something raises blood sugar).
Milk that has sugar added will likely have a much higher glycemic index than unsweetened varieties. For instance, the glycemic index of chocolate 2% milk is likely much higher than the glycemic index of regular 2% milk.
5 milks with the highest glycemic indexes
It’s tricky to get accurate glycemic indexes for all the different types of milk out there. However, high-carb and high-sugar milks likely have higher glycemic indexes, so we’re including those that can accurately be estimated to be high on the GI scale in addition to those with documented GI scores.
Rice milk – ~85
Rice milk is one of the few milks for which we could track down a glycemic index. Rice milk is high in carbs and low in protein and fat, so it’s not surprising that it has a high glycemic index.
Chocolate milk – likely high GI, depending on how much sugar is added
If you search for the glycemic index for chocolate milk, many sources say it’s low on the GI scale. However, brands with a lot of added sugar are likely to be high on the glycemic index scale since the total carb count is so high.
Strawberry milk – likely high GI
Like chocolate milk, strawberry milk has quite a bit of added sugar. Considering there is already natural sugar in cow’s milk, adding more to it can raise the glycemic index a bit. However, thanks to the protein and fat content of cow’s milk, strawberry milk likely has a lower GI than sugar-sweetened beverages like soda, which doesn’t contain any fat or protein.
Barley milk – likely high GI
Barley milk is higher in carbs (26 grams per cup) and is lower in fat and protein than cow’s milk, so it’s likely on the higher end of the glycemic index range. It’s sweetened, but only contains three grams of added sugar per cup, so not nearly as much as the amount of added sugar in chocolate milk.
Condensed milk – likely high GI
Condensed milk is cow’s milk with around 60% of the water removed and sugar added. Condensed milk is used to make candy and other sweets. Condensed milk contains 18 grams of added sugar per 2 tablespoons, which would make it have more added sugar than chocolate milk when comparing equal serving sizes.
Nutritional comparison of high glycemic index milks
|Per cup (237 ml/8 oz.)||Calories||Total fat (saturated)||Total carbs||Total sugars (incl. added)||Protein|
|Rice milk||70||2.5 g (0 g)||13 g||<1 g (0 g)||0 g|
|Chocolate milk (2%)||220||5 g (3.5 g)||33 g||31 g (16 g)||11 g|
|Strawberry milk (whole)||210||8 g (5 g)||27 g||25 g (14 g)||8 g|
|Barley milk||140||3 g (0 g)||26 g||6 g (3 g)||4 g|
|Condensed milk (2 tbsp.)||130||3 g (1.5 g)||22 g||21 g (18 g)||3 g|
Milk low in sugar and carbohydrates shouldn’t significantly spike blood sugar levels. One example of low glycemic index milk is unsweetened almond milk, with a glycemic index of 25.
The glycemic index of cow’s milk is around 27, making it a low glycemic index milk.
Unsweetened almond milk is not likely to raise blood sugar because it has such low carbohydrate content and low glycemic index score (25).