Updated: Aug. 21, 2019

Can this dairy staple help protect against insulin resistance?

There’s something rather mysterious about milk in relation to blood sugar. It moves the needle only a smidge, which isn’t surprising since it’s fairly low in carbohydrates and rich in protein (a perfect combination for steadying blood sugar). But researchers think there’s some natural component in milk that may help directly protect against insulin resistance, a forerunner of type 2 diabetes.

Two Harvard studies found that people who made dairy foods part of their daily diets were 21 percent less likely to develop insulin resistance and 9 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes for each daily serving of dairy they had. Pretty impressive! (Apparently not everyone has gotten the word, though: Some Web sites actually tell you that milk causes diabetes.)

Choose fat-free milk over whole or even 2 percent, which still has a fair amount of saturated fat, the kind that increases insulin resistance and clogs arteries.

Health Bonus
Milk is, of course, rich in calcium and vitamin D, both important for shoring up bone. Fat-free milk actually has more calcium than whole, and it’s also virtually the only good source of vitamin D you’re likely to find in your kitchen. D is a “don’t miss” vitamin: Experts are realizing not only that our needs for it are higher than previously thought — and our blood levels woefully low — but also that it may play a key role in preventing certain cancers if we get enough.

Low-fat dairy foods such as fat-free milk are also a cornerstone of the doctor-recommended DASH diet proven to help control high blood pressure.

Glycemic Load: Very low

If you’re not a fan of fat-free milk because it’s too thin, try ultra-pasteurized fat-free milk, also called UHT (ultra-high temperature). Brands include Parmalat. It tends to have a creamier texture than regular fat-free milk but no more fat or calories.

Menu Magic

  • Pretend you’re a kid again and drink a cold glass of fat-free milk with lunch or dinner.
  • Make yourself a banana-strawberry smoothie with frozen strawberries, a frozen banana, fat-free milk, and a dash of vanilla extract.
  • Create “cream” of carrot or tomato soup using fat-free milk. Thicken it with a small amount of flour.
  • Enjoy a soothing cup of chai once in a while instead of coffee.

Perfect Portion: 1 cup
Three 8-ounce (250-milliliter) servings a day of low-fat milk or other dairy products, such as yogurt, may help tame insulin resistance and also provide much of the calcium you need.

Don’t Fall for It
Almost everyone has seen the commercials advertising dairy foods as an aid in losing weight. The trouble is, the results of studies on dairy and weight loss have been inconsistent, with the latest showing that people who eat a lot of calcium-rich dairy foods don’t in fact have an easier time losing weight. There’s no harm in getting more fat-free milk into your diet; just don’t bank on dairy foods to solve your poundage problems.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest