Ever been told to avoid dairy foods like milk and yoghurt because of their ‘sugar’ content? Here are the facts.
Where does the ‘sugar’ in milk actually come from?
In plain milk and yoghurt, the ‘sugar’ is naturally occurring and is called lactose. The amount of lactose in low fat and skim varieties is higher than in regular varieties. This is because the removal of fat means there is more room for carbohydrate (I.e. lactose) and protein.
The sugar in dairy is not only complete fine, but it is actually good for us
- Lactose is a source of carbohydrate and therefore the easiest macro nutrient for our bodies to break down as energy
- It acts similarly to a prebiotic fibre by promoting the growth of good bacteria and more importantly increasing the diversity of bacteria in the gut.
- Lactose does this by acting as a food for probiotics (good bacteria) which helps them to multiply.
Are there any exceptions when it comes to sugar in dairy?
Yes. Flavoured milks and yoghurts often contain very high amounts of added sugar. Lactose accounts for approximately 5-6g of the ‘sugar’ per 100ml of milk. Everything above 5-6g is added sugar.
What about cheese?
Cheese tends to have little to no dairy sugar because the lactose is often removed in processing. This is especially true for hard cheeses, and why many people with lactose intolerance may actually be able to eat cheeses such as cheddar. Soft cheeses will often retain some lactose through processing so again the ‘sugar’ seen on the label is naturally occurring.