Does milk really contain sugar?

June 27th, 2015 1:41 am

First Posted: 6/5/2013

Reading the food label can be a challenge. Often folks ask me why they don’t make milk without the sugar.

In the eyes of a nutritionist, milk continues to be the drink of choice next to water. It has protein, vitamins and minerals. It is, however, bothersome to see on the food label, 11 grams of “sugar” in an eight ounce glass of skim milk.

USDA defines sugar on the food label to include table sugar, milk sugar and fruit sugar. Table sugar is sucrose, the food item that can cause cavities. The sugar naturally found in milk is lactose, a disaccharide, meaning it has two parts to it, glucose and galactose. Lactose intolerance occurs when there is insufficient lactase an enzyme, to break it down, causing GI distress.

Like sucrose, a fellow disaccharide, lactose is broken down and sent to the liver to be converted to glucose.

The third sugar is fructose, nature’s sugar, which is found in fruit. Fructose is a monosaccharide, which doesn’t need to be broken down.

Naming all these sugars may be a bit confusing. It’s important to note that all sugars are equal in respect to calories, but it’s the other nutrients that come with sugar that boost some to the top of the list.

Milk has calcium, a mineral which is needed by all ages. Check out the chart below to see how much you need every day.

Calcium needed by your body every day

Age 1-3 - 500 milligrams per day

Age 4-8 - 800 milligrams per day

Age 9-18 - 1300 milligrams per day

Adult - 1,000 milligrams per day

Over 51 - 1,200 milligrams per day

One eight-ounce glass of milk contains 300 mg of calcium. Whole, 2 percent, 1 percent or skim milk all has the same amount of calcium, protein, vitamins and minerals. They only vary in fat content.

Milk can be enjoyed throughout the year. When it’s hot outside, turn a regular glass of milk into a frozen drink. Here is a great recipe that uses a blender.

Fruit Milk Shakes

1 cup skim milk

2 bananas or 2 cups of your favorite fruit

1 teaspoon vanilla

10 large ice cubes

Place the following foods together in a blender. Blend for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Hint: Peel and freeze bananas that are turning brown. Use them in this recipe to make it even creamier.

Recipe adapted from