How Much Sugar Is In Dairy?

Updated: Nov 20, 2019


If you're looking to cut out sugar from your diet, you've probably given up some of the main culprits already - soda, chocolate, ketchup, and fruit juice. That's a great step! Cutting out these products means you are moving in the right direction and are serious about living a sugar free life and improving your overall health.


However, what you replace these items with can be just as important as removing them from your diet in the first place. Are you drinking more milk now, instead of soda? Have you replaced your candy cravings with yogurt or cheese?


Unfortunately, sugar and dairy are almost impossible to separate, so if you are eating and drinking dairy, you're probably eating and drinking sugar too. And if you're trying to cut down on your sugar intake, this could be a problem, so I'll help you to understand just how much sugar is in dairy products, and which dairy products have the most sugar and which have the least.


However, before we discuss the amount of sugar found in dairy products, it's important to understand the different types of sugar and how they impact our bodies.


A scoop of vanilla ice cream

Dairy sugar overview

The most common sugar found in dairy products is lactose, as it is found in mammals' milk. This type of sugar is easily broken down in the body by an enzyme called lactase, (unless you happen to be lactose intolerant). Once lactose has been reduced to glucose, the body can easily make use of it for energy.


But it's not just the naturally occurring sugars in dairy that you need to keep an eye on, as products will often include fructose, which can come in the form of added fruit or other sweeteners, and so it's often these 'added' sugars that can make some dairy products end up being very high in sugar content.


In general, lactose is viewed as one of the healthier forms of sugar, as it is fairly easy to convert into energy by our bodies. However, fructose, while not inherently unhealthy in small quantities, is not as filling as other lactose and glucose, which may lead to overeating.


Eating too much fructose is a common problem for millions of people around the globe, as it is highly addictive and causes sugar addiction. Cutting down on sugar can have so many health benefits, as I outlined in a blog here: 17 amazing things that happen when you stop eating sugar.


Now that we have a basic understanding of lactose and fructose, let's take a closer look at different types of diary products and how much sugar they can contain.


How much sugar is in milk?

Milk only contains the naturally occurring lactose. On average, a single glass (250g) of white milk contains 12 grams of lactose. While the sugar in milk isn't inherently bad for you, your overall sugar consumption can skyrocket if you aren't aware of how much sugar is really in that cup of milk you had for breakfast.


Bear in mind that the daily recommended sugar allowance according to the World Health Organisation is only 25g (7tsp) for a woman and 35g (9tsp) for a man. Two glasses of milk and you've already reached your daily sugar allowance for a woman!


If you prefer to indulge in something a bit more flavorful and decide to grab a chocolate milk instead, prepare to be shocked. Most chocolate milks contains approximately 30 grams of sugar per cup! That's nearly equivalent to a can of soda. While it's true, you do gain additional nutrients from milk compared to soda, the sugar content can bring on a plethora of negative health effects, especially if you are unaware of your total sugar consumption.


If you feel the need to drink milk while trying to reduce your sugar intake, be sure to stick with a brand that is unsweetened, and double check the Nutrition Facts label to see the total sugar content (Carbohydrate per 100g of which sugars). Milk is such a staple in many people's diets that it is usually a hard item to stop drinking. With time and effort, you can step away from this product and enjoy healthier alternatives, such as unsweetened almond milk.


Examples of typical sugar content in milk:


- Milk, 1% (1 glass): 13 grams of sugar

- Milk, 2% (1 glass): 12 grams of sugar

- Milk, Nonfat (1 glass): 12 grams of sugar

- Chocolate Milk (1 glass): 24 grams of sugar

- Powdered Milk (glass): 49 grams of sugar


How much sugar is in cheese?

Discussing sugar in cheese in difficult, simply because there are so many types to choose from! In general, all cheeses do contain sugar, however it is at very low levels. For example, Parmesan cheese only contains 0.3 grams of sugar per ounce and a slice of Provolone holds only 0.2 grams of sugar. If you are replacing high sugar items in your diet with cheese, then you are making a wise decision. Again, be sure to check the Nutrition Facts label, as some cheeses such as Gouda can hold around 6 grams of sugar per serving. Sticking with provolone, parmesan, or goat cheese which contains no sugars is your best option for moving towards a sugar free life.


Examples of typical sugar content in cheese:


- Parmesan cheese (1 ounce): 0.3 grams

- Provolone (1 slice): 0.2 grams

- Gouda (1 cup): 6 grams

- Goat (1 cup): 0 grams

- Cheddar (1 slice): 0.1 grams

- Monterey Jack (1 cup): 0.7 grams

- American (1 cup): 3.2 grams


How much sugar is in yogurt?

While cheese might be a good substitute for high sugar products in your diet, most yogurt is not. Just like everything else on this list, it pays to be a smart consumer and do your research. Sugar content varies between not only types of yogurt, but brands of yogurt as well. If the yogurt contains mixed in fruit, or fruit on the bottom, the sugar content will be much higher. Fruit is a hiding spot for sugar, and mixed in with yogurt, you could be consuming 20 grams of sugar in one serving.


Yogurt, like milk, naturally contains lactose. So, no matter what type of yogurt you indulge in, you'll be consuming sugar. If you are trying to slowly phase it out from your diet, look for products that have no added sugar or mixed in fruit. Most companies market it as plain yogurt, containing 12 grams of sugar, or you can opt for the plain Greek yogurt to cut the sugar count down to 9 grams.


Also, be wary of terms such as "Low Sugar" or "Reduced Sugar". These terms are not properly regulated and can be dangerously vague. For example, "Reduced Sugar" means that the sugar content has been reduced at least 25% from the original product. However, the original product might already contain large quantities of sugar, therefore it's not a good alternative food ch