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Does Milk Contain Carbohydrates?

Fitday Editor

Whether it is whole or skim, from a cow or a goat, all milk contains carbohydrates. The number of carbohydrates in the milk we drink ranges from about 11.3 to 11.9 grams per cup. Since half and half and heavy cream have a much larger percentage of fat by weight, the number of carbohydrates in each is actually less than for an equivalent amount of regular or skim milk. This makes those two products popular with those on a low-carb diet.


Lactose, or milk sugar, is present in all milk. Lactose is a simple carbohydrate that makes up from 2% to 8% of milk by weight. Thanks to their uncomplicated construction, simple carbohydrates are those most easily broken down by the body. Simple carbohydrates typically give the body a burst of energy, but are not associated with much in the way of nutritional value -- at least not as much as the complex carbohydrates are. As we shall see, this view is something of an oversimplification. Along with lactose, sucrose, or table sugar, is a simple carbohydrate, as is fructose, found in fruits like grapes or pears, and glucose, the sugar your body breaks down all the other carbohydrates into prior to use.

Bad Carbohydrates

Simple carbohydrates like the lactose found in milk are often lumped together as "bad" carbohydrates with the refined simple carbohydrates found in table sugar or white flour. However, on the whole, the unrefined simple carbohydrates are healthy and deliver more nutritive value than the refined simple carbohydrates found in processed foods, and should not be avoided by default unless you're specifically following a low-carb diet.

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