How much sugar is in milk and how does it compare to other common drinks?

There are about 12 grams of natural occurring sugar (lactose) in each 8-ounce glass of milk, which is about the same amount of natural sugar you would find in one small banana. Flavored milk, like chocolate, does contain added sugar for flavor.

Here’s a closer look at the exact amount of sugar in milk:

Type of MilkAmount of Sugar (per 8 oz. serving)
Fat-Free (Skim) Milk12 grams natural sugar
Low-Fat (1%) Milk12 grams natural sugar
Reduced Fat (2%) Milk12 grams natural sugar
Whole Milk12 grams natural sugar
Chocolate Milk (Whole)24 grams sugar (12 grams natural sugar, 12 grams added sugar)
Lactose-Free Milk12 grams natural sugar


So is the sugar in milk bad for you?

When looking at your diet as a whole, it is important to consider a food’s full nutrient package, including differentiating natural and added sugars occurring in all foods like milk, yogurt and fruits. Many foods and beverages with naturally occurring sugars, like milk or fruit, also contain vitamins and minerals, protein or fiber we need to be healthy. So yes, while milk does have natural sugar, it also offers up nine essential nutrients including 8 grams of high-quality protein in every 8-ounce serving.


How do the added sugars in flavored milk stack up to other common drinks?

Registered Dietitian Stephanie Cundith compares the added sugars and essential nutrients in flavored milk to other common beverages in the following video:


What about those with lactose intolerance?

People who have been diagnosed with lactose intolerance are less able to digest lactose due to decreased amounts of the lactase enzyme, which breaks down lactose. As a result, some may experience abdominal discomfort and other unpleasant symptoms. However, many people with lactose intolerance are likely able to tolerate varying degrees of lactose. This is especially important, since those who think they have lactose intolerance may cut dairy out of their diet, which means they may not be getting key nutrients their bodies need. 

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