A Guide to Eating Dairy with Diabetes

Published on 
February 8, 2024
February 7, 2024
Virta Health
Virta Health
Virta Health

When Virta Health patient David first decided to reverse his type 2 diabetes, the first thing that worried him was cheese. A dairy-lover, David wondered if he would have to give up his favorite snacks on a low-carb diet. 

The truth was very different: if anything, cheese and other dairy products became an even bigger part of David’s diet after he started treatment with Virta. “If we have a pasta night, I’ll make sure to load up on lots of cheese and Italian sausage meatballs,” he says. “A lot of my quick meals also include things like avocados, cream cheese, parmesan crisps, and pork rinds.”

So if you’re wondering ‘Can people with diabetes eat cheese and dairy?” the answer is a resounding yes… within reason and with a few exceptions. Here’s what you need to know about dairy and diabetes.

Is Dairy OK for People With Diabetes?

In general, dairy is a good food for people to embrace if they are looking to reverse their prediabetes or type 2 diabetes through a low-carb diet. In fact, dairy can be such an excellent source of protein, fat and calcium that many of Virta’s recipes substitute dairy for higher-carb ingredients in recipes to make them keto-friendly. (Goodbye waffles and hello chaffles!)

While you should always make sure to speak to your doctor or dietician if you have questions, there is usually no need for a person with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes to abstain from dairy, unless they have a condition like lactose intolerance. 

That said, you should always be mindful that not all dairy is created equal. Some have much more sugar and/or carbohydrates than others. As a rule, if you want to improve your metabolic health, always check the nutritional values of the dairy products you buy and choose the option with the lowest sugar and carbohydrate values.

It’s also worth noting that diabetes and high blood pressure often go hand-in-hand when you have diabetes. Dairy is a good food for people with high blood pressure, since that can be reduced by eating foods rich in potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Dairy tends to have these ingredients in abundance.  

Best Dairy Choices for Type 2 Diabetes and Prediabetes

In general, we here at Virta recommend that patients looking to improve their metabolic health choose full-fat dairy options.

Why? Because when you cut out carbohydrates as part of a low-carb diet, most of your calories tend to come from healthy fats. These fats keep you full longer, have a stabilizing effect on blood sugar, and become the primary fuel source instead of carbohydrates.

Here are some natural dairy options we often recommend to our patients:

  • Full fat cheddar cheese and other aged cheeses
  • Full fat cottage cheese
  • Full fat Greek yogurt (plain, unsweetened)
  • Butter or ghee
  • Heavy cream or half-and-half

Types of dairy to avoid with type 2 diabetes and prediabetes include:

  • Milk (full fat, 2% & skim), because it contains carbohydrates as lactose.
  • Sweetened dairy products

Regardless of what dairy product you choose, always closely inspect the nutritional values of any products you consume to make sure they align with your dietary goals.

The Takeaway

Pass the cheese, please! If you are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes and want to live a healthier lifestyle, Virta Health can help. By making healthy lifestyle changes in a medical setting with supportive resources like 1:1 virtual coaching, you can regain control of your health and feel like yourself again. See if you’re eligible for Virta Health here.

Are you living with type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, or unwanted weight?

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