Apart from the well-known action of insulin, the mechanism by which soya and cows’ milk improve postprandial glycaemia control was examined. In total, twelve healthy, young, Chinese men were studied on three separate occasions, in random order with isovolumetric (322 ml) control water, soya milk and cows’ milk. Plasma total amino acid concentrations increased 30 min after test meals consumption and were higher after soya milk (230 %) and cow milk (240 %) consumption compared with water. Cows’ milk ingestion induced higher branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) (40 %) than soya milk. Postprandial incretin concentrations increased after meal consumption. Cows’ milk meal was accompanied by higher incremental AUC (iAUC) (170 %) for glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) compared with soya milk and control (P=0·06). However, glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) concentrations increased to significantly greater levels after soya milk consumption (iAUC 60 % higher) compared with cows’ milk and control. Consumption of both soya and cows’ milk with carbohydrates induced a similar reduction in glycaemic response through a different mechanism, beyond insulin action. Plasma amino acids (alanine and arginine), and incretins in particular (GIP was stimulated), may be involved in the hyperinsulinaemia after soya milk meals. However, BCAA and GLP-1 release may be responsible for the reduced glycaemia after cows’ milk consumption by delaying gastric emptying. This could be the result of different milk protein/amino acid composition, but also differences in milk carbohydrate composition (i.e. lactose v. sucrose). It can be concluded that soya milk is a good alternative to cows’ milk with regard to glycaemic regulation, with different mechanisms involved.