6 Dairy Food to Eat If You Have Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance is a common digestive issue. It affects about 75% of the world’s population.

Interestingly, it is most common in Asia and South America but much less common in western areas such as North America, Europe, and Australia.

People with lactose intolerance don’t have the enzyme lactase to break down lactose, the primary sugar in milk.

Without enough lactase enzyme, lactose may pass through your gut undigested and trigger unpleasant symptoms such as nausea, pain, gas, bloating, and diarrhea (1).

In this article, we are going to highlight six dairy foods to eat if you have lactose intolerance.

1. Aged Hard Cheese

Cheese producers make cheese by adding bacteria or acid to the milk and then separating the whey from it. Much of the lactose in milk is removed in this process.

The quantity of lactose in cheese, however, may differ, and cheeses with the lowest quantities are the ones with the longest age because the bacteria in cheese can break down some remaining lactose.

As long as the cheese gets older, the bacteria break down more lactose. This means that aged hard cheeses often have very low lactose (4, 5, 6).

2. Butter

Butter is made by separating the fat globules from the buttermilk by churning the milk. They sometimes add salt and food coloring to butter.

The final product is about 80% fat, as the fluid portion of milk containing all the lactose is removed during processing.

This means that butter’s lactose content is low.

Even if you have lactose intolerance, this low quantity is unlikely to cause issues (7, 8).

3. Heavy Cream

To produce heavy cream, skim off the fatty liquid rising to the top of the milk. This depends on the fat-to-milk ratio in the product.

Different creams may have different quantities of fat. Heavy cream is a high-fat product containing 37% fat.

This is greater than other creams such as half-and-half or light cream. It also has no sugar, meaning it has a small lactose content.

Thus, you should not have any issues with heavy cream in your coffee or dessert if you are lactose intolerant (9).

4. Kefir

Kefir is made by adding kefir grains to milk. Kefir grains, just like yogurt, contain live bacteria that help break down lactose in milk.

This implies that if you consume it in a moderate quantity, it may not affect you if you have lactose intolerance.

Indeed, one study discovered that fermented dairy products such as yogurt or kefir might decrease intolerance symptoms by 54–71% compared to milk alone (10, 11).

5. Greek Yogurt

People with lactose intolerance can digest yogurt better than milk because most yogurts have live bacteria that can help break down lactose.

A study shows that people with lactose intolerance digested 66% more lactose when they consumed yogurt.

The yogurt also triggered fewer symptoms, with only 20% of participants reporting digestive problems after consuming the yogurt, compared to 80% after drinking the milk.

Looking for yogurts that are probiotic is best, meaning they contain live bacteria.

Therefore, Greek yogurt is the best option (12, 13, 14, 15, 16).

6. Protein Powder

For those who are lactose intolerant, choosing a protein powder can be difficult. This is because protein powders are made from whey, which is the lactose-containing fluid component of milk.

Whey protein is a common option for athletes and those seeking to build lean muscle. However, this depends on the process, and the quantity of lactose in whey protein may differ.

For example, whey protein concentrate contains 79–80% protein and a small quantity of lactose.

Similarly, whey protein isolate contains about 90% protein and is less lactose than whey concentrate.

Whey protein hydrolysate contains lactose comparable to the concentrated type, but some proteins in the hydrolysate are slowly digested.

However, the whey protein isolate form, which includes the smallest concentrations of lactose, is the best choice for lactose-sensitive people (17).

Are lactose in dairy products alone?

No. It’s actually in many processed foods. Some breads contain lactose, processed breakfast cereals, vegetables, soups, margarine, lunch meats, pancakes, cookies, and powdered coffee creamers.

Over 20% of prescription medicines and about 6% of over-the-counter medicines contain lactose, although these products only affect people with serious lactose intolerance.

Ask your pharmacist if you take medicines that contain lactose.

How do I know if I am lactose intolerant?

If you are lactose intolerant, you might feel stomach pain, bloating, and gas right after consuming milk or dairy products.

Note that it is difficult to diagnose your own lactose intolerance symptoms. You may confuse your symptoms with other gastrointestinal diseases, such as irritable bowel syndrome.

It is best to talk to your doctor if you think you have digestive issues.


Avoiding all dairy products is not good for people with lactose intolerance.

In reality, some dairy products are low in lactose, and small quantities of lactose should not cause you any digestive problems.

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