People with lactose intolerance often avoid eating dairy products. Usually, because they are worried that milk can cause side effects that are unwanted and possibly embarrassing. Milky foods, however, are very nutritious and not all lactose-intensive.
1. Aged Hard Cheese
Cheese is produced by adding bacteria or acid to the milk and then separating from the whey. Because lactose is discovered in the whey in the milk, it removes much of it when the cheese is produced.
The quantity observed in cheese, however, may differ, and cheeses with the lower quantities are the ones with the longest age. This is because some remaining lactose can be broken down by the bacteria in cheese, reducing its content.
As long as the cheese gets older, the more lactose is broken down by the bacteria (1). This implies that aged hard cheeses often have very low lactose content.
Moreover, even some higher-lactose cheeses in small parts may not trigger symptoms, as they still contain less than 12 grams of lactose.
Butter is a high-fat dairy product produced to distinguish its strong fat and liquid parts by churning cream or milk. The final product is about 80% fat, as the fluid portion of milk containing all the lactose is removed during processing (2).
This implies that butter’s lactose content is tiny. Even if you have an intolerance, this low quantity is unlikely to cause issues (4).
If you are worried, knowing that butter produced from fermented milk products and clarified butter contains even less lactose than regular butter is worth knowing.
3. Heavy cream
Heavy cream is produced by skimming off the fatty liquid rising to the top of the milk. Depending on the fat-to-milk proportion in the product, distinct creams may have distinct quantities of fat. Heavy cream is a high-fat product containing approximately 37% fat.
This is greater than other creams such as half and a half and light cream (5). It also includes nearly no sugar, meaning it has a very small lactose content. Therefore, you should not have any issues with tiny quantities of heavy cream in your coffee or dessert.
Kefir is a traditionally produced fermented beverage by adding kefir grains to animal milk (6). The kefir grains just like yogurt contain live bacteria cultures that assist break down and digest lactose in milk.
This implies that if eaten in mild amounts, kefir may be better tolerated by individuals with lactose intolerance. Indeed, one research discovered that fermented dairy products such as yogurt or kefir might decrease intolerance symptoms by 54–71 percent compared to milk (7).
5. Greek Yogurt
People with an intolerance to lactose often discover yogurt simpler to digest than milk (8). This is because most yogurts have live bacteria that can help break down lactose, so you don’t have to digest yourself as much (9).
For instance, after drinking milk and consuming a probiotic yogurt, one research study compared how well lactose was digested (10).
It discovered that individuals with lactose intolerance were able to digest 66 percent more lactose when they ate the yogurt.
The yogurt also triggered fewer symptoms, with only 20% of individuals reporting digestive distress after eating the yogurt, compared with 80% after drinking the milk (11).
Looking for yogurts that are labeled probiotic is best, meaning they contain live bacteria cultures. Pasteurized yogurts that kill the bacteria may not be tolerated as well.
Additionally, for individuals with lactose intolerance, full-fat and strained yogurts such as greek yogurt could be an even better option.
6. Some Protein Powder
For those who are lactose intolerant, choosing a protein powder can be difficult. This is because of protein powders made of Milk’s whey, which is the lactose-containing, fluid component of milk.
Whey protein is a common option for athletes, particularly those seeking muscle building. However, depending on how the whey is processed, the quantity contained in whey protein powders may differ. There are three primary kinds of whey protein powder:
1. Whey concentrate: contains approximately 79–80% protein and a tiny quantity of lactose (12).
2. Whey isolate: contains about 90% protein and less lactose than the whey concentrate (13).
3. Whey hydrolysate: contains lactose comparable to whey concentrate, but some proteins in this powder have been partly digested (14).
Probably whey isolate, which includes the smallest concentrations, is the best choice for lactose-sensitive people.
Nevertheless, the content of lactose can differ significantly between products, and most individuals have to experiment to see which brand of protein powder works best for them.
Frequently Asked Question
What is lactose intolerance?
Lactose intolerance is a prevalent digestive issue. It influences about 75% of the world’s population (15). Interestingly, it is most prevalent in Asia and South America, but much less common in Western areas such as North America, Europe, and Australia (16).
People with lactose intolerance don’t have the enzyme called lactase. To break down lactose, the primary sugar in milk, lactase is produced in your gut. Lactose may pass through your gut undigested without enough lactase and trigger unpleasant symptoms such as nausea, pain, gas, bloating, and diarrhea.
Fear of developing these symptoms may lead individuals with this disorder to prevent lactose-containing foods such as dairy products. This is not always essential, however, because not all dairy foods contain enough lactose to cause intolerance issues for individuals.
Is lactose in dairy products alone?
No. It’s actually in many prepared foods. Some bread contains lactose, processed breakfast cereals, vegetables, soups, margarine, lunch meats, pancake, cookies, and powdered coffee creamers.
Lactose is the basis for over 20% of prescription medicines and about 6% of over-the-counter medicines, although these products only impact individuals with serious lactose intolerance. Ask your pharmacist if you take medicines that contain lactose.
How do I know if I am intolerant to lactose?
You might be if after consuming milk or dairy products, you have stomach pain and gas. Note that it may be difficult to diagnose your own lactose intolerance.
When people have another disease, such as irritable bowel syndrome, some individuals mistake their symptoms for lactose intolerance.
If you’re not sure, your doctor may do exams to get a diagnosis. One test requires fasting (going without eating) and then drinking something that contains lactose.
Your blood sugar level is then assessed to see how well the lactose has been digested. After you consume a lactose beverage, another experiment measures the quantity of hydrogen in your breath. High hydrogen concentrations show that you are not effectively digesting lactose.
The Bottom Line
Contrary to common belief, avoiding all dairy products is not essential for lactose-intolerant people. In reality, some dairy products are obviously low in lactose. In mild quantities, lactose-intolerant individuals generally tolerate them well.