Over the past several years, more and more people have realized that they suffer from lactose intolerance. While these numbers aren’t new, with almost 65% of the population not being able to digest lactose, increased awareness has caused a change.
With this realization has come a shift in the products being purchased and consumed by customers, especially in milk alternative products. However, even though lactose is hard to digest, there are many benefits of eating dairy products.
Dairy products are known for being extremely nutritious, providing a wide range of nutrients the body needs to thrive. However, the body can’t do this if it can’t digest the lactose, which is why it’s important to know of dairy product options that are low in lactose.
Below is a list of several dairy foods that are low in lactose, making them the perfect options for those who want the benefits of dairy without the bad side effects.
About Lactose Intolerance
To better understand why some dairy products are better to eat for those with lactose intolerance, more information on the condition is needed. Lactose intolerance, as mentioned above, affects more than half the population, being most prevalent in South America and parts of Asia.
Dairy products contain lactose, a sugar that is found in milk. Lactose intolerance occurs in the body when the guts of certain people don’t contain enough lactase, the enzyme needed to break down lactose.
Because some people don’t have enough lactase in their digestive system, the lactose consumed doesn’t get broken down completely.
As a result of having undigested lactose in the system, people will experience bloating and gas, nausea and pain, as well as other uncomfortable side effects.
The good news is that some dairy products contain lower amounts of lactose, so that the lactase present in the digestive system is able to break it down completely, even in those with lactose intolerance. As a result, people can get the benefits of eating dairy products without experiencing the unwanted side effects.
List Of Dairy Foods Low In Lactose
Butter is often avoided because it’s so high in fat, but this high fat content is why the product is so low in lactose. As is the case with many of the products on this list, the way butter is made is why it is such a perfect option for those with lactose intolerance.
Butter is made by churning whole milk, which separates the fat from the liquid. When butter is complete, it is made up of 80% with the rest being milk. Because there is so little milk in butter, it does not cause problems with those who are lactose intolerance.
For those who are still worried that butter might cause issues, there are also fermented butters available that contain even less lactose.
2. Heavy Cream
While this may come as a huge surprise, heavy cream is actually easier for many of those with lactose intolerance to digest than other dairy products. Again, the reasoning for this is found in the way cream is made.
Similar to butter, cream is made when the fat that comes to the top of milk is skimmed off. While this makes heavy cream a high fat product, it also means that it contains less whey, making it easier for those with lactose intolerance to digest.
However, this will vary from cream to cream, meaning half and half as well as light cream will not be as easy on the digestive system.
Another benefit of heavy cream is that it contains little to no sugar, which like lactose is extremely hard for the body to digest.
As a result, those who may struggle with putting milk or half and half in their coffees might find better results with using heavy cream, as it contains less than a gram of sugar per half ounce.
3. Hard Cheeses
As is the case with butter, the way hard cheese is made helps keep lactose levels of the product down. When hard cheese is made, bacteria is added to the milk, which is then separated into cheese curds and whey.
Because the whey that is created contains most of the milk, and therefore the lactose, the curds that are removed have lower quantities. There are ways this varies, however. The softer the cheese, the less time it was allowed to separate.
This means that softer cheese has higher levels of milk. Because of this, the harder the cheese and the longer it has been aged, the less lactose it will have.
For those who enjoy cheese but are still wary, hard cheeses like cheddar, Swiss, and parmesan are often better tolerated. However, cream cheeses, Brie, and even cottage cheese should definitely be avoided by those with lactose intolerance.
As a general rule, dairy products that contain higher levels of probiotics are often safer to eat by those with lactose intolerance than other dairy products. A prime example of this is yogurt.
As mentioned above, the main cause of lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactose completely. However, the probiotic bacteria found in yogurts aid the digestive process, even the digestion of lactose.
As a result, most people who can’t consume milk are able to digest yogurt, with the extra support from the probiotics preventing symptoms.
The best yogurts for those with lactose intolerance are those labeled as being probiotic, which means they have the live bacteria cultures needed to aid digestion. Some yogurts are pasteurized, a process that kills off the bacteria, making them more likely to cause symptoms.
Even better than probiotic yogurts are Greek yogurts, which are strained while being made, separating the whey from the yogurt. As a result, Greek yogurts have less lactose.
Going hand in hand with yogurt, kefir is the perfect option for those who are lactose intolerant but still want to enjoy smoothies or milk-like drinks. Kefir is made using ancient kefir grains, which are then fermented in milk.
As is the case with yogurt, kefir contains high amounts of probiotic bacteria, which supports the breakdown and digestion of lactose.
In fact, one study found that kefir can decrease lactose intolerance symptoms by up to 71% when compared to milk, making it a viable option for those with the condition.
6. Dairy Protein Powders
One of the hardest products for those with lactose intolerance to find are protein powders. Because most protein powders use milk to provide high protein levels, these powders can wreak havoc on the digestive systems of those who are lactose intolerant.
The majority of protein powders are made with whey, which is the part of milk that contains the highest levels of lactose. However, there are options for those who want the protein that comes with these powders without the side effects.
There are typically three different types of whey protein powders, whey concentrate, whey isolate, and whey hydrolysate.
While there are benefits for each option, the best option for those with lactose intolerance is whey isolate, which is about 90% protein and has less whey protein than the other two options.
Low Lactose Dairy Foods Conclusion
In the past, those with lactose intolerance thought they had to completely remove dairy products from their diets in order to protect their health.
However, with a better understanding of how dairy products are made and their lactose contents, people can eat certain dairy products without experiencing the side effects.
With this information, those who had to limit their diets before can now enjoy dairy without having to worry.