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6 Dairy Products for Those Sensitive to Lactose

 People who are sensitive to lactose often avoid consuming dairy products because they can cause unwanted and sometimes embarrassing side effects. However, many dairy products are highly nutritious and not all have a high and harmful amount of lactose.


Some people who are sensitive to lactose can still consume it, but in a moderate amount of 1-12 grams a day and the following foods are safe for their consumption, as stated in limited quantities. In the next article, you will learn a bit more about lactose intolerance and discover the 6 dairy products that contain very low amounts of it and are in most cases safe for people who are lactose-sensitive.

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What is lactose sensitivity?

Lactose intolerance is a very common digestive problem, affecting 75% of the world population at one level or another. The phenomenon is more common in Asia and South America compared to parts of the Western world such as North America, Europe, and Australia. People who suffer from it have too little of an enzyme called lactase, which is produced in the intestines and required for the breakdown of lactose, the main sugar found in milk. Without lactase, lactose can pass through the intestines without being digested and cause unpleasant symptoms such as nausea, pain, gas, bloating and diarrhea.

The fear of these symptoms may lead people who are intolerant to lactose to avoid consuming foods that contain it, which are mainly dairy products. However, this is not always necessary, since not all dairy products contain lactose, which is what creates problems for people who are sensitive to it. In fact, most people who suffer from lactose intolerance can consume up to 12 grams of lactose a day without experiencing symptoms related to the problem. To illustrate this amount: you can find 12 grams of lactose in one cup (230 ml/ 7 oz.) of milk.

6 dairy products that contain very little lactose

As noted, people who are sensitive to lactose do not have to give dairy products up completely. However, each person experiences lactose sensitivity differently, so it is recommended to start slowly and try finding out what foods, and how much of them, cause you to experience symptoms. If you want to incorporate dairy products into your diet, you should start with the following 6, which contain very little lactose.

1. Butter

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Butter is a dairy product saturated with fat produced by churning cream or milk. The final product contains about 80% fat and very little lactose since the liquid part of the milk that contains all the lactose is removed during the process. To understand just how little lactose it contains, in every 100 grams of butter you’ll find only 0.1 grams of lactose. Such low levels are unlikely to cause health problems, even if you have a lactose intolerance. However, if you are still concerned, it is worth knowing that butter produced from fermented milk and refined butter contains even less lactose than regular butter, and you can try to start with them, and then, if you don’t experience any symptoms, switch to regular butter.

2. Hard cheese

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Hard cheeses are produced by adding bacteria to milk and then separating the hardened cheese from the whey. Since lactose is found in the whey, most of it is removed from the prepared cheese. However, the amount of lactose found in cheese varies, and cheese with the lowest amount of lactose are the ones that have been aged for the longest time.

The reason is that the more time passes, the bacteria in the cheese can break up more lactose residues. This means that hard cheeses usually contain a little amount of lactose, for example, 100 grams of cheddar cheese contains less than 0.5 grams of lactose. Other hard cheeses that contain very little lactose include Parmesan cheese and Swiss cheese.

3. Probiotic yogurt

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Most people who suffer from lactose intolerance find that yogurt is easier for them to digest than milk. This is because yogurt has healthy bacteria that help break down lactose, which, in turn, helps the body digest it. In one study, a comparison was made between the amount of lactose digested by the body after drinking milk and after eating probiotic yogurt.

People who had lactose intolerance and ate yogurt were able to digest 66 percent more lactose than those who drank milk. In addition, the yogurt also caused fewer symptoms and side effects, with only 20% of patients reporting digestive problems after consumption, compared to 80% of those who consumed milk. If you choose to add yogurt to your diet, make sure it is a probiotic yogurt that contains healthy bacteria. In addition, opt for fattier yogurts, such as Greek yogurt, because fatty yogurt contains less whey, which has lactose.

4. Protein powders with whey isolate

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Although it is not a full-fledged milk product, many people who suffer from lactose intolerance give up protein powders simply because they usually contain whey, which contains lactose. However, the amount of lactose that the protein powders contain varies according to the way they processed the whey, and generally, there are three types of protein powders that differ in their lactose content.

The type recommended for people who are lactose intolerant to consume is whey isolate - this kind of powder has 90% protein and less lactose than concentrated whey powder, which is more common. You need to know which whey protein powder you want to purchase contains, although it is important to know that there is a difference in the amount of lactose in protein powders among various companies. It is therefore recommended to experiment with different whey isolate protein powders until you find one that doesn’t cause any side effects.


5. Kefir

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Kefir is a fermented beverage made from kefir seeds, which are a combination of probiotic and yeast bacteria with proteins, lipids, and sugars. Like yogurt, kefir contains healthy bacteria that help break down lactose in milk. Therefore, people who suffer from lactose intolerance can usually drink Kefir without any problem as long as they do so in moderation. In fact, a study conducted at Ohio State University found that, compared with milk, fermented milk products such as yogurt and kefir have the ability to reduce lactose intolerance symptoms by 54-71%. 

6. Heavy cream

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Heavy cream is prepared by separating the richest layer of fat from the milk - the part that floats to the top right after being milked. Different types of cream contain different fat percentages, depending on the ratio of fat to milk in the product. Usually, heavy cream contains over 30% fat, which is more than what can be found in other types of cream. It contains almost no sugar, which means its lactose content is very low. In fact, 15 ml of heavy cream contains only 0.5 grams of lactose, so a small amount of sweet cream in desserts shouldn’t cause digestive problems.

The bottom line

Contrary to popular belief, people who are sensitive to lactose need not completely avoid dairy products. The 6 products we talked about in this article have a very small lactose content that usually does not cause unpleasant symptoms in people who are sensitive to lactose, and their moderate consumption should be safe for them. If you want to add dairy products into your diet, you may want to try to incorporate them during the day in small quantities and see how they make you feel until you know for sure which ones and how much of them you can consume.

image source:  SandsteinA. Kniesel
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