While at the grocery store, you may have a moment of confusion as you pass the line of milk. Mixed in amongst the bottles are ones with labels that declare they are lactose-free. What is lactose-free milk? Milk has lactose, so how can this option be without it? Is it made by a special cow or different from the regular milk you see in the grocery aisle?
It’s not as complicated as you think.
Why is lactose-free milk offered?
Lactose intolerance is the discomfort created by the inability to break down lactose, the natural sugar found in dairy foods. The body makes an enzyme called lactase to help digest lactose. If a person’s body doesn’t make enough lactase, they may not be able to digest lactose properly, which can lead to lactose intolerance symptoms. People have different levels of sensitivity to lactose and different levels of severity of symptoms, and this can further change as they age. Choosing low-lactose or lactose-free products allows dairy lovers with symptoms to continue enjoying milk and its 13 essential nutrients.
What is lactose-free milk?
Some milk brands make lactose-free milk, which is easier to digest. To create lactose-free milk, brands may break down the lactose found in milk into its two simple sugars by adding lactase, like the body would if it produced enough lactase. This makes it easier to digest, as the body no longer needs to break down the lactose.
Another method is to filter out the lactose from milk. The milk is passed through a series of filters that pull out different molecules as the milk goes through the filter, like lactose, fat, or protein. Once separated, the ingredients are added back together, skipping the reintroduction of lactose.
How is lactose-free milk different from regular milk?
It’s not. In cases where lactose is broken down into simpler sugars, some think lactose-free milk tastes sweeter than regular milk due to the way the lactose is broken down into glucose and galactose, which are perceived as sweeter than lactose. Lactose-free milk is the same as regular milk, just without the lactose for a potentially sweeter taste.
Are there other lactose-free products?
Yep! Some dairy products are naturally low in lactose and may be easier to digest. But for those dairy foods you love like ice cream, keep an eye out for low-lactose or lactose-free options so you can enjoy more of the dairy you can’t resist.