Lactose Intolerance and Greek Yogurt

  • Article
  • April 12, 2021

Does Greek yogurt have lactose? The answer is yes; however, many people with lactose intolerance can enjoy yogurt because of its unique make up. Greek yogurt has less lactose than regular yogurt, milk and even ice cream, because of the straining process it goes through as well as the fermentation process. And, on top of that, its live and active cultures also help break down the lactose it does contain, making it easier for people to digest. Of course, you can purchase lactose-free Greek yogurt, too..

If you’re lactose intolerant, you might even wonder: Does Greek yogurt have dairy? It does, it’s made from milk and that’s where the lactose comes from as well as the nutrients like protein, calcium and more.

The good news is most people with lactose intolerance can often tolerate small amounts of lactose, especially as part of meals or snacks, so try including  dairy with your meals or choose dairy foods with no or minimal lactose, like natural cheeses or strained yogurts (e.g., Greek or Icelandic). Then, gradually increase your portion sizes to find a comfort level. After all, not all dairy foods have the same amount of lactose. Check out this chart to learn more.

While Greek yogurt is a dairy food, and therefore contains lactose, there also are lactose-free cow’s milk options. They’re real dairy, just without the lactose. In fact, there are lactose-free versions of many products, including yogurt, milk and ice cream.

Another fun fact is most Greek yogurts have live and active cultures, as do regular and Icelandic yogurts, that aid digestion. Those good bacteria also help you break down lactose, even if you have an intolerance to it.

Think of it this way: Lactose is a natural sugar in milk made up of two simple sugars, glucose and galactose. When the body is lactose intolerant, that means it doesn’t make enough lactase—the natural enzyme that breaks lactose down into these two simpler sugars that are easily digested. That’s when yogurt’s live and active cultures step in and help.

Symptoms of lactose intolerance may include abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence, and diarrhea. Your physician can confirm whether you have lactose intolerance, and a registered dietitian can help you understand options tailored to your level of tolerance.

Nutritional Benefits

There are many reasons to enjoy Greek yogurt—from its thick and tangy flavor to its nutrition to its versatility. It’s packed with high-quality protein and essential nutrients like calcium, zinc and vitamin B12. Incorporating it into meals may keep you fuller longer because of its protein.

And it can be a cook’s best friend. In a pinch, Greek yogurt is a substitute for mayo, oil, cream cheese and more. Lactose intolerance doesn’t have to keep you from enjoying Greek yogurt—you have options!