What Is Lactose?
Lactose is the natural sugar in milk and other dairy foods made from milk like yogurt and ice cream that forms when two other sugars, glucose and galactose, join together.
For the body to digest lactose, it uses a natural enzyme called lactase to break lactose down into these two sugars. If your body doesn’t make enough lactase, you may not be able to break down or absorb lactose properly, which can lead to symptoms of lactose intolerance.
Lactose in Milk & Dairy
You might not have to give up your favorite foods and their health benefits if you have lactose intolerance. For example, ricotta and cottage cheese contain relatively small amounts.
Here are popular dairy foods and their lactose quantities:
- 1 teaspoon butter: less than 1 gram
- 1.5 oz. natural cheeses like Cheddar, Swiss, Mozzarella and Gouda: less than 1 gram
- 1/2 cup cottage cheese: 3 grams
- 1/2 cup ice cream: 4 grams
- 1/2 cup ricotta cheese: up to 6 grams
- 6-8 oz. Greek yogurt: 6-8 grams
- 6-8 oz. low-fat plain yogurt: 12-16 grams
- 8 oz. milk: 12 grams
Roughly one in 10 U.S. adults reports having lactose intolerance. While some people think they need to cut dairy from their food choices, it’s best to first talk to your doctor to confirm lactose intolerance. If the diagnosis is confirmed, then there are a number of tips you can try to continue to enjoy dairy. For example, choose natural cheeses that have minimal lactose, enjoy Greek yogurt since yogurt with live and active cultures help digest lactose or opt for lactose-free cow’s milk, which is still real milk.
More About Lactose
Here are some more of our resources to learn more about lactose intolerance:
- Lactose Intolerant? Love Dairy? Try These 12 Tips Here are 12 tips to try so you don’t have to give up your favorite dairy foods and the great taste and health benefits that come with them.
- Lactose Intolerance: What You Need to Know If you think you may be lactose intolerant, you likely have a number of questions. Check out our infographic for additional tips.
- Why Did I Get Lactose Intolerance? Do you wonder why you used to be able to drink milk, but may have lactose intolerance now? We give you the basics.
- How Much Do You Know About Lactose Intolerance? Check out our quiz.
- How Do I Know If I Have Lactose Intolerance? The symptoms often associated with lactose intolerance can be similar to other digestive disorders.