Not all dairy is created equal.
If you’re lactose intolerant, ingesting foods with high levels of lactose can cause uncomfortable digestive woes, including gas, bloating, and stomach pain. Luckily, not all cheeses are forbidden on a low-lactose diet. In fact, there are several types of cheeses that those sensitive to lactose can still enjoy in moderation.
As a general rule, the fresher the cheese, the more lactose it contains, so sensitive stomachs will want to avoid creamier varieties such as ricotta or cottage cheese. Sugar is the primary component of lactose that makes it difficult to digest, making aged, hard cheeses (which have a lower sugar content), easier on the stomach.
According to lactose intolerance expert Steve Carper, author of Milk Is Not For Every Body: Living With Lactose Intolerance, there are nine cheeses that have less than 5 grams of sugar per serving, clocking in at about 2 to 3 percent lactose. For reference, whole milk has around 4.8 percent lactose, making it one of the worst offenders for sensitive tummies. Here are the nine most popular cheeses with the lowest lactose ranges.
- Muenster: 0-1.1% lactose range
- Camembert: 0-1.8% lactose range
- Brie: 0-2% lactose range
- Cheddar (mild and sharp varieties): 0-2.1% lactose range
- Provolone: 0-2.1% lactose range
- Gouda: 0-2.2% lactose range
- Blue: 0-2.5% lactose range
- Parmesan: 0-3.2% lactose range
- Swiss: 0-3.4% lactose range
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Of course, some people with lactose intolerance simply cannot tolerate any milk products without discomfort, so it’s always better to err on the side of caution.