Not all dairy is created equal. 

By Betty Gold and Arielle Tschinkel
Updated November 18, 2019
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For those who are lactose intolerant, eating ingredients that have high levels of lactose can cause some very uncomfortable digestive woes, from bloating and gas to cramping and serious 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, keep this in mind: the fresher the cheese, the more lactose it contains. So those with particularly sensitive stomachs will want to avoid creamier varieties such as ricotta or cottage cheese at all costs. Sugar is the primary component of lactose that makes it difficult to digest, which means that aged, hard cheeses—which have a lower sugar content—are 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 contain less than five grams of sugar per serving, clocking in at about two to three 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

Of course, some people with lactose intolerance simply cannot tolerate any milk products without discomfort. It’s always best to err on the side of caution, so if that sounds like you, avoid cheese entirely and go for one of the varieties of non-dairy options instead.

  • By Betty Gold
  • By Arielle Tschinkel