Lactose is a form of sugar found in milk and other dairy products. Through the use of the enzyme known as lactase, the body breaks down into smaller pieces and digests lactose at a very tender age. However, some people lose the ability to digest lactose over time, and they are called “lactose intolerants.”
It is undoubtedly true that cheese has lactose, just like yogurt and milk. However, the lactose content of cheese differs from cheese to cheese. This is to say that not all cheeses have the same amount of lactose content.
Does cheese have lactose? If it does, to what extent? What are some of the cheeses lower in lactose, amongst others, are the likely questions this article tends to provide answers to.
How Much Lactose Is In Cheese?
Like other dairy products, cheese has lactose, although many kinds of cheese have low and immeasurable quantities of lactose. Compared to milk and other dairy products, cheese happens to be very low in lactose.
For instance, most cheeses contain less than 2 grams of lactose per serving. This is because the lactose content of cheese is drained up during the cheese-making process. The whey (liquid) has close to 90% of the lactose in cheese; during the processing, before the cheese is made, the whey is drained from the curds, which removes relatively more percent of the lactose. The whey is mostly used in producing soft and fresh cheeses like brie, while the curds are for hard aged cheeses such as cheddar.
As a result, soft and fresh cheeses tend to have more lactose than hard aged cheeses. Longer aged cheeses tend to get firmer; hence it loses more lactose as it is continuously aged for a long while. This is to say that the longer a cheese is being aged, the less lactose content it gets lesser in the final product.
Interestingly, some cheeses are lactose-free. Yes, cheese can be lactose-free when aged excessively. The longer a cheese is aged, the lower the amount of lactose in it gets. So when cheese is aged for a whole long while, there is a possibility that the lactose content might be drained up through the aging process. However, brings forth lactose-free cheese as a finished product.
In a nutshell, soft and fresh cheeses have higher amounts of lactose. Hard or firm cheeses have little traces of lactose, while extremely aged hard cheeses sometimes are lactose-free depending on how long it was aged.
Best Low-Lactose Cheeses
Most cheeses have lower traces of lactose; therefore, many kinds of cheese belong to this bloc. However, does not mean that each cheese in this bloc has the exact amount of lactose content. The amount of lactose each contains varies from one to another.
Below is a handy guide to some of the well-known low-lactose cheeses;
Cheddar cheese can be styled into various types ranging from mild, premium, short, and many more, and the only difference between them is the amount of aging each was exposed to. Mild cheddar can be aged 2-4 months, while premium cheddar is aged at least 2-5 months. Cheddar is a type of cheese that randomly finds its way to our plates often.
It is very low in lactose; while a mild cheddar contains about 0.0 to 2.1% of lactose, premium cheddar contains about 2.1% of the lactose in a serving.
2. Parmesan Cheese
Second on the list is Parmesan cheese, also known as Parmigiano-Reggiano. Parmesan is an Italian cheese aged from about 12-37 months. Grated Italian parmesan cheese contains about 2.9 to 3.7% of lactose, while hard-aged parmesan has about 0.0 to 3.1% of the lactose in a serving.
3. Swiss Cheese
A lot of cheese falls under the bloc of ‘swiss cheese’‘. However, only Emmental and Gruyere are the true varieties of Swiss cheese; others are produced in the USA to emulate the unique Swiss cheeses. Swiss cheese has about 0.0 to 3.4% of lactose.
However, processed swiss cheese contains 0.0 to 2.1% of lactose per serving.
Camembert is a bit similar to brie; it is also made from cow milk. It contains very little trace of lactose. It contains relatively 0.0 to 1.9% of lactose per serving.
5. Blue Cheese
Practically, soft, fresh, and wet cheeses such as ricotta and other creamy cheeses contain higher amounts of lactose. Even though they generally have more lactose than their hard-aged counterparts, they still don’t have much of it. For instance, creamy cheeses have just one gram of lactose per serving, while cottage cheese contains not more than 3 grams of lactose per serving.
While it is true that only a few kinds of cheese are a bit higher in lactose, we must keep serving sizes in mind. Therefore, as lactose intolerant, you don’t need to kick a particular cheese out of your diet because you think it is low-lactose or high-lactose. You should give each cheese a try to know if it is entirely safe for your health or not.
You shouldn’t give up on all cheeses just because cheeses have lactose, and you are lactose intolerant. Even the cheeses perceived to be high in lactose are just slightly higher than their low-lactose counterparts. Therefore, you should eat a little piece of each cheese to know what is good for your health.
However, according to the rule of thumb, the harder and more aged a cheese is, the less lactose it is likely to contain. Soft, wet, and fresh cheeses have slightly higher lactose than the harder, aged cheeses.