A Guide to Cheese for the Lactose Intolerant
Our Ferndale Cheese Specialist, Darcie, takes us through the ins and outs of cheese eating for the lactose intolerant. Bidding adieu to all cheese may not be your only option. In fact, with a little knowhow you too can explore the cheese world further then you ever thought digestionally possible.
“Do you have lactose free cheese in your cheese case?”
As a Cheese Specialist, I hear this question over and over. It seems more and more consumers today have a lactose intolerance or do not eat cheese because of the side effects they receive from it—bloating, gas, stomach pain, the list goes on. Every person is different and no two people are alike.
It’s important to know the difference between being lactose intolerant and having a dairy allergy. Many people assume it is the lactose in cow’s milk that is causing them problems, but they’ve never been tested to confirm their suspicions. If you believe you are lactose intolerant, talk to your doctor about getting tested at your next physical. Until then, here are a few simple ways you may still be able to enjoy eating cheese.
Age is not important, unless you are a cheese
Lactose is the sugar from milk or dairy products. Unlike fresh milk, when cheese is made much of the sugar is drained off in the whey during the cheese making process and the cultures continue to eat away at the sugar while the cheese ages, converting the lactose into lactic acid. Therefore, many lactose intolerant consumers can choose from aged cheeses in our specialty cheese case because the longer the cheese ages the less moisture, which means less sugar and ultimately less lactose the cheese contains. Ask your cheese specialist at your nearest Haggen to give you suggestions on what cheeses are aged the longest. These will be cheeses like a two-year aged cheddar from Tillamook, Rembrandt, an aged Gouda, or Parmigiano Reggiano. You will be able to find these aged cheeses by simply feeling how hard they are. The harder the cheese, the more it has been aged.
With this in mind you will want to stay away from the fresh softer cheeses like mozzarella and ricotta. If you have questions ask your cheese specialist to help you.
Read the nutrition label
This label is so important when paying close attention to sugar is carbohydrates. If the nutrition label says “0 grams sugar” and “0 grams carbohydrates” then the cheese has little or no lactose.
Time to test it out
To begin, start by eating the aged cheese in small bites and seeing how you react. Consuming your cheese with other food also helps slow down the digestion of any lactose. This might mean putting your parmesan on top of salad or pasta, or being sure to eat crackers with your cheese.
Don’t think you need to give up cheese for good. Remember you know your own body and only you will know how you feel after experimenting with different cheeses. Try some of the steps outlined above to see how you feel. Good Luck!
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