Does dairy-free always mean lactose-free?
The short answer is yes. Lactose refers to a specific part of the milk, which means that a product that’s dairy-free will most definitely be lactose-free as well.
However, it’s important to note that it doesn’t work both ways. The terms lactose-free and dairy-free are not interchangeable. A product can be lactose-free and still contain dairy.
Confused yet? Hopefully not, but let’s take a look at these terms and get to the bottom of the lactose vs. dairy debate.
What Is Lactose?
Lactose is the sugar component found in milk. In order to digest lactose, the body produces an enzyme called lactase, but for those with lactose intolerance, the body stops producing adequate amounts of this enzyme. Approximately 30 million Americans have some degree of lactose intolerance by the age of 20. If you’re lactose intolerant, your issue is with the lactose component found in dairy, not the entire dairy product itself.
What Is Dairy-Free?
Dairy-free products contain no dairy whatsoever. Those who are allergic to dairy are often allergic to two protein components of milk, casein and whey. Both of these components are often found in regular dairy, as well as lactose-free products, and it can be challenging finding products that are truly dairy-free.
While those who are lactose intolerant can safely have lactose-free dairy because they are only intolerant to lactose, people who are allergic to dairy will want to steer clear of lactose-free dairy products because they still contain milk.
Avoiding dairy completely can be a challenge since many common foods contain even small traces of dairy. The good news, though, is that there are more options and choices today than ever before. It’s important to learn what these different terms mean in order to ensure that you’re reading labels accurately.
Keep in mind that while products that are labeled “dairy-free” are usually safe for those who are allergic to dairy, “non-dairy” products may not be. Non-dairy isn’t the same thing as dairy-free, and many non-dairy creamers and other products may contain milk proteins.
In short, if you’re allergic to lactose, then lactose-free and dairy-free products should be safe for you. If you’re allergic to dairy, lactose-free products may not be safe – instead, you’ll want to look for vegan alternatives or products that are clearly labeled dairy-free.
Which lactose-free or dairy-free products do you enjoy?