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Lactose Levels of Popular Dairy Foods

Lactose Levels of Popular Dairy Foods

Is someone in your family lactose intolerant? If so, you're far from alone! An estimated 30 to 50 million American adults are lactose intolerant.

While some people who are lactose intolerant adhere to an entirely lactose-free diet, many can tolerate a low-lactose diet that includes up to 10 grams of lactose per day. How much is 10 grams a day? While the answer depends on which dairy foods you consume and in what quantities, you might be surprised to hear that on 10 grams a day you can butter your toast, have cream in your coffee, eat a cup of yogurt, and shake a little Parmesan onto your pasta.

To help you plan more precisely, we've rounded up the lactose levels of the most popular dairy foods.* As is clear from the list below, common baking ingredients made from dairy, including dry milk powder, sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and buttermilk all have high levels of lactose, as do ice cream and milk. At the low end of the lactose spectrum are aged cheeses, yogurt and butter, which can be consumed in small quantities.

  • Nonfat dry milk powder, 1 cup: 62 grams of lactose
  • Sweetened condensed milk, 1 cup: 40 grams of lactose
  • Evaporated milk, 1 cup: 24 grams of lactose
  • Ice cream, 1 cup: 12 grams of lactose
  • Milk (nonfat, 1%, 2%, whole), 1 cup: 11 grams of lactose 
  • Buttermilk, 1 cup: 10 grams of lactose
  • Yogurt, low fat, 1 cup:  5 grams of lactose
  • Sherbet, orange: ½ cup: 4 grams of lactose
  • Half and half, ½ cup: 5 grams of lactose
  • Sour cream, ½ cup: 4 grams of lactose
  • Cream, light, ½ cup: 4 grams of lactose
  • Whipping cream, ½ cup: 3 grams
  • Cottage cheese, creamed, ½ cup: 3 grams of lactose
  • Cottage cheese, un-creamed, ½ cup: 2 grams of lactose
  • Butter, 1 tsp: trace amounts of lactose 
  • Margarine, 1 tsp: trace amounts of lactose
  • Cream cheese, 1 ounce: 1 gram of lactose
  • Hard cheeses: Swiss, Parmesan, sharp cheddar, 1 ounce: 0-1 gram of lactose

In addition to the dairy products above, many foods on supermarket shelves—from baking mixes to salad dressings—contain dairy products. To be safe, check labels for "hidden" lactose that come from ingredients such as butter, casein, cheese, cream, curds, lactose, milk, milk by-products, milk solids, milk sugar, non-fat dry milk powder, whey, and yogurt. And don't forget, many supermarkets stock lactose-free varieties of milk, cottage cheese and ice cream.

* Data from the University of Virginia

Image Source: iStock photo

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