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Is Lactose-Free Milk Healthy? Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits
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Is Lactose-Free Milk Healthy? Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by Edibel Quintero, RD | Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD check
Published on November 26, 2022
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5 min

Having to give up ice cream and cookies because of lactose intolerance is a horror story. Fortunately, lactose-free milk is a perfect alternative if you want to leave gastrointestinal discomfort behind.

is lactose free milk healthy
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Until recently, the solution to lactose intolerance was to abstain from all dairy products to avoid the typical discomfort that causes excess gas and abdominal pain.

Today there are substitutes free of the milk carbohydrate, known as lactose, that promise to avoid all the annoying symptoms.

These products contain the lactose that’s already been hydrolyzed, which means that since they contain the added lactase enzyme, it is digested more gently in those who are intolerant.

It is debatable whether lactose-free milk is as healthy as regular cow’s milk, the latter being an excellent source of calcium and vitamins. Doesn’t lactose-free milk lose all its benefits?

Firstly, it is important to have the correct diagnosis since often intestinal discomfort is attributed to lactose intolerance, but this is not correct in all cases. Consult your doctor first so you don’t have to eliminate dairy products from your diet and miss out on their nutrients.

On the other hand, rest assured knowing that if you really must decrease the lactose content of your diet, lactose-free products will be your best allies from now on. Health Reporter brings you all the details on this topic.

Is Lactose-Free Milk Healthy?

Yes, lactose-free milk is healthy as it retains all the benefits of regular milk. The only difference is that it contains an enzyme, β-Galactosidase, also known as lactase.

This enzyme hydrolyzes lactose added to milk to digest lactose before it enters the digestive system without modifying the vitamins and minerals found in milk: vitamins B6, B12, D, C, and A. In addition, it is an important source of calcium, magnesium, and iron.

Since lactose-free milk is a product easier to digest for persons suffering from lactose intolerance, it does not produce symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea, or intestinal cramps.

How Is Lactose-Free Milk Made?

Once the milk is obtained from cows, it goes through different processes of purification, pasteurization, or ultra-pasteurization. The process depends on the dairy products to be elaborated.

To produce lactose-free milk, it is necessary to break lactose into two sugars: glucose and galactose. This is done by either of two processes:

  • Filtering the milk to extract the lactose
  • Adding the enzyme lactase to break the lactose bonds

Neither process modifies the original components of cow’s milk, so lactose-free milk still contains carbohydrates, only instead of having the carbohydrate lactose, the final product is milk with glucose and galactose, which makes lactose-free milk a little sweeter.

Lactose-free milk ingredients

  • Milk
  • Lactase enzyme
  • Added D3 vitamin*

*Some brands may add other vitamins and minerals to fortify the milk.

3 Health Benefits of Lactose-Free Milk

Lactose-free milk is light, sweet, and sometimes slightly yellow compared to regular milk. But you may not notice these subtle differences. What is worth noting are all the health benefits of lactose-free milk.

#1 Easier to digest

People who are lactose intolerant have low production of the enzyme lactase in the intestine, which causes symptoms such as abdominal cramps, bloating, nausea, and gas when consuming dairy products.

Lactose-free cow’s milk contains added lactase, which digests the milk before it enters the digestive tract, thus avoiding all the characteristic symptoms of lactose intolerance.

#2 Calcium supply

One of the most important minerals provided by dairy products is calcium, which promotes bone and dental health. It is also important for the optimal performance of metabolic functions such as protein synthesis and nutrient absorption.

A glass of milk can contain up to 300mg of calcium, which covers approximately 30% of the daily requirement of this nutrient for the average adult, according to the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 

#3 Good source of protein

Milk consumption is important at all stages of life because of its content of high biological value proteins such as casein, which is part of cow’s milk. 

Protein promotes the formation and development of muscle mass. In addition, it promotes satiety because milk proteins are slowly absorbed, making them beneficial for a weight loss diet.

Pros of lactose-free milk

  • Since it is better digested, lactose-free dairy is more easily metabolized, which allows a better advantage of its nutrients.
  • Contains the same nutrients as regular cow’s milk.
  • Lactose-free milk tastes sweeter.

Cons of lactose-free milk

  • Lactose-free dairy may cause lactose intolerance in people who take it without being intolerant since when removing lactose from the diet, the lactase loses the stimulus, and its production decreases.
  • It may decrease calcium absorption in the intestine since lactose is essential for its binding.
  • Lactose-free products may be more expensive than regular milk.

Lactose-Free Milk Nutrition Facts

Lactose-free milk nutritional value (per 100g)

Calories/Nutrient (per 100g)Amount 
Calories (kcal)60kcal
Sodium (mg)38mg
Net Carbs (g)4.67g
Fiber (g)0g
Sugar (g)4.8g
Fats (Total)3.2g
Protein (g)3.28g
Cholesterol (mg)12mg

Source: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1097525/nutrients

Low in calories and fats

Lactose-free milk is a low-calorie and low-fat product that can be consumed on a weight-loss diet, especially if skim varieties are chosen.

A glass of lactose-free whole milk can contain about 120 calories, while a glass of skim milk contains only 68 calories. 

Low in carbohydrates

Although lactose-free dairy products are primarily a source of carbohydrates, a glass of lactose-free milk contains only 9.34g, which corresponds to milk sugars.

High in vitamins and minerals

Whole pasteurized cow’s milk is an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D – the most relevant nutrients for the health of the consumer. It is also an important source of vitamin A and B group vitamins.

Low in cholesterol

Despite being an animal-derived product, lactose-free milk is low in cholesterol, with only 12mg per serving.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a healthy adult should consume up to 300mg of cholesterol, while people at cardiovascular risk should limit consumption to 200mg per day. 

Lactose-Free Milk vs. Regular Store-Bought Milk

Both lactose-free and regular milk are healthy, contain a large amount of nutrients, and are suitable for a balanced diet.

Drinking lactose-free milk instead of regular milk does not add any advantage to a person who tolerates dairy well, as their body does have the ability to digest lactose.

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FAQs

What does lactose-free mean?

The term lactose-free indicates that the product has either had the lactose removed through filtration or the lactase enzyme added to break it down, making it suitable for people who are lactose intolerant.

Is skim milk lactose-free?

No, skim milk is regular milk that is fat-free but contains lactose. However, there are both lactose-free and skim milk varieties available on the market.

Does lactose-free milk taste different?

Yes, lactose-free milk is slightly sweeter than regular milk due to the sugars released by lactose when it is broken down into glucose and galactose.

How do they remove lactose from milk?

Cow’s milk can be filtered to remove lactose without affecting the rest of its contents. Also, the most common way is to add the enzyme lactase during processing.

A Word From Our Nutritionist

Lactose intolerance is a common condition worldwide, which is why the market not only offers lactose-free products but also plant-based milk options such as almond milk, coconut milk, or oat milk.

These plant-based kinds of milk do not belong to the dairy group and are recommended not only for lactose intolerant people but also for people who normally tolerate regular milk but have some transitory gastrointestinal problem that may affect digestion.

Plus, these are excellent types of low-calorie milk, so they are good choices if you want to lose weight.

Also, if you suffer from lactose intolerance and lactose-free milk is not a pleasant substitute for you, you can get calcium from other sources such as legumes, nuts, fish, and plenty of green vegetables like broccoli and spinach.

Conclusion

Lactose-free milk and other lactose-free dairy products contain an enzyme known as lactase, added during its manufacture to help with digestion in people who suffer from lactose intolerance.

Lactase does not modify the rest of the nutrients in milk, so lactose-free milk has the same benefits as regular cow’s milk.

Drinking lactose-free milk does not add any benefits and is recommended specifically for people with lactose intolerance. However, it can be part of a balanced diet.

HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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