Have you heard of lactose-free milk but you’re not sure exactly what it is and what makes it different from the usual milk you find in the store?
We’re here to tell you all about lactose-free milk and whether you should consider switching to it.
You can find lactose-free milk all over Australia. Many people who have issues digesting lactose found in milk choose it as an alternative source of dairy. Drinking lactose-free milk enables them to benefit from all the nutrients found in dairy milk without experiencing the issues associated with lactose intolerance.
So what is lactose-free milk?
As its name suggests, lactose-free milk is simply milk without lactose, the sugar molecule that occurs naturally in milk. It can help to reduce the abdominal pain and bloating experienced by those who are lactose intolerant.
How is lactose-free milk made?
Producing lactose-free milk is simple. The milk is initially passed through filters to remove a percentage of the lactose. Then the enzyme lactase is added. Lactase breaks down the lactose into smaller molecules that are much easier to digest.
Is lactose-free milk different nutritionally?
Both lactose-free and regular dairy milk have the same nutrients. These include calcium, vitamin A, vitamin B12, phosphorus and riboflavin. Some lactose-free milk is enriched with vitamin D to help the body to absorb calcium more easily. Both versions of dairy milk are fantastic sources of protein. The process of making lactose-free milk doesn’t affect the texture of the milk.
So how is it different to regular dairy milk?
We’ve already said that lactose-free milk has the same nutrients and texture as regular milk, but there are also some differences.
To begin with, it’s much easier for humans to digest than milk containing lactose. Most of us can digest lactose although this can change as we age. We may find that we become bloated when we drink milk or experience abdominal pain. In the worst-case scenario, we may suffer from sickness or diarrhoea. Anyone who finds it difficult to digest lactose is said to be ‘lactose-intolerant’.
It's also sweeter than regular milk. While adding lactase doesn’t affect the texture of the milk, it does change the taste. Lactase breaks the lactose into simple sugars, glucose and galactose, which our taste buds identify as tasting sweeter.
What happens if you’re lactose-intolerant?
Being unable to fully digest lactose is all down to low levels of lactase in your digestive system. Your body is simply unable to separate the lactose molecules into simple sugars that are easier to digest before it reaches the large intestine. So, when the lactose arrives in the large intestine, the bacteria will start to break it down. At this point, it releases gases which cause the bloating and pain. When lactase is added to regular milk, it breaks down the lactose, so you don’t experience these digestive problems.
Get delicious lactose-free milk direct from the farm
The Little Big Dairy Co produces delicious lactose-free milk at our farm in Dubbo, New South Wales. Having all the taste of our full cream milk but without the lactose (naturally) it’s the perfect option for anyone with lactose intolerance. Plus, just like all our milks, it can be traced back to the beautiful purebred Holstein cow that made it!