Lactose Intolerance and Cheese
For most people being lactose intolerant does not mean avoiding all dairy. Lactose intolerance is a cumulative affect so learning to balance ones lactose intake throughout the day will help them to be symptoms free and still enjoy the foods they love to eat. For those that are lactose intolerant there are still many foods they can enjoy in small amounts and fortunately for cheese lovers everywhere, cheese is one of those things.
Not all cheese is the same however and learning to distinguish which cheeses are lower in lactose is important. In general the best rule of thumb is the harder the cheese the lower the lactose amount and the more chance you will be able to enjoy that cheese. Cheese is made from milk that has an enzyme called rennet added to it. The rennet coagulates casein which is the protein in milk, this separates milk into two parts, curds (the solid) and whey (a liquid).
Cheese can be made from either part of the milk, but whey cheeses are not very common in this country, the one whey cheese you may be familiar with is ricotta. Whey cheeses have the most amount of lactose of all the cheeses since most of the lactose stays with the whey during the separation process. This means that curd cheeses or casein cheeses are lower in lactose than most dairy products having had most of the lactose removed from them.
There are two different types of casein cheese however and which one you choose will also greatly affect your lactose count. Cheeses that are made after the curd is separated from the whey are unripened cheeses; these cheeses contain more lactose than ripened cheeses. These cheeses include cream cheese, Neufchatel, cottage cheese, and pot cheese.
Ripened cheeses make up the rest of the cheeses and these are the cheeses that have had the most amount of whey removed from the curd. With the whey goes the lactose as well making these cheeses your best bet. Many of these cheeses can rate close to zero lactose, including cheddar, mozzarella, swiss, provolone, brie, blue cheese, and gouda.
Many people also think that goat cheese may be a better choice, not because of lactose count but because goat cheese is naturally homogenized, leaving the fat globules small, and suspended in the milk rather than separated out.
One final note avoid processed cheeses as these contain a lot of dairy by products such as whey and they also contain milk, both of which contain plenty of lactose. If you stick to hard cheeses there is no reason why you should not be able to enjoy cheese on a regular basis.