For the Love of Cheese!

It’s the holiday season, and what is one of the typical appetizers served at most gatherings:  CHEESE!   Are you lactose intolerant?  I’m not, but I have a number of friends and relatives that are.  So, this is a handy list of cheeses to have when you go to your favorite specialty grocery, to buy your “party cheeses”.

Here’s the inside scoop!

Cheese is a wonderful food:  versatile, full of nutrients, good tasting. Most people love it.  Perhaps because of the opioid interaction in the brain.  Yep, you heard me right!   Almost all ethnic cultures have a favorite cheese product or two, and it’s been around for thousands of years.  There are so many variations of this food that is mind-boggling.

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Some are a lot easier on the GI system than others.   Here is a great list of cheeses that are low in lactose for those of you that feel deprived.  Also, at the end of this article,  are some general pointers on lactose in foods.  Make friends with the information.


Take it to the store with you; if you are lactose intolerant, or kind to your lactose intolerant friends, it’s important.

Being lactose intolerant keeps you from enjoying many foods, unfortunately.  High levels of lactose in food can cause uncomfortable digestive issues, such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, and stomach pain. Thank goodness there are a number of cheeses that lactose intolerant folk can eat and enjoy.   In fact, there are several of them.

A general rule of thumb is “the fresher the cheese, the more lactose it contains.  So sensitive stomachs will want to avoid creamier varieties such as ricotta or cottage cheese.

Lactose is the sugar in most dairy products.  People who are lactose intolerant lack the enzyme to break it down, hence, lots of GI uncomfortabiltiy.  Aged and hard cheeses are easier to digest, because the bacteria and/or enzymes in the cheese have digested the lactose sugar for you.

Then there are individuals that cannot tolerate any amount of lactose in there dairy products with some kind of distress.  For these individuals, it’s always better to err on the side of caution.

According to lactose intolerance expert Steve Carper, author of “Milk Is Not For Every Body: Living With Lactose Intolerance”, there are nine cheeses that have less than 5 grams of sugar per serving, clocking in at about 2 to 3 percent lactose. For reference, whole milk has around 4.8 percent lactose.   Here are the nine most popular cheeses with the lowest lactose ranges.  The % is the amount of lactose in each.

1. Muenster: 0-1.1% 
2. Camembert: 0-1.8%
3. Brie: 0-2% 
4. Cheddar (mild and sharp): 0-2.1% 
5. Provolone: 0-2.1% 
6. Gouda: 0-2.2% 
7. Blue: 0-2.5%
8. Parmesan: 0-3.2% 
9. Swiss: 0-3.4% 

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Here are a few additional facts you may want to know from Steve Carper.

Some “need to know” facts:

  • As a rule of thumb, the high
  • er the fat content, the lower the lactose content.
  • Anything below 2% lactose can be tolerated well by the majority of those with LI. As long as you don’t really overdo it.
  • Ranges are important because there are huge variations from brand to brand in products like yogurt, sour cream, and ice cream. I don’t know of any way to determine the lactose content of a particular brand, sorry to say.
  • A tenth of a percent here or there doesn’t really make any difference. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
  • Aged cheeses always have lower lactose than younger cheeses. Look for the amount of aging on the label.

This article was adapted from an article in by Arielle Tschinkel.

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