Have you ever come across lactose-free milk and wondered what that actually means? Many people suffer from lactose intolerance, which makes digesting dairy products difficult. Here’s how this milk substitute works.
Lactose intolerance is a very common ailment with over 10 million people in India reporting some level of difficulty digesting dairy. With milk being such a common ingredient in so many dishes, sweets and meals, this can pose a problem for those looking to maintain a regular and healthy diet. And all these problems start with lactose.
What is Lactose?
Lactose is a type of sugar molecule that is naturally present in dairy milk. It’s found in a higher concentration in cow’s milk but is also present in goat’s and sheep’s milk.
For the body to be able to normally digest lactose, you need an enzyme called lactase. This lactase splits the lactose into two smaller molecules: glucose and galactose, which can then be easily absorbed by the body during digestion in the small intestine. The intolerance to dairy occurs when the body’s natural lactase levels are low, and the lactose molecule doesn’t get broken down before passing into the large intestine. This can cause unpleasant symptoms like stomach pain and bloating.
How is lactose-free milk made?
Contrary to the name, lactose isn’t usually removed from the milk during the process. Instead manufacturers add additional lactase to the milk during processing. This helps boost the body’s digestive process and makes it easier on the gut.
A less common method of making lactose-free milk is to pass the milk over lactase to remove the lactose content or by mechanically separating the lactose molecules from the milk. Both these options are more sophisticated and require more machinery and money to conduct, hence they’re rarely used.
Is lactose-free milk better for you?
If you experience any discomfort after consuming dairy products then lactose-free milk is definitely a better option for you. However, if you have a dairy allergy, then it would still trigger that discomfort. For those with a dairy allergy, nut milk, oat milk or coconut milk would be a better alternative.
Nutritionally, lactose-free milk is very similar to regular milk and has the same levels of vitamins, minerals, calcium, and protein. So as a part of a balanced diet, it would be beneficial.
What are the disadvantages of lactose-free milk?
Even though it sounds like the perfect solution, there can be some drawbacks to consuming lactose-free milk. Some manufacturers add extra sugar or sweeteners to the milk to replace the natural sugars in lactose.
Also, since it undergoes heat and chemical treatments, lactose-free milk is considered a heavily processed product.
So if you’ve been wondering about the mysteries of lactose-free milk, wonder no more! And if you suffer from lactose intolerance, this might be the simple solution for you.