Nearly 65% of the human population struggles with lactose intolerance.

These poor souls try their best to avoid dairy and the physical discomfort that comes with it—not to mention dealing with the uniquely profound emotional distress that comes from feeling like you’ve been cursed to a life without cheese…or have you?

What is lactose and why are some people intolerant?

Lactose is a type of sugar found in milk and other dairy products. In the body, lactose is broken down into simple sugars by an enzyme called lactase. People are lactose intolerant when their bodies don’t make enough lactase. Without lactase, the lactose can’t be properly digested and causes gastrointestinal distress. Some people are more intolerant than others—it all depends on how much lactase your body is able to make. 

Does this mean lactose intolerant’s can never have cheese? 

We’re happy to report there are some cheeses that lactose intolerant individuals can still enjoy without gastrointestinal consequence.

While fresher cheeses have a high percentage of lactose, aged cheeses have much of their lactose transformed into less harmful lactic acid. Lactose is also separated and drained off with the whey during the aging process, which brings the lactose percentage down with it.

What cheeses can lactose intolerant folks eat? 

When considering lactose percentages, lactose intolerant folks will want to stick to cheeses that are at or below the 2-3% lactose range. Using lactose percentages composed and collected by Steve Carper’s Lactose Intolerance Clearing House (his numbers are legit and thoroughly sourced, despite the seriously outdated website), here are some of the friendliest cheeses for the lactose intolerant:

  • Edam: 0-1.4% lactose
  • Camembert: 0-1.8% lactose
  • Brie: 0-2% lactose 
  • Cheddar: 0-2.1% lactose
  • Gouda: 0-2.2% lactose
  • Blue: 0-2.5% lactose
  • Parmesan: 0-3% lactose

Are there any cheeses that should be avoided outright? 

Fresh cheeses and highly processed “cheeses” tend to have the highest lactose percentages. Here are the main culprits:

  • Feta: 4.1% average lactose
  • Ricotta: 0.2-5.1% lactose range
  • Velveeta: 9.3% average lactose 
  • American: 0-14.2% lactose range

Old Europe Cheese has been handcrafting artisan specialty cheeses that are naturally low in lactose since 1987. Find Reny Picot cheeses in a store near you! Or, head over to our Facebook page for giveaways, cheesy contests, and more!