Dairy has been touted as a digestive irritant for many with digestive conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome. However, this does not mean that all dairy will be a bothersome food item for all. In fact, the compound in dairy that bothers most people is lactose, or milk sugar. Let’s take a look at how those in the low FODMAP diet should handle dairy in their diet.
Look for Lactose-free on the Label
Lactose-free milk products are safe on the low FODMAP diet. They don’t taste any different than regular milk products. The only difference from other milk products is that they have added lactase, the enzyme that digests lactose, so you can better digest the milk in the product. Lactose-free products come in many forms such as milk, chocolate milk, cottage cheese, ice cream, and cream cheese. Some standard grocery stores carry lactose-free products, but if you cannot find them there, then visit your local health food market.
Try Plant-based Dairy
Plant-based dairy options have expanded over the years and now include not just soy milk, but also almond milk, cashew milk, coconut milk, and hemp milk, to name a few. All of these milk products are safe on a low FODMAP regimen. Oat and rice milks are ok in small amounts but should be limited to 1 to 6 ounces a day, respectively. And when you purchase soy milk, be sure it is made from soy protein, not soy beans. This is because soy beans contain the compound galacto oligosaccharides, which are high FODMAP.
Stick with Butter and Ghee
Although you may think that because butter is often in the dairy section of the supermarket that it is off limits for a low FODMAP/low lactose eating regimen. However, when butter is made, the cream and the milk are separated and what remains in butter is milkfat, which does not contain the milk sugar lactose. Besides butter, another butter product, clarified butter or ghee, is safe on a low FODMAP diet.
Certain cheeses are ok on the low FODMAP regimen. Softer cheeses like brie and Camembert are safe, as are white cheeses like cottage cheese, feta, and mozzarella. Cheddar, swiss, and parmesan are also ok on the low FODMAP diet. The major cheeses to stay clear from on a low FODMAP diet are cream cheese and ricotta cheese since they are higher in lactose.
Other Dairy Notes
It is important to know that regular yogurt, cream, and sour cream are off limits on a low FODMAP regimen since they are very high in lactose. However, this does not mean that these types of dairy products are off limits. Alternate versions of such foods include almond milk, soy milk, or coconut milk yogurts as well as lactose-free or vegan sour creams found in your local health food market.
And if you like pudding, custard, or ice cream, they are high FODMAP in their original form. However, there are recipes such as this recipe from Casa de Sante for low FODMAP pudding made with chia seeds that can satisfy your sweet tooth. You can also use lactose-free milk in your recipes to make similar versions of your favorite dessert items. Also, lactose-free ice cream or dairy-free ice creams and frozen yogurts like coconut milk, cashew milk, soy milk, and almond milk-based desserts are available in many supermarkets and taste delicious.
As you can see, even though lactose is not safe on a low FODMAP diet, this does not mean that you cannot enjoy many of your favorite dairy products. There are many lactose-free and plant-based dairy items that will give you the creamy and delicious texture that you crave. The next time you go to the market start trying out some new products and visit Casa de Sante for new recipes to try so that you can enjoy dairy on your low FODMAP eating plan.
Written by Staci Gulbin, MS, RD a Board-certified dietitian.