I’m lactose-intolerant. Should I use lactose-free butter?

If you have recently been diagnosed with a lactose intolerance, you may be unsure of what you can and cannot eat, which might mean that you carefully avoid anything that could potentially contain lactose, including butter.

butter lactose intolerance

How much lactose is in butter?

Butter is made from the cream that is separated from cow's milk. In its natural form, it contains only small amounts of lactose (also called milk sugar), since most of the sugar remains in the milk from which it is separated. The lactose content of butter is therefore only around 0.6 g / 100 g, which is comparatively low compared to milk.

Such a ratio is not terribly significant, however, given the rarity that one might consume 100 g of butter. What is far more important is the butter content in our food. We typically use about 14 g of butter on a sandwich; a classic pound cake (without milk) can be up 25 % butter, so a piece of that cake thus contains around 37 g of butter. In the table below we can see how much lactose is present in these foods compared with a glass of milk.

FoodLactose content
Sandwich<0.1 g
One piece of pound cake0.23 g
100 g or 3.5 oz. butter0.6 g
One glass of milk13 g
Table 1: Lactose content of butter compared to milk.

Butter is low in lactose content

These examples clearly show that butter and the foods made from it contain lactose, but that the total amount is small and generally well below the threshold above which symptoms of lactose intolerance may arise. Compared with a piece of pound cake, a glass of milk contains more than 50 times the amount of lactose.

Furthermore, foods containing a large amount of butter pass through the intestines much more slowly than beverages because of their high fat content. As a result, the lactose present can still be sufficiently broken down into its individual components and absorbed in the intestine, even with reduced lactase production.

Lactose-free butter? Not worth the expense

We can therefore conclude that butter is clearly not a problematic food when it comes to lactose intolerance. And given lactose-free butter usually costs twice as much as regular butter, stick with the latter and save yourself the added expense.

Why do we care so much about this topic?

We have been developing our price-winning "Food Intolerances" app since 2011 and we are happy to share our knowledge with you. Check it out:

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