A delicious butter spread that’s lactose free! Photo courtesy Challenge Dairy.
An estimated 30 to 50 million Americans have lactose intolerance, a condition wherein individuals naturally lose the ability to digest lactose—the natural sugar component of milk—as they grow into adulthood.
In some of the world’s populations, the condition begins in childhood, after weaning. In others, it happens on an individual basis in late middle age or beyond. Still other people never lose their ability to produce lactase, the enzyme that digests lactose.
And since the inability to digest lactose continues to grow as many people age, our population has millions of contenders discovering their lactose intolerance every year.
We are one of those people. Having grown up on butter, milk, cheese (cottage cheese, cream cheese, mozzarella and other fresh cheeses and lots of aged cheeses), sour cream, yogurt and ice cream, we suddenly became unable to digest them (or more accurately, they get digested with some unpleasant side effects).
We quickly found lactose-free staples in:
Lactaid cottage cheese and ice cream
Green Valley cream cheese, sour cream and yogurt
Cheddar, the only cheese that is naturally 100% lactose free
But what to do for butter?
While no one has yet marketed a lactose-free bar of butter, Challenge Dairy now has a delicious lactose-free butter spread.
The California-based maker of butter and cream cheese, representing some 600 dairy farm families, has made life easier for the lactose-intolerant.
Their lactose-free spreadable butter clarifies the butter, a process that removes the milk solids that contain the lactose (this is the same process used to make clarified butter and ghee). The butter is then blended with canola oil to create a smooth, spreadable butter.
The result: a buttery spread that has half the calories of regular butter. One tablespoon has 50 calories, 2 grams saturated fat (of 5.5 grams total fat) and 110 milligrams sodium.
The lactose-free butter is available at retailers nationwide, including Albertsons, BI-LO, Harris Teeter, HEB, Jewel, Lucky’s, Meijer, Safeway, Savemart, Vons and Winn Dixie. A 15-ounce container is $4.49
Learn more at ChallengeDairy.com.
See the foods that have hidden lactose, below.
FACTORS THAT IMPACT THE TASTE OF BUTTER
Why do different brands of butter vary in flavor?
Several factors are responsible, according to Challenge Dairy.
The cows’ diet has an effect on the flavor of the milk. Grass-fed cows, which graze in the pasture, have different diets depending on the season. The grass mix will be different in the spring, summer and fall, when clover, wildflowers and herbs are part of the blend. In the winter, the animals eat silage, grass that is compacted and stored in airtight conditions (as opposed to hay, which is dried first). Penned cows eat feed, a combination of hay, grain, silage and proteins (such as soybean meal), vitamins and minerals.
The cream that is used, churned from the butter, can have slightly different acid levels.
All butters are pasteurized and churned, but these processes are different among manufacturers, resulting in different flavors and textures.
Now, enjoy butter mashed potatoes to your heart’s content. Photo courtesy U.S. Potato Commission.
Butterfat level can differ slightly by different manufacturers (and by different products in the line, e.g. European butter).
The butter could be cultured or made from sour cream instead of sweet cream butter.
There can be a difference in the natural flavor that is usually added to unsalted butter (but not all brands—check the ingredients label). This flavoring is a natural milk derivative starter distillate (a distilled flavor made from fermented, cultured milk, similar to that used in the production of sour cream and buttermilk) that is added to the cream prior to churning. It produces flavor compounds that give unsalted butter a more pleasing taste, compensating for the absence of the flavor boost from salt.
Check out the different types of butter in our Butter Glossary.
SURPRISING SOURCES OF LACTOSE HIDDEN IN NON-MILK-BASED FOODS
Some people are just mildly lactose intolerant, others are extremely so (more information). Every person handles it differently. If you think you might be lactose intolerant, a gastroenterologist can give you the test.
As with sugar and salt, there is “hidden lactose” everywhere.
Creamy & Low-Fat Salad Dressings: Lactose gives texture and flavor to many creamy salad dressings. Kraft and Newman’s Own have some lactose-free varieties. Low-fat dressings also can use lactose as a filler.
Instant Foods: Coffee, mashed potatoes, oatmeal, soup, other instant foods and powdered drinks can contain lactose, which helps the granules dissolve quickly. Quaker instant oatmeal is milk-free, but check the labels on everything powdered before you buy.
Medications: There’s lactose in everything from birth control pills to digestion remedies (that’s ironic, since lactose causes digestive problems in the lactose-intolerant) and quick-dissolve tablets. Lactose is used as a filler or base, improves bioavailability and taste.
Processed Grains: Breakfast cereals, breads, cookies, crackers, granola bars, pancake and waffle mixes, and even potato chips can include lactose as a cheap sweetener. Read the label carefully, or look for vegan-labeled products.
Processed Meats: Bacon, cold cuts, hot dogs and sausages can contain lactose. Kosher products (including beef, turkey or seitan-based bacon) will be lactose free.
Sweetener Tablets: Lactose is used as a bulking agent in sweetening tablets (e.g. Equal Classic Tablets).