Understanding the Difference between Lactose-Free Milk and Regular Milk

By on January 4, 2019
Lactose Free Milk

If you’re among the 75% or so of the world’s population that unfortunately has lactose intolerance, but can’t resist your love for your favorite dairy products, then chances are that you’ve heard about lactose-free milk. You may even be curious about it, considering as it’s often billed as a miracle alternative that gives you all that creamy goodness but without the painful bloating, diarrhea, and indigestion afterwards.

But what is lactose-free milk, really? Is it actual milk, or something that’s brewed up artificially in some lab somewhere? What makes them so different? Should you just abandon dairy milk altogether and try drinking all natural milked nuts instead? We’ll answer these questions and more in this article, so read on.

What is lactose-free milk?

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Before you panic, relax: lactose-free milk is essentially the same as regular milk, in that it still counts as dairy and comes directly from cows. This means that it undergoes the same processes that makes it safe to consume and store, such as homogenization and pasteurization. So if you were concerned about lactose-free milk being some sort of artificial chemical concoction being passed off as milk, then consider those concerns put to rest.

What makes lactose-free milk different is the addition of lactase. Lactase is a naturally-occurring enzyme in the human body that breaks down lactose in milk, allowing it to be digested safely along with the rest of the nutritious goodness that dairy milk provides once consumed. It’s this enzyme, or the lack of it, that makes lactose-intolerant folk get the horrible symptoms they have whenever they consume anything with dairy. As such, milk producers and sellers came to the logical conclusion to add lactase to milk in order to break down the lactose in advance, so that lactose-intolerant milk lovers would be able to consume milk again without having to suffer.

Does the lactase-adding process make it that much more different than regular milk?

With that said, yes, adding lactase to milk does change its properties a bit. For one, it tastes considerably sweeter than regular milk. This isn’t because lactase itself is sweet, but rather it’s a by-product of lactase being added to the milk. As the lactase breaks down lactose in milk, the latter breaks down into two simple sugars, namely galactose and glucose. These simple sugars taste sweeter and more strongly when tasted by the human tongue. So if you’re fond of the subtle creamy taste of whole milk and want to see if lactose-free milk is something you can live with, you may find the difference in taste a bit surprising. Try a cupful first before buying an entire larder’s worth of cartons.

Besides this, lactose-free milk has a longer shelf life than regular milk. Properly stored in a cool and dry place, lactase-added milk can last up to two months, which is considerably more when compared to the two week period that regular milk lasts for. This is because this variety of milk goes through a more intense pasteurizing process, which involves being heated to at least 280 degrees Fahrenheit. Regular dairy milk on the other hand is only heated to 170 degrees Fahrenheit.

So, in summary, the main differences of lactose-free milk and regular milk are as follows:

  • Lactose-free milk has no lactose, allowing lactose-intolerant people to drink it safely.
  • Lactose-free milk has added lactase, which breaks down the lactose in milk into simple sugars.
  • Lactose-free milk is markedly sweeter than regular milk due to the lactose being broken down into simple sugars.
  • Lactose-free milk has a longer shelf life of two months, as opposed to the shelf life of regular dairy milk which is only up to two weeks.

Other Lactose-Free Milk Types

If you’ve tried lactose-free milk and decided that the taste is something you’d rather do without, or you’re looking for a less fattening alternative, then why not try milked nuts instead? Milked nuts are essentially plant-based derivatives that are just as creamy as the real thing, without the added sweetness of lactose. They’re also much healthier for you, as they have a lower calorie count and absolutely zero cholesterol while still having the same protein and nutrient content that you need.

Some nut-based milk that we recommend you try include peanut milk, almond milk, walnut milk, and other varieties.


Lactose-free milk is a great way to consume milk without having to deal with the painful symptoms of lactose intolerance. However, be reminded that due to the removal of lactose, it will taste markedly different from regular milk. The added benefit, however, is that it’s more shelf-stable and won’t give you the runs with every glassful. If that doesn’t seem right for you, then there are plant-based derivatives that you can choose to replace dairy milk that’s just as nourishing. This type of milk also has that delicious creamy flavor and consistency that you love.


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Understanding the Difference between Lactose-Free Milk and Regular Milk