How to Avoid Hidden Dairy

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Lactose-intolerant individuals can make a concerted effort to remove dairy products from their diets, yet still occasionally experience uncomfortable symptoms after a meal or beverage. What gives? It turns out that going dairy-free involves more than just eliminating the obvious suspects like milk and cheese. Many food products─even “non-dairy” items─may contain dairy-derived ingredients, such as:


This milk protein is used as an emulsifying and binding agent in many processed foods, including “vegetarian” cheeses and supplements. Other forms of casein used in food processing include ammonium caseinate, calcium caseinate, casein hydrolysate, iron caseinate, magnesium caseinate, paracasein, potassium caseinate, rennet casein, sodium caseinate, and zinc caseinate.

Lactalbumin and lactoglobulin

Lactalbumin is the albumin component in milk. Albumins act as emulsifying and binding agents in a wide range of processed foods. Similar to lactalbumin, lactoglobulin is a whey protein which functions as a gelling and stabilizing agent. It often lurks in unlikely places, like sports beverages.


According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders, lactose is often added to prepared foods, including bread, muffins, cakes and other baked goods, breakfast cereals, instant potatoes, soups, breakfast drinks, margarine, lunch meats, bacon, sausage, and hot dogs, salad dressings, many types of snack chips, mixes for pancakes, biscuits, and cookies, and numerous forms of candy.

Whey and Whey Protein

Whey, a by-product in cheese-making, shows up in a variety of prepared food products. Whey protein─which is composed of lactalbumin and lactalglobulin─is found in both foods and nutritional supplements in many forms, including sweet whey, whey powder, whey protein concentrate, and whey protein isolate, which is typically lactose-free.

What’s the take away here? Well, it appears that the more processed a food is, the more likely it is to contain additives, often dairy-derived. You best strategy is to stick to fresh, whole foods as much as possible, as well as healthy prepared foods with relatively short, safe ingredient lists. Your vigilance will serve you well!

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