Is Dairy-Free the Same as Lactose-Free? Know the Differences Before You Pick Your Meals

For different reasons, people adopt diet plans that require they eat and stay away from specific foods. It could be a health issue or an inherited intolerance. When it comes to exceptions in consuming milk products, there is a lactose-free diet and a dairy-free diet.

While these two sound alike, dairy-free products and lactose-free products are not the same. Continue reading to see the differences that are worth noting.

What Is a Lactose-Free Diet?

Lactose-free products are products that do not contain lactose, the sugar present in milk. Some people do not easily digest lactose; so, in lactose-free products like lactose-free milk, lactase is included to aid the digestion of regular cow’s milk.

This milk has the same nutritional value as regular milk. The only difference is that it is digestible by people who cannot produce lactase. These people are lactose intolerant. Lactose-free products contain dairy but without lactose.

Furthermore, the lactase present in these foods doesn’t take out the good stuff in the dairy. Whey and casein are the proteins left behind and they aid muscle growth and fat metabolism.

SEE: Is There Dairy in Bread?

What Is a Dairy-Free Diet?

Dairy-free foods do not contain any dairy products. This means that these foods do not contain milk and its by-products. Dairy-free products use plant-based ingredients like oats, almonds, soybeans, cashew, coconut, flaxseed, and rice.

A dairy-free diet is great for people with lactose intolerance because they naturally leave out lactose, the milk sugar. Moreover, they do not contain whey and casein proteins. Dairy-free products include oat milk, almond milk, and nut milk. They are great for people with dairy allergies.

Is Dairy-Free Diet the Same as Lactose-Free Diet?

No, a lactose-free diet is not the same as a dairy-free diet. The first thing to know is that a dairy-free diet is a lactose-free diet but a lactose-free diet may not be dairy-free. This is because a lactose-free diet does not include foods that contain milk sugar, lactose.

However, it may contain other dairy products that do not contain lactose. Dairy-free products, on the other hand, are made from nuts or plants. A lactose-free diet is a diet for people with lactose intolerance while a dairy-free diet is for people with dairy allergies.

In addition, while lactose-free products contain whey and casein proteins, dairy-free foods do not contain these proteins. Another difference worth noting is that a dairy-free diet is a vegan diet, but a lactose-free diet isn’t.

When you weigh the nutrients you get from each, a lactose-free diet provides you with more protein and calcium, unlike a dairy-free diet. Also, a dairy-free diet comes with more complexities. If you have nut allergies, it becomes a problem. If you have gluten intolerance, you have to stay off oats.

Most importantly, people on a dairy-free diet should stay away from lactose-free products because they contain dairy.

SEE: Does Parmesan Cheese Go Bad?

Is Dairy-Free Ice Cream the Same as Lactose-Free Ice Cream?

Dairy-free ice creams are made from plant-based milk while lactose-free ice creams may contain dairy but leave out lactose.

However, some ice creams are both lactose-free and dairy-free. Sorbets are examples of such desserts. They are strictly made from water and fruit juice.

SEE: See How Cooking Experts Test Eggs for Freshness

Is Lactose-Free Diet Better Than Dairy-Free Diet?

Whether you’re following a lactose-free diet or a dairy-free diet, what is most important is that you do what works for you. If you have lactose intolerance, you should be on a lactose-free diet. On the other hand, if you are allergic to dairy, a dairy-free diet is best for you.

Additionally, each of these diets comes with its cons. As mentioned earlier, lactose-free products cannot be consumed by people with a dairy allergy. Dairy-free products also have their downsides as mentioned earlier.

None of the diets is better than the other because they may be prescribed due to an underlying health issue or inherited intolerance.

SEE: List of Foods That Are Naturally Gluten-Free for a Healthy Lifestyle

Lactose Intolerance vs Dairy Allergies

Lactose intolerance is a condition that affects the digestive system. It is a condition where the body cannot produce the enzyme lactase which is necessary for breaking down lactose. Consequently, people with this condition have frequent bloating, diarrhea, nausea, and cramps.

Dairy allergies, on the other hand, affect the immune system. It is a condition where the body reacts to milk or milk proteins like whey and casein. It comes with symptoms like hives, swelling, wheezing, and difficulty in breathing.

Additionally, statistics report shows that lactose intolerance affects about 75% of the world population. But dairy allergy is more common in infants, young children, and some adults.

While people with lactose intolerance do not have to ditch dairy products, people with dairy allergies must stay away from milk and its derivatives like butter, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream.

SEE: Get Free Food or Amazing Discount at Church’s Chicken


Do all dairy products contain lactose?

No, all dairy products do not contain lactose. Lactose-free dairy products always carry a lactose-free label on them. For instance, some cheeses, milk, and butter are lactose-free products.

Does lactose intolerance mean a dairy-free diet?

No, it doesn’t. If you’re lactose intolerant, you may still eat dairy products, granted that they do not contain lactose.

Should you take lactose-free milk if you’re on a dairy-free diet?

No, you shouldn’t. Avoid lactose-free products if you are on a dairy-free diet.

Why does lactose-free milk hurt your stomach?

Lactose-free milk is still a dairy product. People with a dairy allergy may still experience diarrhea and bloating after consuming lactose-free products.


The main difference between lactose-free products and dairy-free products is the presence of dairy in lactose-free products and its absence in dairy-free products.

People who consume lactose-free products most likely suffer lactose Intolerance or are looking to cut down their dairy intake. In the same vein, going dairy-free is good for people with dairy allergies. Moreover, it helps to improve digestive issues and reduce bloating.

I hope this article helped you identify the differences between a dairy-free diet and a lactose-free diet and you know what to consume now.

Thanks for reading.

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