What is lactose?

What is lactose?

Having trouble understanding what lactose is, what it contains, and in what it is found? We’ve got your back! Get to understand more about it here.

Lactose is the sugar of milk

“What is lactose?” you might ask. The short answer is: milk sugar. It’s not only found in cow’s milk but also in goat’s milk and sheep’s milk. It’s found in all dairy products, and in other foods that contain milk, such as ice cream and milk chocolate.

Many people think of lactose in connection with lactose intolerance, and luckily, it’s easy to find great dairy products that are practically lactose-free. And in fact, many dairy products contain so little milk sugar that most intolerant people can enjoy them without difficulty. In addition, there are lots of lactose-free alternatives if you want to avoid lactose completely.

Lactose consists of galactose and glucose


To be able to digest lactose, your body needs to break the lactose down into the two sugars called galactose and glucose. Your body uses a natural enzyme called lactase to do this. If your body doesn’t naturally make enough lactase for this to happen, you may not be able to break down or absorb lactose properly, which can lead to symptoms of lactose intolerance.

Lactase is the body’s own enzyme that is released in the small intestine and ensures that glucose and galactose are absorbed through the intestinal wall into the blood stream.

If the milk sugar isn’t digested (split into galactose and glucose) you might feel some discomfort. We advise you to consult your doctor or dietician if you experience this.

People who produce less or no lactase are therefore lactose intolerant.

Foods with lactose

If you’re lactose intolerant, you probably want to know what foods contain lactose so you can replace or at least reduce your daily intake of those. In short, lactose is found in all types of milk and therefore, all milk products and food made with milk products contain lactose. Check our overview of foods with lactose and see our tips for a daily life without lactose.

Want to know more? Check these out!

Always ask your doctor or dietician if you experience any discomfort or what you believe could be symptoms of lactose intolerance. We love lactose-free dairy, but we’re far from medical experts.

A bit confused about what lactose is? Don’t worry! We have collected some frequently asked questions and answers here.

What foods contain lactose?

Since lactose is milk sugar, it’s found in dairy products and all other foods containing milk – unless they are lactose-free, of course. For most people, products such as milk and cream come to mind when thinking of products with lactose, but it’s also found in, for example, milk chocolate, ice cream, and many baked goods.

Is lactose a sugar?

Yes, lactose is a type of sugar that is found in milk and dairy products. It’s sometimes called milk sugar.

Is lactose a reducing sugar?

Yes, lactose belongs to the group of reducing sugars. In short, a reducing sugar can work as a reducing agent and donate electrons to other molecules.

What is lactose made of?

Lactose is a so-called disaccharide, which means that it consists of two sugars. Those two are glucose and galactose, and they are both monosaccharides. When the body digests the lactose, it’s broken down into glucose and galactose by the natural enzyme lactase.

Is lactose dairy?

Lactose is found in dairy products. If you want to avoid it in your diet, you can choose lactose-free alternatives. Arla LactoFREE is just like normal dairy products, but without the lactose. If you want to avoid dairy in your diet, lactose free products won’t be enough as they still contain milk proteins, which are often what you need to avoid if you have, for example, milk allergy. Consult your doctor if this might be your case.

What is lactose monohydrate?

Lactose monohydrate is simply another name for what most people just call lactose, which is natural milk sugar.