Does Parmesan Cheese Have Lactose? (Answered)

Most readers need no introduction to Parmesan cheese. It’s widely used on numerous foods including chicken, bread, veggies, pizza, pasta, and more.

Given the popularity and versatility of Parmesan, there are many questions that people have regarding this classic cheese. One question we will answer here is whether Parmesan cheese has lactose. Additionally, we will inform you about how much is in it, if any, and if it is generally tolerated by people with lactose intolerance.

Here is what you need to know about the lactose in Parmesan cheese…

Does Parmesan Cheese Contain Lactose?

Lactose is a sugar that is found in milk that comes from mammals. Since Parmesan cheese is made from cow’s milk, it contains lactose and it is a dairy product.

Lactose has the ability to bring on unpleasant symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, and bloating for people who do not produce enough lactase in their bodies. Lactase is an enzyme produces in the small intestine that helps break down lactose.

Not all dairy products are create equal when it comes to lactose. In other words, the lactose content in one dairy product can be high whereas in another it can be almost zero.

Read on as we explain how much lactose is in Parmesan cheese and if it is generally tolerated by people with lactose intolerance.

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How Much Lactose is in Parmesan Cheese?

Parmesan cheese is a hard cheese that is aged, typically at least 12 months, but often several months longer. Aged cheeses have a benefit over younger cheeses because as they age the lactose in them slow transforms into lactic acid. Lactic acid is actually believed to be overall beneficial to the body. It is believed to strengthen the immune system, produce antioxidant effects, protect against certain infections, and assist in absorb of vitamins & minerals (source).

Generally, Hard Parmesan cheese has a low level of lactose. In fact, many people with lactose intolerance can even enjoy it without experiencing symptoms.

According to the often cited reference for lactose percentages, Steve Carper’s Big List of Lactose Percentages, hard Parmesan has a lactose content range of 0.0-3.2%. To put this into perspective, most people with lactose intolerance can handle dairy with a lactose percent of around 2% without any symptoms arising.

Grated Parmesan, often found in a shaker bottle with a green top at grocery stores, has a bit more lactose. The lactose percentage range for it is 2.9-3.7%. People with lactose intolerance should be careful about consuming grated Parmesan given its lactose content. However, it lactose content is still low enough where many people with lactose intolerance can still enjoy this type of cheese.

Final Thoughts

Parmesan cheese does contain lactose, but its lactose content is very low due its aging process. Most people with lactose intolerance can enjoy Parmesan cheese without experiencing symptoms, although some may need to limit their intake. If you have concerns about your lactose intake or potential health issues related to lactose or dairy, you should speak to a qualified healthcare professional that understands lactose related problems.