Today, it’s estimated that nearly 70% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant – that’s an almost unbelievably large percentage of people. And that means that a large percentage of people have to look for milk substitutes and turn to dairy alternatives to avoid the lactose in cow’s milk that they have trouble digesting.
One of the alternative milks to cow’s milk is goat milk. While still technically in the dairy category, the creamy, naturally sweet milk is known to be a friendly choice for some who are lactose intolerant – but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a lactose-free milk.
In fact, goat milk DOES contain lactose.
If you’re lactose intolerant or sensitive to lactose, let’s get to the bottom of it all so you can determine whether goat milk is a good choice for you.
What is lactose, exactly?
Let’s start by understanding what lactose actually is. Lactose is one of the main carbohydrates in milk – it’s essentially milk’s natural sugar. And it’s exclusively found in mammal milk, so human milk, cow’s milk, and all other dairy milk contain lactose. This means that milk products, like cheese, ice cream, and yogurt all contain lactose as well, though usually in smaller amounts.
Lactose generally makes up between 2% and 8% of milk’s composition. Different animals fall into different parts of that range, as their milk contains varying levels of the natural sugar. Cow’s milk is known to contain the most lactose of any animal (behind humans), while moose milk and reindeer milk have some of the lowest concentrations of lactose content.
So where exactly does goat milk stand?
Goat milk is not lactose-free – but it is easy to digest
Goats are mammals, and as a result, their milk naturally contains lactose. However, goat milk does have a lower concentration of lactose than cow’s milk – goat milk contains around 4.2% lactose, while cow’s milk is made up of nearly 5%.
This may seem marginal, but surprisingly the 1% or so less of lactose content in goat milk can actually make a difference. Some of those with a mild case of lactose intolerance find that they can tolerate goat milk as opposed to cow’s milk, and thus use it as a milk alternative. This also means that goat milk products, like goat cheese and goat milk yogurt, are often able to be eaten in moderate amounts since those byproducts contain even less lactose than the milk itself.
On most cartons of goat milk, you won’t see the claim “lactose-free”, but you will often see the words “easy to digest”. That’s because, aside from its lower lactose content, goat milk is notably easier on the digestive system. It’s not only high in digestible protein and fatty acids (which help aid and ease the process of digestion), but the fat globules in goat milk are naturally smaller compared to some other milks, which allows the enzymes in your digestive system to break them down faster.
Lactose is the natural milk sugar found only in the milk of mammals. It’s a carbohydrate that usually comprises between 2% to 8% of the milk content. Many of the world’s population who are lactose intolerant have trouble processing and digesting lactose.
It can be – because it’s lower in lactose than cow milk and easy to digest, some find they can better tolerate it. However, it’s mostly recommended for those with mild lactose intolerance; those with a more severe case should still avoid goat milk because of its lactose content.
Goat milk is made up of around 4.2% lactose, which amounts to about 11 to 12 grams for an 8-ounce cup serving.