Do you ever feel like almost no one drinks regular milk anymore? It makes sense since more than half of the world's population is thought to be lactose intolerant. We've already broken down the popular types of plant-based milks, but what about Lactaid? Lactaid is considered a milk alternative, but it's not vegan or dairy-free. If that's the case, how can it be good for anyone who's lactose intolerant? If you're wondering, 'what is Lactaid,' you're not alone. Here's what sets this milk alternative apart.

Yes, It's Real Milk

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Alex Frank

If you look at the ingredient list on a carton of Lactaid milk, you'll see the ingredients are listed as milk (reduced fat, low-fat, or fat-free depending on how you like it), lactase enzyme, Vitamin A, and Vitamin D. 

So, yes, Lactaid is real milk and not dairy-free. It's not suitable for anyone looking to avoid dairy, as it contains just as much dairy as the regular carton of milk it sits next to in the grocery store. If you're one of these people, you're better off sticking to a plant-based milk.

What Makes Lactaid Special?

If you're paying attention, you probably noticed that the ingredients in Lactaid are exactly the same as those in regular milk, except for one—the lactase enzyme. 

The lactase enzyme is naturally produced in our small intestines. It facilitates the breakdown of lactose, the sugar found in dairy. It breaks lactose down into glucose and galactose, which allow our body to fully digest the sugar. 

People who are lactose intolerant lack this enzyme that allows them to digest lactose. Without it, the sugars go undigested and can actually ferment in the stomach, thus producing the uncomfortable side effects the condition is associated with (gas, bloating, etc). 

In comes Lactaid, which includes the enzyme mixed in with the milk. This means the breakdown of lactose that usually happens in your stomach has already happened in Lactaid products. Your body doesn't need to break down the lactose, because the milk has already done the hard work for you.

How Does it Compare?

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Andrea Kang

It may sound like Lactaid has more sugar since it breaks down lactose, but since it's still just milk, it has the exact same natural sugar content as regular milk. This can also be confusing because some people think it tastes sweeter than regular milk.

If you think Lactaid tastes sweeter, you're not going crazy. Our tongues perceive different sugars as having different sweetness levels. This is due to the structures of sugars and how they fit into the receptors on our tongues. The sugar molecules lactose is broken down into are smaller and better "fit" into these receptors. Galactose is twice as sweet as lactose, and glucose is four times sweeter. 

If you've heard that Lactaid lets you enjoy milk and all of its benefits, you heard right. If you compare the nutrition label on Lactaid to one on a regular milk carton, you'll find everything is the same. The two have the same amount of calories, protein, calcium, Vitamin A, and Vitamin D. 

Since Lactaid tastes almost the same as regular milk and has the same nutrition as regular milk, it can be used to create a lactose-free version of any recipe that calls for milk. Pair it with lactose-free cheese to start enjoying mac and cheese again or pick up a carton of Lactaid's ice cream to make a killer milkshake