Chocolate. How do you answer a question about chocolate without getting so distracted that you forget the subject? (I make sure that I don't have any chocolate anywhere in my office at any time. Writing is hard enough without thinking about nibbling.)
That's a lead-in to one of the most horrifying questions I've ever received.
If a person is lactose intolerant, does that mean they should not eat chocolate? What about things like chocolate cake, cupcakes, and candy?
Chocolate is a subject that people write whole books about, long, loving books with lots of recipes and pictures of concoctions that would melt the teeth off the whole Osmond family. Nope, I'm getting distracted again. Let's concentrate on the chocolate-lactose connection.
Chocolate itself comes from the cocoa nut. Cocoa powder, cocoa butter, and chocolate liquor, better known as baking chocolate or bitter chocolate, are all pure chocolate with no lactose. Why add lactose? The name "bitter chocolate" offers a clue. Lactose is a sugar and adds sweetness. That's why milk and chocolate are paired together so often.
Not all chocolates have lactose added, fortunately. Dark and semi-sweet chocolates are almost always lactose-free. Usually the higher the cocoa content, the less likelihood there is of encountering lactose. Personally, I've settled on chocolate bars that are 70-72% chocolate. You can find higher percentages on the shelves but I find them too strong.
That last section referred to pure high-quality dark chocolate bars. High quality in chocolate also means higher priced. Some cheaper dark chocolates have milkfat included as an ingredient. Peter Paul Mounds bars do, to answer another question sent in to me. Milkfat should not contain any appreciable percentage of lactose so those with LI don't need to worry at all about it, although anyone with a dairy allergy needs to stay away.
Milk chocolate of course has milk in it. How much milk? Depends on the recipe and the brand and the cost and a million other factors. Most people with LI won't have any symptoms if they were to nibble on a small bit of milk chocolate. The more you eat, the lactose you take in. You have to know your own body well enough to do when to stop.
Especially children with LI. I received this wise email from a mother who was uncommonly watchful and observant.
I can attest (due to my 4 year old's case of LI) that milk chocolate & even semi-sweet chocolate contain enough lactose & milk in them to cause a reaction. (I'm sure this is just because he is barely 40 lbs & the ratio of chocolate to body weight a child eats is far greater than that of an adult.)
I have been cutting up dark chocolate bars for the past several years to make our chocolate chip cookies, and it seems that he can tolerate dark chocolate, but not the semi-sweet nor milk chocolate chips.
White chocolate isn't truly chocolate according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. And it must contain a minimum of 14% milk solids. Avoid.
Do I dare get into the sinkhole of whether "chocolate cake, cupcakes, and candy" contain lactose? Nope. Most do. Some don't. Check ingredients labels. Patronize stores and bakeries that feature dairy-free products. Look for dairy-free recipes. Check my Milk-Free Bookstore for dairy-free cookbooks. Planet Lactose is a huge, huge world. You need to take time to explore it.
But there's absolutely no need to avoid chocolate while doing so.