The good news is that the low FODMAP diet is not a dairy-free diet and you can enjoy low FODMAP cheese. However, you do need to avoid cheeses that contain high amounts of lactose. This means the trick is to choose naturally low lactose cheeses and to control your portion size.
Types of Cheeses
Did you know that natural, aged cheese normally contains less than 0.5g of sugar? During the manufacturing process most of the high FODMAP lactose is drained off with the whey (1). The small amount of lactose that is left in the curd is then transformed into lactic acid as the cheese ripens (1). This means aged cheeses only contain very small or trace amounts of lactose per serve (1). Aged cheeses include Cheddar, Camembert, Cheshire, Pecorino Style, Swiss, Brie, Blue Cheese, Harvati, or Parmesan. These are low FODMAP cheese options and they are normally well tolerated by people with lactose intolerance.
The next category of cheeses are fresh unripened cheeses and these usually have lactose levels that are less than 5 grams (1). These unripened cheeses do not go through a long aging process which means that not all of the lactose in the curd converts into lactic acid (1). Cheeses in this category include Colby, Edam, Halomi, Cottage Cheese, Feta, or Cream Cheese. Most of these are still classed as low FODMAP cheeses or have low FODMAP serving sizes, however you will need to watch your portion sizes.
Finally, we have processed cheese foods and spreads. These are made by melting natural cheese and then adding dairy products like whey or milk (1). These products contain higher levels of lactose and can be high FODMAP (1).
How to Choose Low FODMAP Cheese
The lactose content is important when choosing low FODMAP cheese. There is a quick and easy way to check how much lactose is in your cheese by looking at the nutrition panel on the cheese label. The sugar in cheese is lactose – this means the lower the amount of sugar, the less lactose the cheese contains. This trick only works for cheese, as other lactose-containing products like milk or yoghurt can have added sugar.
From the table below it appears that the Monash University Low FODMAP App recommends cheese serving sizes that contain less than 1g of lactose per serve. This means when reading labels look for cheeses that contain 1g or less of lactose per serve.
Low FODMAP Cheese Options & Serving Sizes
Ready to find a delicious cheese to add to your low FODMAP diet? We’ve got you covered with a variety of low FODMAP cheese options. The table below is compiled from information from the Monash University low FODMAP app, as well as the Food Standards Australia New Zealand NUTTAB Database and USDA Natural Nutrient Database.
|Lactose Content of Cheese|
|Low FODMAP Cheese||Lactose per 100g||Recommended Serving Size|
|Blue Cheese||0 – 0.5||Not tested but considered low FODMAP at 40g|
|Camembert Cheese||0.1g – 0.46||Low FODMAP serve 40g|
|Cheddar Cheese||0.1g – 0.48||Low FODMAP serve 40g|
|Cheshire Cheese||0.0g||Not tested but considered low FODMAP at 40g|
|Cheese, soft, white, mould coated (brie & camembert)||0.1g – 0.46g||Low FODMAP serve 40g|
|Colby Cheese||0.1g – 0.69g||Low FODMAP serve 40g|
|Creamed Cottage Cheese||1.9g – 2.67g||Low FODMAP serve 40g (2 tablespoons). Some cottage cheese might be lower in lactose than others so check the labels. Larger serves contain moderate FODMAPS.|
|Feta Cheese (cows milk or sheep & cows milk)||0.1g to 4.09||Low FODMAP serve 40g (See note below about lactose levels)|
|Pecorino Style Cheese||0.2g||Low FODMAP serve 40g|
|Swiss Cheese||0.0g – 0.1g||Low FODMAP serve 40g|
|Harvati||0.1g||Low FODMAP serve 40g|
|Jack Monterey||0.1g||Low FODMAP serve 40g|
|Manchego Cheese||0.1g||Low FODMAP serve 40g|
|Romano Style||0.2g – 0.73g||Not tested but could be considered low FODMAP|
|Mozzarella Cheese||0.1g – 1.0g||Low FODMAP serve 40g|
|Parmesan||0.0 – 0.07||Not tested but considered low FODMAP. Suggested serve 40g.|
|Moderate FODMAP Cheese|
|Edam Cheese||0.0g – 1.43g||Not tested but depending on the product lactose level and serve it could contain moderate FODMAPs|
|Cream Cheese||2.5g – 3.76||Low FODMAP at 2 tablespoons. Moderate FODMAP at 80g|
|Gouda Cheese||0g – 2.22g||Not tested but depending on the product lactose level and serve it could contain moderate FODMAPs|
|Haloumi||1.8g||Low FODMAP serve 40g, Moderate FODMAP at 60g|
|Queso Fresco Cheese||2.98g||Low FODMAP serve 40g, Moderate FODMAP serve 120g|
|Quark cheese (low fat)||2.9g||Low FODMAP serve 2 tbsp, Moderate FODMAP serve 3 tbsp|
|Ricotta||0.27 – 2.0g||Low FODMAP 40g, Moderate FODMAP at 120g|
Note on Lactose Content of Feta Cheese
There was one discrepancy in the lactose levels for feta cheese between the USA database and the Australia/New Zealand database. Feta cheese is listed as containing 0.1g lactose per 100g in the Australia/New Zealand database and 4g of carbohydrates (lactose) per 100g in the USDA database. The difference in lactose levels could be due to manufacturing processes. This means it is recommended that you check the nutrition label before purchasing your feta cheese and adjust your portion size as needed.
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Dairy products are an important part of a healthy diet and unless you are completely dairy intolerant there is no need to avoid them. While on the low FODMAP diet there are plenty of low FODMAP cheeses to choose from. Try adding them to your favourite salad, low FODMAP pizza, or have a slice of cheese on a rice cracker for a delicious snack.
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