Spot Dairy In Disguise
Milk, cream, cheese, butter and yoghurt… They all have something in common, and it’s really rather obvious. From a young age we learn where milk comes from, and come to know that it can be processed to create a range of different products. From the cheese that tops our pizzas to the butter we spread on toast, we’re all aware that this food contains dairy. However, there are plenty of other products out there with a dairy content that isn’t so easy to recognise.
Dairy comes in many different forms, often with technical names that are hard to understand. Caseinate and galactose probably don’t mean very much to you, but if you suffer from a milk allergy or intolerance, you should be paying them a lot more attention. That’s why we’ve created a dairy jargon buster, helping you to master the art of food label reading and spot dairy in disguise.
Acidophilus milk is a thick, tangy milk that can be found in specialist health food shops and larger supermarkets. It is created in a similar manner to yoghurt; the milk is inoculated with bacteria and then warmed, developing a strong, sharp flavour. While acidophilus milk can be favoured by those with lactose intolerance, as some lactose enzymes are broken down during fermentation, it should be avoided by people suffering a dairy allergy.
Casein is a protein present in milk, with quantities depending on the animal. In human milk, for instance, approximately 30% of the proteins are casein. Cow’s milk, however, contains 80% casein protein. Casein is the key component in many milk allergies; when consumed, the immune system considers it dangerous and triggers an allergic reaction. Unfortunately, it’s not only present in typical dairy products. Due to its binding properties, casein is often used in soup, sauces and meat. Traces can also be found in artificial flavourings and additives, so read your labels carefully.
The biochemical name for casein, caseinates are the soluble salts of this protein. While they contain all of the essential amino acids and therefore have excellent nutritional properties, they should be avoided by those with a milk allergy.
Galactose is a simple sugar that occurs in lactose, and therefore all dairy products. It can also be found in meat, peas, lentils and some legumes. Galactosemia is a rare genetic disorder that affects the body’s ability to digest the sugar, leading to serious problems. While only small amounts of galactose can be found in food other than dairy, it is crucial that you check food labels thoroughly if you have the condition.
A popular part of South Asian cuisine, ghee is a form of clarified butter. It is made by melting butter and rendering the fat from the top. Removing the milk solids means that ghee can be enjoyed by those with lactose intolerance, however people wanting to avoid dairy altogether should approach it with caution.
Lactose is a key sugar in dairy, and the problem behind lactose intolerance. This means the body finds it difficult to break down and digest, leading to bloating, cramps and other nasty symptoms. Lactose can be found in all dairy products in varying amounts, but it’s also possible to discover it lurking in cereals, sweets and sauces.
Malted milk, or malt powder, is the result of barley, wheat and milk that has been combined and evaporated. It comes it two forms: diastatic malt and nondiastatic. The first is used by bakers to help dough rise and form a crust. The second version is found in malted milk drinks as well as malted chocolate balls. Since it is formed out of whole milk, it can be problematic for those with dairy allergies, though lactose intolerants may be able to enjoy small amounts.
While traditional nougat contains sugar or honey with nuts and fruit, the stuff found in chocolate bars in the UK and US most often involves dairy. Some versions are made with milk powder and chocolate, and should therefore be avoided by those with a dairy allergy. However, authentic nougat from the likes of Italy, Spain and Germany can be enjoyed without worry.
Quark is popular across Europe, especially in the north and German-speaking countries. It is made from sour milk, which is warmed until curdled then strained. While it isn’t a common ingredient in the UK, quark features in a wide range of dishes in other parts of the continent. Be sure to check labels thoroughly when travelling, keeping a close eye on sandwiches, salads and cakes.
Recaldent, also known as casein phosphopeptide, derives from milk proteins. It is featured in several dental products, included chewing gum and tooth paste. It is thought to prevent tooth decay and provide beneficial minerals, though it can prove harmful to those with severe dairy allergies.
Rennet is a combination of natural enzymes produced by baby cows to help digest their mother’s milk. It has played a large role in the cheese manufacturing industry for a number of years, utilised for its solidifying properties. Mammalian rennet often has traces of milk protein, and it also raises a moral question for those that don’t eat meat or animal products. As such, it is avoided by people with dairy conditions and vegetarians. People can also experience rennet specific allergies, unable to consume cheese but fine with other dairy products.
When milk is curdled and strained, it leaves behind the liquid whey. This can then be used as a replacement for milk in baking, working particularly well in dough and batter. However, since it is a byproduct of milk, whey should be avoided by those with a dairy allergy or lactose intolerance. Whey can be found in the usual suspects of cheese and yoghurt, but it is also a common ingredient in processed bread, pastries and baked goods.
Identifying dairy in disguise is particularly important for people with serious milk allergies, but it’s also worthwhile for vegans and lactose intolerants. Milk is present in more products than you may realise, but by paying close attention to labels, you can ensure your food won’t be detrimental to your health.