What’s the Deal with Dairy Free Chocolate?

Everyone deserves to enjoy the decadent taste of chocolate, but what about those who are lactose intolerant or allergic?

Dark chocolate is a crowd favorite and often the best choice when seeking dairy-free cocoa confections. However, this is not always the case. Although several chocolate manufacturers carry a line of dairy-free dark chocolates, they’re still challenging to find with some containing traces of milk. With that said, it’s imperative for those with lactose intolerance or milk allergies to learn as much about their condition, and how they can avoid triggering their symptoms.

What are Lactose Intolerances and Dairy Allergies?

Lactose intolerance is not a form of allergy, meaning the two are completely different from one another.

There are some who experience an inability to digest lactose, a natural sugar that is present in milk and cheeses. Others may have an allergy to specific proteins in milk such as albumin, casein, or whey. Depending on the degree of intolerance or allergy, some people may be able to tolerate certain dairy products while others are unable to digest any.

The signs and symptoms of lactose intolerance may include the following:

  • Stomach pains and cramps
  • Gas and bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea

For milk allergies, the signs and symptoms may include:

  • Stomach pains and cramps
  • Swelling of the lips or throat
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Skin rash
  • Shortness of breath accompanied by wheezing
  • Watery eyes

Although there are similarities, those with lactose intolerance will primarily experience symptoms within 30 minutes to two hours after consuming dairy, indicating their inability to digest the product. On the other hand, individuals with an allergy to one or more of the proteins in milk will typically experience a sudden reaction, kicking in minutes after consumption.

Dairy intolerances and allergies are complicated, and the search for non-dairy chocolate can be just as tough.

How to Find Dairy Free Chocolate

Finding chocolate with zero milk content or animal products can be tricky. While top-quality dark chocolate is thought to be free from dairy products, some manufacturers continue to use dairy as a primary ingredient. Also, some chocolates labeled as milk-free may still contain animal products or components that can trigger an allergic reaction. One great solution to finding dairy-free chocolate is to go through the ingredients list. Any chocolate, regardless if it’s dark, could still list milk powder as an ingredient, and therefore, should be avoided.

Dairy Free Ingredients and Dairy Free Environments

Those with extreme allergies and intolerances should take note that there is a distinct difference between dairy-free ingredients and dairy free environments. While a chocolate bar could be clear of dairy products, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it came from a dairy free environment. If it was prepared and packaged in a factory that also produces milk chocolate, there is a chance of cross-contamination.

Health Advantages of a Dairy Free Diet

Intolerances and allergies aside, some people also choose to go dairy free for its health advantages. Studies show that dairy consumption increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, as a result of the high-saturated fat content. Milk is also an inflammatory product, meaning it may contribute to excessive mucus, gastrointestinal problems, and asthma.

Whether you are lactose intolerant, suffering from milk allergies, or avoiding dairy for whatever purpose — it is best to do your research and seek out brands that manufacture pure chocolate in a dairy free environment.