Chocolate is truly a wonderful thing. If you find that you disagree, you are reading the wrong article. But seriously, you can cook with it, pair it with caramels, dip toffee in semi-sweet chocolate, mold it into little rabbits, fill up a plastic pumpkin at Halloween… the list goes on and on. Orange, cashew, hazelnut, mint—basically, everything works with chocolate.
We aren't saying that it’s the meaning of life or anything, but if that turns out to be the case, we won’t be surprised.
One of the few shortcomings of chocolate, however, may be that it includes substances that make it out of bounds for people with dietary restrictions and food allergies. If you are doing keto, going vegan, or have lactose intolerance, chocolate can feel like a distant memory, or at the very least something relegated to a “cheat day.”
But the good news is that needn’t be the case! We will talk about some of the diet-friendly ways to enjoy your favorite treat and avoid that lactose, as well as some delicious and healthy products that you are sure to love.
The Dairy Struggle
There’s no shortage of reasons that a diet might deter you from chocolate. Depending on where you get it and how it is made, chocolate can contain a lot of sugars, fats, dairy products, and even things containing gluten like barley malt. That short list alone takes a lot off the table for anyone going plant-based, reduced sugar, or gluten-free.
This leaves many of us facing quite a conundrum. Where can you find chocolates with natural diet-friendly ingredients, and what ingredients should you be seeking out? Well, we will get to that in a bit.
For now, we are going to talk about lactose: who needs to steer clear of it, why to avoid it and how to find alternatives.
Never Lacking in Lactose
Most people are aware of the basic fact that lactose comes from dairy. It is the primary sugar found in dairy products, and some people’s bodies are incapable of digesting it properly or efficiently.
What you might not have known is just how many other products lactose is found in. The more obvious products containing lactose are things like:
- Dry milk solids.
- Nonfat dry milk
- Dry milk powder
- Chocolates (especially milk chocolate. Go figure.)
But the danger (or rather the risk of discomfort) for the lactose intolerant doesn’t end there.
Lactose is also found in a lot of things you wouldn’t expect. In these products, the quantity of lactose varies and is usually very minimal. However, it’s worth noting all the same. Because some are more intolerant of lactose than others, these products could still have adverse effects on the digestive system.
- Salad dressings and sauces
- Beets, peas, lima beans
- Instant mixes for potatoes, soups, rice, and noodle mixes
- Non Kosher lunch meats
- Various store-bought mixes for pancakes, biscuits, and cookies
- Breakfast cereals or cereal bars
- Bread and baked goods
It’s important to read labels and see what sort of factories your products were manufactured in. Cross-contamination is a frequent concern, especially for anyone with more serious reactions, so it’s important to make sure you do your homework.
What Is Lactose Intolerance?
Lactose intolerance is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. It’s what happens when your body cannot properly digest lactose.
This occurs due to the absence of an enzyme called lactase. Lactase is what your body naturally uses to break down the sugars found in dairy, and without it, you could be in for a very unpleasant couple of hours.
Side Effects of Lactose Intolerance May Include...
Wondering if you are lactose intolerant? Ask your doctor. They will usually have you take a week or two away from all dairy products and then report back to see if your symptoms have subsided. If the time away from dairy caused your symptoms to vanish, it’s possible you are, in fact, allergic to lactose.
Barring a trip to your primary care doctor, there are several other signs to watch out for that may point to lactose intolerance or a milk allergy, such as:
If you are regularly experiencing these symptoms after consuming dairy, it’s probably a sign. Either that or you really hurt your stomach’s feelings, and it’s just being passive-aggressive every time you want vanilla ice cream. If that’s the case, you will have to work it out between yourselves.
Reasons To Avoid Dairy
So why avoid dairy? We have touched on the reasons that those with lactose intolerance should steer clear of dairy, but what about the rest of us? If you’re vegan, it’s out by default as it is an animal product, but what about those who haven’t cut it out of their diet yet?
It may surprise you to hear that dairy can have a number of negative effects on your health. For one thing, it is the #1 source of saturated fat in the American diet. This means it is a big cause of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes, all of which combine to be the top killer of American adults.
But at least it’s good for your bones, right? Well, it turns out that might not be the case either. Studies have shown that milk has very little effect, if any, on overall bone strength, even over prolonged periods of time.
And topping it all off, we hate to pull out the big “C” card, but it’s worth mentioning that studies also show that the high levels of hormones and fat content present in milk may lead to an increased risk of breast cancer for some women.
But… I Want My Chocolate.
Never fear! We haven’t forgotten what you came here for. You want to know about chocolate and lactose!
More specifically, you want to know how you can keep eating chocolate without having to worry about a gastrointestinal milk war going on inside of your body. We applaud you, as these are the important questions in life. So let’s get down to business, shall we?
Hopefully, it doesn’t come as a surprise to you that lactose does not naturally occur in chocolate. Cocoa beans grow on bushes, not somewhere on a cow. We shudder to imagine what kind of world that would be.
Anyway, the point is: chocolate does not require milk or dairy products to be chocolate.
You may be asking yourself, “why does chocolate contain milk in the first place, then?” It’s pretty simple. Milk is easy to produce, and it tends to add to the overall creaminess of the chocolate. Milk also has naturally occurring sugars that tie in well with the bitter taste of raw cacao beans.
The Standard Vegan Option
Most vegan chocolates eliminate the need for milk by using primarily natural cocoa bi-products like cocoa butter and cocoa liquor. Vegan chocolates don’t include any dairy as an added ingredient, although there could still be traces of milk from previous products that were made on the same machinery. If you’re just trying to avoid dairy, this is usually fine, but if you have an allergy, you’ll still need to read the labels.
Unfortunately, that also means you will almost always end up with dark chocolate, as both milk chocolate and white chocolate generally require the use of dairy to make. Those who don’t like the more earthy, bitter taste of dark chocolate bars often find that they have very few plant-based chocolate alternatives to turn to. However, there is a solution.
This is where MiiRO differs from most other vegan chocolates. We make creamy mylk, white, and dark chocolate without using dairy products. For example, you can try our Deviously Delicious White Chocolate Bar, which comes complete with crispy almond pieces. Now you can have a melt-in-your-mouth treat that you are actually allowed to eat! Vegan white chocolate with nuts? Yes, please!
At MiiRO, our goal is not simply to promote vegan and keto-friendly products but a healthy, more eco-friendly lifestyle. We take tremendous care to ensure that all of our ingredients are sourced naturally.
We want you to be able to enjoy what you eat, and that means letting you get your hands on delicious cocoa products without the hassle of always checking the nutrition facts. If you’re looking for a sweet snack, try our Perfectly Pleasant Peanut Butter Chocolate Bar.
Trying to bake a delicious vegan chocolate cake for your next classy get-together? We have you covered. Try our delicious, creamy chocolate baking chips, and you know what, have a recipe for the cake too while you’re at it. Our magazine and MiiRO TV are always loaded with free plant-based recipes for you to try out.
If you are tired of the same old plant-based candies taking up space in your kitchen, go check out our site, and see which of our mouth-watering confections interest you!