Can Lactose Intolerant Eat Chocolate In Peace?

 by Dr. Steve Hruby, D.C.
Reviewed by Dr. Steve Hruby, D.C.

SuperHumans are the toughest, fittest, healthiest and happiest human beings on this planet. My mission is to help you realize your superhuman potential and learn how to live a long, happy and healthy life.

  Fact Checked
 by Rhealyn Tropia, RMT
Reviewed by Rhealyn Tropia, RMT

I’m a content organizer, fact-checker and super mom who ensures content is medically-reviewed, highly accurate, and engaging. My passion is organizing information and ensuring the facts are presented in a manner that is interesting and easy to understand.

can lactose intolerant eat chocolate

You might be consuming everything dairy unknowingly before but once you come to know you’re lactose intolerant everything changes suddenly. Becoming aware that your body lacks the enzyme required to digest lactose calls for a lactose-free diet. Because this is the only way to effectively alleviate the bothersome gastrointestinal symptoms associated with lactose intolerance.  

But going on a lactose-free diet means quitting dairy, which is a rather difficult task. There are so many food recipes, baked goods, and desserts that we eat on a day-to-day basis that contain dairy. Quitting everything all at once is easier said than done.

Also, there are so many questions that come to mind, like “Can lactose intolerant eat chocolate?” and “Can they have ice cream?” or “Does mozzarella have lactose?”

Finding the answers to all these questions is important for making the right food choices and easing the symptoms of lactose intolerance. If you too have been struggling with such questions, then you’re at the right place!

This blog will investigate whether lactose-intolerant people can consume chocolate or not. 

Does Chocolate Always Contain Dairy?

When we consider excluding dairy-containing products from our diet, chocolate seems to be an obvious choice. But the question is, does chocolate have milk in it, and is that always the case? The answer is no, not always.

The key ingredients of chocolate are- cocoa powder, cocoa butter, sugar, vanilla, and lecithin (an emulsifier). Did we miss out on milk? Not really, because milk is an optional ingredient. Not all chocolates contain milk, unless it’s a milk chocolate bar, obviously!

There are so many types of chocolate, such as white chocolate, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, etc. Let’s find out which one is free of dairy and which one contains dairy. 

Chocolates and Lactose

Here are the most common varieties of chocolate found on the market. Learn which ones contain lactose (milk sugar) and which ones are lactose-free.

chocolate bonbons

Milk Chocolate

As the name implies, milk chocolate does contain milk or the infamous milk sugar (lactose) that we’re searching for. Milk is the key ingredient in all the common chocolate candies found on the market, like Kit-Kats, Hershey’s bars, Twix, etc., so they should be avoided. 

However, the amount of lactose present in different white chocolate options from different brands could vary widely. Thus, you should check out the label for the ingredients and their content. 

You might be able to digest a small amount of milk chocolate even though you have lactose intolerance. But if your body can’t take lactose at all, then you should avoid milk or white chocolate and go for other options like dark chocolate or dairy-free alternatives. 

White Chocolate

Commonly, most white chocolate recipes also contain milk in the form of milk solids. Therefore, unless the label says lactose-free or dairy-free you can assume they contain dairy and should be avoided.  

The main ingredients of white chocolate are sugar, milk, and cocoa butter. White chocolate contains no cocoa powder, unlike dark chocolate, which contains a lot of cocoa powder.

Semi-Sweet Chocolate

Semi-sweet chocolates are also likely to contain lactose as most brands in the common grocery stores are the ones that contain milk. These types of chocolates are commonly used for baked goods. 

But there are also some options available that contain only dark chocolate and sugar and no dairy ingredients. You can look at the ingredient list and choose lactose-free options if you’re dealing with lactose intolerance.

Besides semi-sweet chocolate, there is also unsweetened chocolate. And if you ask, does unsweetened chocolate have dairy? Then the answer could be both yes or no.

Generally, unsweetened chocolate is made with only two ingredients- cocoa butter and cocoa mass. But you may have to check the ingredient list as some unsweetened chocolates may contain dairy. 

Cocoa Powder

Cocoa powder comes from cocoa beans, which are the primary ingredient in chocolates. So if you ask, “Does cocoa powder have dairy?” Then the answer is no. Pure cocoa powder doesn’t contain dairy or lactose at all. 

person sifting cocoa powder

But sometimes cross-contamination could make cocoa powder have some traces of dairy. If the product is made or packed in a facility that produces milk or milk products, then this could be a possibility. 

Like always, scrutinize the label to ensure there is no possible dairy interaction or ingredient used in the product. 

Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolates are more likely to be lactose-free than any other type of chocolate. Any dark chocolate that is about 70% cocoa or more is free of lactose.

What’s best is that dark chocolates even contain flavonoids and antioxidants, which makes them an even better choice.

What Chocolate Can a Lactose-intolerant Person Eat?

Depending upon the severity of lactose intolerance symptoms, some people may be able to eat some amount of dairy. But this can vary from person to person and depends upon how one’s body reacts. 

If you feel uneasy with even the tiniest amount of dairy containing chocolate then you should avoid its consumption. In this case, you can choose dark chocolate or can go with dairy-free alternatives present in the market.

It’s also important to note that different chocolate brands can have different compositions, and in turn, the lactose content may vary. Thus, if you experience indigestion symptoms with one brand, you can even try out and switch to another brand.

Lastly, if you’re still a fan of milk chocolates or any other chocolate that contains dairy, then you can opt for some lactase enzyme supplements. Taking a lactase enzyme supplement beforehand would ease the digestion of lactose inside the body and eliminate the possibility of any symptoms. 

In this way, you can enjoy your favorite chocolate, but always remember to stay within limits. 

Related: Can lactose free milk cause gas?

Common Questions Related To Chocolate For Lactose Intolerants

pile of chocolate pieces with nuts

Why Is Dark Chocolate Superior to Regular Milk Chocolate?

Dark chocolate in general is considered a better and healthier choice than milk chocolate. This is due to the fact that dark chocolate has less added sugar and fat than milk chocolate or white chocolate. 

Dark chocolate doesn’t contain milk solids, which makes it a great option even for those suffering from lactose intolerance. Dark chocolate is also said to have health benefits due to the presence of flavonoids and antioxidants. Both of these support the prevention of cardiac problems, reduce inflammation, and fight cholesterol.

The darker the chocolate is, the healthier it is. Usually, dark chocolate with 70% or more cocoa is considered good for those who are lactose intolerant and in general. 

Does Chocolate Help Lactose Intolerance?

There aren’t many evidences to support that chocolate helps lactose intolerance. Chocolate varieties like milk chocolate or white chocolate could in fact trigger symptoms in lactose-intolerant patients due to the presence of lactose. 

However, it’s interesting to note that researchers at the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition discovered that chocolate milk was tolerated better than unflavored milk by lactose-intolerant patients. Based on the study, scientists suggested that cocoa might stimulate lactase activity and reduce the gas-producing bacteria in the digestive tract. 

This research gives some hope that chocolate, or we should say “cocoa,” can be helpful with lactose intolerance. But more research is required to be conducted on this topic before concluding anything. 

Can a Lactose Intolerant Eat Nutella?

No, those who are lactose intolerant can’t eat Nutella. This is because, for lactose intolerants, everything comes down to what contains dairy and what doesn’t. Unfortunately, Nutella does contain dairy in the form of skim milk powder.

chocolate spread

Skim milk is cow’s milk that is obtained by heating and then drying it to create a powder. This means Nutella contains lactose, which is a big no-no for those suffering from lactose intolerance.

If your body can’t digest lactose then Nutella can potentially cause digestive discomfort and that’s why it should be avoided. 


It can be said that it’s safe for you to enjoy some amount of any of your favorite chocolate if you aren’t severely intolerant to lactose.

However, if that’s the case, then you shouldn’t take a chance and avoid the ones containing lactose at all costs. You can either choose dark chocolate or dairy-free chocolate in place of the dairy-containing options. The other way to enjoy your favorite chocolate in peace is to take a lactase supplement beforehand.

Apart from this, taking probiotics can also help you deal with the unpleasant digestive symptoms of lactose intolerance. Research shows that a daily intake of probiotics could drastically reduce the severity of bloating and gas.

A pilot study published in the journal Probiotic and Antimicrobial Proteins even showed that lactose intolerance patients who took probiotics for 6 months experienced significant improvements in their symptoms.

If you would like to opt for a good probiotic to deal with your lactose intolerance symptoms, then you need to look no further. Our Optima Healthy Gut Solution offers 25 billion probiotics per serving and is one of the best gut-healing solutions you’ll find on the market! 

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