We’ve all been taught that “milk does a body good”, but is that true if you experience lactose intolerance? Well, the answer is yes! Lactose intolerance is actually not an allergy. It occurs in individuals who don’t produce enough lactase, which is the enzyme that breaks down lactose, or milk sugar. And while it may produce some unwanted gastrointestinal issues, which can be stressful for many people, the good news is that there are lactose-free dairy options and ways to get creative in the kitchen so that you can still enjoy dairy.
Low-fat and fat-free dairy foods are rich in nine essential nutrients and specifically three of the nutrients of concern for Americans (calcium, vitamin D and potassium). Avoiding dairy foods, because you have trouble digesting them, could mean not getting enough of these essential nutrients as well as the great taste dairy can bring to meals. Plus, dairy foods have been associated with a decreased risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and colon cancer. In addition, they have a positive impact on bone health, weight management, improved nutrient intake and diet quality.
Many people eliminate dairy from their diet because they don’t know what foods DO work for them, but the truth is there are all kinds of solutions, tips and tricks.. Remember the acronym LACTOSE to start enjoying dairy again:
- Look for lactose-free milk. It is real milk with the lactose sugar already broken down so it should reduce unwanted gastrointestinal issues.
- Add natural cheeses to your meals and snacks. Cheeses like Cheddar, Swiss and Parmesan contain minimal lactose and provide a great way to get in a serving of dairy.
- Cook with it. Using dairy in recipes is a great way to get in its essential nutrients. For example, you can sub yogurt for ingredients like mayonnaise or use lactose-free milk in baking, on hot cereals like oatmeal or in soups.
- Top veggies with it. Sprinkling grated, low-fat natural cheese on your veggies adds protein, calcium and a scrumptious taste.
- Optimize your workout with dairy! Low-fat and fat-free dairy foods are a great source of high-quality protein, which can help you refuel post-workout. Mix lactose-free milk in a shake or make a parfait with yogurt, fruit and honey to replenish and rebuild!
- Scoop up a serving of yogurt. Though it contains lactose, yogurt is also full of good bacteria (e.g., live and active cultures) which helps you digest the lactose making it easier to tolerate.
- Experiment with regular dairy foods. Introducing dairy slowly can help your body gradually begin to tolerate it little by little.
Don’t let lactose keep you from eating dairy and benefiting from all the nutrients it has to offer. Instead, use the LACTOSE solutions to enjoy dairy again!