Dairy foods not off limits for lactose-intolerant individuals
November 17, 2009
A sharp Cheddar, a carton of yogurt – the kind with live and active cultures – who says people with lactose intolerance cannot enjoy dairy foods?
“Yes, you can!” declares registered dietitian Judy Barbe, senior nutrition director for Western Dairy Association.
People with limited ability to digest the milk sugar lactose will find the aforementioned foods among the easiest to eat, Barbe says, adding that the type of dairy food, the dose, and eating dairy with meals are key to enjoying dairy products. Paying attention to these simple guidelines enables most lactose-intolerant people to benefit from dairy foods without the classic gassy symptoms. Symptoms may occur from half an hour to two hours after eating dairy, and not everyone will experience them.
Barbe suggests those who believe they are lactose-intolerant ask their doctors to test them. Most will give a breath hydrogen test, which will either rule out or confirm lactose intolerance. People of Asian, African, American Indian and Hispanic ethnicities are more likely to be diagnosed as lactose-intolerant, as are older people who may have stopped drinking milk.
Even if the test reveals low levels of the enzyme lactase, which we use to digest lactose, Barbe says you don’t have to forego dairy foods.
“The health benefits of dairy are far too important for this food group to be dismissed from the diet,” she says, explaining that dairy foods are recommended as the first option for individuals who are lactose-intolerant in the government’s 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Such medical and health organizations as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Dietetic Association and the National Medical Association agree.
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Milk, cheese and yogurt are nutrient-rich, which means their calories come packed with minerals and vitamins, some of which are hard to get elsewhere.
“Milk is notable for building bones, but in a balanced diet, it does so much more. The science is showing that it may help to reduce the chronic disease risks of hypertension, osteoporosis and osteopenia, obesity, colon cancer and kidney stones,” Barbe says.
• Drink milk with food. Start with one-half cup with other foods. Chocolate milk may be more easily tolerated.
• Aged cheeses like Colby, Cheddar, Swiss and Parmesan are low in lactase.
• If you haven’t been eating dairy foods, introduce them slowly and gradually increase the amount.
• Try lactose-free milk.
• Active cultures in yogurt help digest lactose.
For lactose-intolerant individuals, the dairy foods that go down easiest are aged, hard cheeses, yogurt with live and active cultures, lactose-free milk and cultured milks, such as kefir. Soft cheeses such as cottage, feta and ricotta, ice cream, frozen yogurt and chocolate milk are moderately easy to digest. Liquid milks of all fat levels are the most difficult, unless they are cultured or lactose-free.
Here is a smoothie that is especially digestible by people with lactose intolerance.
Berry Friendly Smoothie
1/2 Banana (frozen bananas make a thicker smoothie)
2 Tbsp. Frozen orange juice concentrate
3/4 c. Nonfat yogurt with live and active cultures
1 t. Sugar, if desired
Process fruits in a blender or food processor until smooth. Add yogurt and continue to process only until blended.
Add sugar if you want it sweeter.
This smoothie makes a great breakfast with whole wheat toast.