As a registered dietitian, I often hear “I have trouble digesting dairy. What are solutions that may help me?”
I love answering that question, because one in 10 people profess trouble digesting dairy foods and there are solutions that can help them! Lactose intolerance is a condition where your body does not adequately breakdown lactose, the sugar found in milk and other dairy foods. Lactose intolerance is a very individual condition and people often tolerate varying amounts of lactose, which means there can be many solutions that can likely help people still enjoy the recommended three servings of milk and milk products a day. Why is this important?
Low-fat and fat-free dairy products contain 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, consumption of dairy foods has been associated with a decreased risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and with lower blood pressure. In addition, they may have a positive impact on bone health, weight management when included in a reduced-calorie, higher protein diet, 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, Colby Jack and Monterey 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 a serving of 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!