While many of us eagerly consume three daily servings of milk, cheese and yogurt, those who believe they are lactose intolerant may struggle to find substitutes for the nine essential vitamins and nutrients found in protein-packed dairy foods. February is National Lactose Intolerance Awareness Month, making it a great time to shed some light on this issue and help people incorporate dairy into their diets.
Lactose intolerance is often mischaracterized as an allergy or disease that automatically requires complete dairy avoidance. That is simply not the case. Lactose intolerance affects the body’s ability to digest lactose – a natural sugar mainly found in dairy foods. The good news is, however, lactose intolerance is not an all-or-nothing condition.
“When looking at lactose intolerance, there’s a solution to meet most needs in the dairy case of your local grocery store, so you don’t have to miss out on the great taste and health benefits of dairy foods,” says Alyssa Greenstein, registered dietitian with Florida Dairy Farmers. “Lactose intolerance is easy to manage and therefore shouldn’t automatically mean eliminating dairy from your diet.”
Dairy foods are not only delicious, they are packed with key vitamins and minerals – including protein, calcium, potassium and vitamins A, D and B12 – that can help maintain a healthy diet. Here are some tips for those who are sensitive to lactose, that can help make dairy consumption a more enjoyable and regular part of their eating regimen.
- · Try the lactose-free approach. Lactose-free milk is the same as regular milk, just without the lactose. Products like Lactaid taste great and provide the same nutrients as milk that contains lactose.
- Take baby steps. Start with a small amount of milk daily and increase it slowly over several days or weeks to help your body adapt and build tolerance.
- Mix dairy with other foods. Pouring milk over your cereal, adding a slice of cheese to your sandwich or blending yogurt into fruit smoothies are great ways to ease dairy into your diet. Drinking milk with meals also helps since solid foods slow digestion and allow the body more time to digest the lactose.
- Incorporate natural cheeses. When milk is made into cheese, most of the lactose is removed. Try natural cheeses such as Cheddar, Colby, Monterey Jack, mozzarella and Swiss, as they contain little or no lactose.
For more information about Florida Dairy Farmers or to find out more about lactose intolerance and ways to incorporate dairy into your diet, visit www.floridamilk.com.