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Have you been avoiding milk and dairy products because you are lactose intolerant? You don’t have to anymore, according to research, which found that lactose intolerant people can tolerate up to one cup of milk in a sitting.
I am one of the estimated 50 million sufferers of lactose intolerance in the U.S. Lactose intolerance is the body’s inability to break down the natural sugar, lactose, found in dairy products. Those of us who do not produce enough of the enzyme lactase come in all shapes, sizes and ethnicities. About eight percent of European Americans have lactose intolerance, about 10 percent of Hispanics and 19.5 percent of African Americans.
Lactose intolerance is not the same as milk allergy. An allergy is triggered by the immune system not the digestive system as with lactose intolerance. Someone with milk allergy must avoid milk and dairy products.
For years, I have avoided milk because that’s what most people believed you had to do to prevent the symptoms of lactose intolerance which include abdominal pain, nausea, bloating, gas, cramps or diarrhea after consuming dairy products. Turns out total avoidance of dairy wasn’t necessary, according to researchers.
Imagine my surprise when a lactose intolerant friend conveyed this information to me. She regularly consumes Greek yogurt to get the beneficial bacteria, calcium and protein. I was dubious until I checked out her information.
Here’s what I found out. Both the National Medical Association and a National Institutes of Health expert panel recommend that lactose intolerant individuals try to keep dairy foods in their diet. Studies show that many can tolerate up to one cup of milk or 12 grams of lactose.
Keep in mind these guidelines are a general rule of thumb. How much you can handle varies from individual to individual. Eating dairy with some other food also increases its odds of being tolerated.
You can start by trying just a little. Here is a list of some dairy foods to try and the amount of lactose they contain per serving.
• ¾ cup of plain yogurt: 13 grams of lactose
• ¾ cup of low fat or nonfat Greek yogurt: 4 grams
• ½ cup low fat cottage cheese: 3 grams
• 1 ounce of sharp cheddar cheese or Swiss cheese: less than 1 gram.
Recently, I tried Greek yogurt with success. I didn’t realize what creamy, goodness I had been missing. Next up, I will give cottage cheese and cheddar cheese a try.
Another option for lactose intolerant individuals is lactose-free yogurt. You can make your own by following directions to make yogurt but allowing the fermentation process to go on a full 24 hours.
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