Share the Love of Dairy this Valentine’s Day and Everyday!

When it comes to consuming milk and other dairy products, does your heart tell you yes, and your mind tell you no? Lactose intolerance (LI) could be the culprit in the lover’s quarrel that keeps you from the enjoyment of delicious and nutritious dairy foods. Red alert: It doesn’t have to be that way. Many people with lactose intolerance can enjoy these foods- even on a daily basis.

Lactose intolerance - the inability to digest the milk sugar lactose- can result in cramping, gas, bloating, or the need to find the nearest restroom in a rush. Although African Americans and Hispanics have a higher chance of developing LI, this does not mean that they have to avoid all dairy foods. In fact, many people who claim to have LI have never been tested and unnecessarily avoid dairy products. With evolving LI research along with simple solutions to manage LI symptoms, people can take advantage of the nutritional qualities of a wide variety of dairy products, like milk, cheese, and yogurt, to name a few.  

Americans are currently consuming less than two dairy servings per day on average.  Milk, cheese and yogurt are nutrient-rich and contribute significant nutrition to Americans’ diets. Milk provide nine essential nutrients, including protein, vitamins A, D, and B12, riboflavin, niacin (niacin equivalents), calcium, potassium, and phosphorus. Daily underconsumption of calcium, potassium and Vitamin D are of concern in keeping with recommendations from experts and the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Dairy avoidance increases risk of deficiencies in these nutrients, many of which play an important role in the prevention of chronic diseases including hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome, Type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate recommend three servings of dairy per day for adults.Hispanics consume only 1.5 servings and African Americans consume even less with 1.2 dairy servings per day.Lactose intolerance is a primary reason for dairy limitation or avoidance.  Remember:

  • Many individuals who think they are lactose intolerant are not lactose malabsorbers
  • Small amounts of milk, yogurt, natural cheese and lactose-free milk and dairy foods may be effective in management approaches
  • Products containing Lactobacillus acidophilus, like yogurt, and pretreated milks, like keifer, may be useful

What can we do to ensure our clients are getting the health and nutritional benefits associated with dairy while alleviating LI symptoms? Following are some tips to help educate those with perceived or actual LI:

  • Start small – start with a small amount of milk or desired dairy food daily and increase slowly over several days to weeks
  • Take dairy with meals – mix milk, yogurt or cheese with other foods to help slow digestion and allow the body more time to digest lactose
  • Opt for natural cheeses – Queso Fresco, Cheddar, Colby, Monterey Jack Mozzarella, and Swiss Cheese contain smaller amounts of lactose and may be better tolerated
  • Consume yogurt – yogurt , both regular and Greek, contain live and active cultures that help breakdown lactose and slow digestion
  • Get help – lactase enzyme pills help digest lactose when taken with the first sip or bit of dairy
  • Enjoy lactose-free dairy products- they have the same nutrients found in dairy foods without the lactose

Incorporating dairy into eating habits without experiencing uncomfortable side effects can be easy and enjoyable. So raise your glass and fall in love with dairy’s taste, flavor and health this Valentine’s Day AND everyday.

RESOURCES

Lactose Intolerance and Health Disparities Among African Americans and Hispanic Americans: An Updated Consensus Statement

National Dairy Council


Cecilia Pozo Fileti, MS, RD, LDN, serves as president of Latino Health Communications, a bilingual consulting firm servicing government, health, and service organizations. She is the director of the Latino Integrative Nutrition Initiative, a national collaborative that supports US Hispanic infants, families, and communities. Pozo Fileti conducts minority-focused outreach through social initiatives, strategic communications, and qualitative research.