If you are lactose intolerant, it means that your body has trouble breaking down lactose, the natural sugar in milk. According to Dr. N.E. Motala a gastroenterologist at Linksfield Park Clinic, in the East of Johannesburg, "Avoidance is the best treatment for lactose intolerance, but you need to ensure you get enough calcium in your diet. You can do this by supplementing your diet with the right food choices”.
Below are smart and delicious food substitutions you can make that will help you avoid lactose intolerance symptoms like gas, bloating, and diarrhea while still getting sufficient calcium.
Explore other kinds of milk
Drinking goat, sheep, or buffalo milk will not help your symptoms because all milk from mammals contains lactose. There are, however, milks for a lactose intolerance diet. Soy milk, rice milk, almond milk, coconut milk are great substitutes if you enjoy milk in your morning cereal or coffee.
These dairy-free foods typically don’t have natural calcium, but they do have lots of vitamins and antioxidants. Almond milk is loaded with magnesium and vitamin E. Rice milk has almost no saturated fat and plenty of vitamin B12. Coconut milk tastes creamy like cow's milk, but one drawback is that it has a lot of saturated fat. Other vegetable milks include oat, hemp, and cashew. However, these alternatives to cow’s milk don’t work well as substitutes for cooking, such as in soups or desserts that call for dairy.
Increase dairy-free food with calcium
"If your lactose intolerance is severe and you need to avoid all dairy foods, you can get plenty of calcium from leafy green vegetables," suggests Dr. Motala. Vegetables high in calcium include rhubarb, spinach, broccoli, and certain greens like kale. For example, one cup of cooked spinach has about 250 mg of calcium. Other foods for a lactose intolerance diet include pinto beans and calcium-fortified orange juice.
Fermented cheeses have less lactose than other dairy products, and you may be able to tolerate them in small amounts. They are worth including in your lactose intolerance diet because they are good sources of calcium and protein. Examples of hard or aged cheeses that are low in lactose are Swiss, Parmesan, and blue cheeses.
Dr. Motala recommends that you choose dairy products with less lactose, such as yogurt with active bacterial cultures. "Yogurt may cause less bloating because much of the lactose has already been broken down by its 'good' bacteria," explains Dr. N.E. Motala. However, frozen yogurt does not have active cultures, so it may not fit into your lactose intolerance diet.