Custom Fit—Lactose Intolerance

From p. 56 of the June/July 2008 Issue of Healthy Cooking

Dairy-free products

Dairy-free products

Know someone who avoids milk, cheese and ice cream? Chances are they're lactose-intolerant. So their body can't process the sugar (lactose) found in milk, making dairy consumption an uncomfortable situation.

While some people are born lactose-intolerant, others develop the condition between ages 3 and 5 when levels of lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose, begin to decline. In that event, lactose passes into the large intestine undigested causing gas, bloating and cramping.

But there's good news! Thanks to a wide variety of foods that mimic dairy products, it's easy to whip up a dish that has all the goodness of milk without adding a single ounce of it. The following recipes are built for the lactose-intolerant, but they taste so good, you'll want to try them even if you're lactose-tolerant!

Allergy vs. Intolerance

A milk allergy occurs when your immune system identifies certain milk proteins as being harmful and tries to neutralize them. Symptoms include hives, vomiting and wheezing. Milk-allergy sufferers avoid all milk products.

Lactose intolerance is much more common and occurs when the body can't produce enough lactase to digest milk's protein or sugar. Symptoms include gas, bloating and cramping. Those with a milk intolerance can eat or drink varying amounts of dairy before being adversely effected.

What Has Lactose?

Milk and foods made with milk. People with a milk allergy or a very sensitive lactose intolerance should avoid: butter, cheese, cream, dried milk, lactose, milk, milk solids, powdered milk, whey and curds.

These foods often have some form of milk or milk product in them: bread, baked goods, breakfast cereal, soup, margarine, lunch meat, salad dressing, snack foods, pancake mix, cake mix, frozen dinner, even some prescription and over-the-counter pills.

Test Kitchen Favorites

Rice Dream Rice Drink (rice milk) original flavor

Veggie Shreds cheddar-style soy cheese

Silk Vanilla soy milk and yogurt

Coffee-mate refrigerated nondairy creamer

Did You Know?

  • Lactose intolerance is more common in Asians, Hispanics, Native Americans, people of Mediterranean decent and African Americans.
  • Those with lactose intolerance can enjoy varying amounts and types of dairy products. Some foods, such as yogurt and aged cheeses like cheddar and Swiss, can be tolerated more than others. Although milk and ice cream are typically more difficult for the lactose-intolerant to ingest, some can have small amounts of them, especially when consumed with a meal.