Enjoying the Benefits of Dairy Products, Even if You’re Lactose Intolerant

Author: Megan Hall, Registered Dietitian

Nutritional benefits of dairy products

Sometimes dairy products get a bad reputation. The dairy food group includes a variety of different products, each with important nutrition benefits. From ice cream cones and yogurt parfaits to fancy cheeses and a refreshing glass of milk, dairy products can be a delicious part of a balanced diet. Learn more about the nutritional benefits of dairy products and how to enjoy dairy if you’re lactose intolerant.

Calcium for Bone Health

Calcium is an important nutrient because it helps keep your bones healthy and strong. In general, the best way to get calcium into your diet by consuming milk and other dairy products. Dairy products help increase your bone density, which can prevent fractures and reduce your risk of osteoporosis. In addition to calcium, dairy products also give your body a boost of protein and phosphorus. These nutrients support strong bones, too.

While dairy is important for people at every age, it’s especially crucial for children and adolescents. Our bodies and bones are still developing as children and adolescents, so it’s important to fuel them with calcium and other key nutrients found in dairy products.

Nutrition Benefits of Dairy Products

Dairy products provide important vitamins and nutrients for your body. Healthy fats found in dairy products can help you control your weight and absorb vitamins A, D, E and K. Potassium can help you maintain a healthy blood pressure. Studies show people who include dairy products as part of a healthy diet may have a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

Dairy Products for Workout Recovery

For most people, the ideal workout recovery food includes a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates and protein. It’s important to refuel your body after exercise, especially after an intense workout. Smart, nutritious recovery foods can help your body recover faster and perform better. Dairy products are beneficial workout recovery foods. Snack such as low-fat yogurt with fresh berries help your body replenish nutrients. Chocolate milk is a common recovery drink and is often found at finish lines and in gym vending machines. The benefits of the carbohydrates and protein found in chocolate milk are comparable to a sports drink.

Understanding Lactose Intolerance

Lactose is a sugar found in many dairy products, such as milk, certain cheeses and ice cream. This sugar is typically the main problem people have when it comes to digesting dairy products. If your body gets too much lactose or if you’re lactose intolerant, you may experience bloating, gas or diarrhea. Your small intestine plays an important role in digesting lactose. As your body changes with age, so does your small intestine. Some adults may develop lactose intolerance as they get older.

Enjoying Dairy Products with Lactose Intolerance

If you’re lactose intolerant, you can still enjoy many dairy products that are low in lactose or lactose-free. Greek yogurt, for example, has less lactose than traditional yogurt. Hard cheeses like parmesan and sharp cheddar are very low in lactose. Butter and heavy cream also have naturally low levels of lactose. Almond milk, soymilk, coconut milk and lactose-free milk are all good options for people who are lactose intolerant.

If you do have a hard time digesting dairy, look for dairy products that also contain probiotics. Probiotics are good bacteria that have health benefits. Dairy products with probiotics in them are often easier to digest.

Regular yogurt is more tolerable for people with lactose intolerance because of the probiotics but, frozen yogurt is not typically a good idea. Frozen yogurt doesn’t have the beneficial bacteria to help you digest it. People who are lactose intolerant may have a hard time digesting frozen yogurt.

Managing Your Nutrition with Hy-Vee Pharmacy Solutions

Hy-Vee Pharmacy Solutions (HPS) wants to help all our patients live easier, healthier and happier. Diet and nutrition is a big part of that. Whether you have questions about how to include dairy into your diet or manage your other nutritional needs, HPS patients can schedule a personalized nutrition consultation with our registered dietitian. You can also visit your local Hy-Vee store and speak with a registered dietitian there.