Lactose Intolerance: How to Eat Healthfully

Fifty percent of North Americans are lactose intolerant. They lack the enzyme to split the double sugar, lactose, found in milk and other dairy products. Since you can only absorb single sugars, if you can't split the double sugar, it passes to your large intestine where it is attacked by bacteria and fermented, causing gas and cramping. Some people deal with this by adding the lactase enzyme to their diet.

You can eliminate all dairy products and still have a perfectly healthful diet. Yes, milk is a good source of calcium, vitamin D, protein and other nutrients, but it is far from essential. You can get all the calcium you need from a variety of other foods.

Many doctors, dieticians and vegetarians oppose the use of dairy products, and back their position with extensive research data. Check the Physicians Committee for Responsible Nutrition web site,, for some interesting articles and journal references.

You can get plenty of calcium in your diet if you include lots of leafy green vegetables, a wide variety of beans and whole grains, and perhaps fortified products such as soy milk, cereals and juices. The RDA for calcium ranges from 800mg for young children to 1500mg for older people and pregnant or nursing women. If you're not sure you are getting that amount in your diet, it won't hurt to take a calcium supplement.

Here's the calcium content of some typical beans, vegetables and fruits (Portion size is 1 cup, cooked, unless otherwise noted):

Black beans - 103 mg
Chick peas - 80 mg
Pinto beans - 82 mg
Soybeans - 175 mg
White beans - 161 mg
Broccoli - 94 mg
Collard greens - 358 mg
Spinach - 244 mg
Swiss chard - 102 mg
Dried figs (10)- 269 mg
Orange (1) - 56 mg
Raisins - (2/3 cup) - 53 mg
Tofu (½ cup) - 258 mg.)


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