Are you lactose intolerant? swear off diary

There was a time not long ago when milk was always a part of a nutritious breakfast. Milk with cookies made for the perfect evening or mid-night snack too. But today, more and more people make a shift to ‘healthy’ diets like Vegan or Paleo diets which advice you to swear off dairy for good. Even we have sets of people who are lactose intolerant. Is there any merit to these claims?

Is Dairy Bad For You?

National Institute of Health (NIH) advises that adults need a minimum of 1,000mg of Calcium every day, while the WHO believes that 400-500mg per day is sufficient for most adults. While it is possible to get daily recommended dose of Calcium from foods like beans, kale, broccoli, tofu, salmon and calcium-fortified cereals and juices, it’s almost impossible to get 1,000mg of calcium from just foods. In fact, women who are under the age of 30 years and still building bone mass need a higher percentage of calcium in their diet, and this is where dairy becomes crucial.

Another important factor is Vitamin D, needed for bone health as it’s this vitamin that helps absorb the calcium you ingest into the bones. It also helps with weight and mood regulation, and is found abundantly in milk, cheese and yogurt.

Truth be told, whole milk is actually very nutritious, and contains a gamut of vitamins and minerals we require for good health and well-being. Almost 60 to 70 per cent of people in India are lactose intolerant. A single cup of milk contains

  • 276mg Calcium, which is 28% of Recommended Daily Intake (RDI)
  • 24% RDI of Vitamin D
  • 26% RDI of Vitamin B2 or Riboflavin
  • 18% RDI of Vitamin B12
  • 10% RDI of Potassium
  • 22% RDI of Phosphorus
  • Healthy % of Vitamins B1, B6, A, Zinc, Selenium and Magnesium

So, Where Is The Problem?

According to National Library of Medicine, almost 65% people have some form of lactose intolerance or the other. These numbers are higher for those of Asian descent, according to experts. However, even lactose-intolerant people can handle a moderate amount of dairy, especially if they add yogurt with live cultures to their diet.

Most whole-milk and milk products are also full-fat; and most of us don’t need that ‘extra’ fat in our diet. Most dairy products like cheese, butter and ice-cream can significantly add to high cholesterol and fat levels in the body, increasing risk to chronic diseases like hypertension and cardiovascular diseases.

According to research, increased intake of calcium has been associated with prostate and ovarian cancer. And while it’s believed that drinking milk everyday prevents osteoporosis, the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study found that increased milk intake provided no protective effect against fracture risk, but could actually increase the risk.

The Verdict

Despite all this bad rep dairy gets, studies have found that consuming dairy (despite the saturated fat content) doesn’t increase risk of cardiovascular diseases. Some also prove that calcium found in dairy can reduce risk of diabetes and obesity.

And while some people are actually lactose intolerant which means they are allergic to dairy and break into skin allergies or experience gastric distress, most of us can process dairy quite comfortably. Dairy – be it milk, cottage cheese or yogurt, comes with far too many health benefits to completely remove it from your diet, if you are not allergic to it. It’s best to keep your dairy intake moderate though.