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LIBy Farrell Frankel, Dietetic Intern, Simmons College

Are you one of the millions of people who have lactose intolerance? Avoiding dairy and worried about not getting enough calcium in your diet?  Don’t fret…read on!

Lactose intolerance is a digestive disorder in which a person does not have enough lactase, an enzyme needed to break down the sugar found in milk (lactose). If you have trouble digesting lactose, you might have symptoms of lactose intolerance, such as bloating, constipation, gas, intestinal problems and abdominal pain. Symptoms can begin between 30 minutes and 2 hours after consuming food or drinks containing lactose. The symptoms of lactose intolerance are similar to symptoms of other illnesses, but there are tests that can diagnose lactose intolerance. It is important to check with your healthcare provider before cutting dairy out of your diet.

In the worst cases of lactose intolerance, you need to avoid all dairy products. In other cases, however, eating small amounts of dairy with meals can be easier on your stomach. Yogurt and cheeses may be easier to digest than milk because they contain less lactose. The live and active cultures in yogurt help to digest lactose, and the aging process in some cheeses lowers the amount of lactose.  Replacing cow’s milk with lactose-free milk or soy milk are other ways you can enjoy milk without worrying about an upset stomach. Here are some other foods that are low in lactose, but high in important nutrients, like calcium:

Foods Low in Lactose, High in Nutrients



Fermented Cheese – Swiss, Parmesan, Blue Cheese

Sesame Seeds

Dark Leafy Greens




For education materials, research, recipes and more, visit the National Dairy Council website:


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