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Lactose: How Much Can You Take?

Find Substitutes

With some foods, you may find you can't tolerate any amount. That's when you need to experiment with lactose-free or reduced-lactose foods.

For instance, if milk doesn't agree with you, try lactose-free milk or a dairy free beverage, such as almond, rice, or soy milk. If you have problems digesting cheese, try one with lower amounts of lactose.

  • Nonfat dry milk power, 1 cup: 62 grams lactose
  • Sweetened condensed milk, 1 cup: 40 grams lactose
  • Evaporated Milk, 1 cup: 24 grams lactose
  • Milk, 1 cup: 10-12 grams lactose
  • Ice milk, 1/2 cup: 9 grams lactose
  • Ice cream, 1/2 cup: 6 grams lactose
  • Yogurt, 1 cup: 5 grams lactose
  • Cottage cheese, 1/2 cup: 2-3 grams lactose
  • Blue cheese, 1 oz.: 2 grams lactose
  • Sherbet, orange, 1/2 cup: 2 grams lactose
  • American, Swiss, or Parmesan cheese, 1 oz.: 1 gram lactose
  • Cheddar cheese, 1 oz.: 0 grams lactose

Be Aware of Calcium Needs

People who are lactose intolerant tend to cut out dairy foods, and that means they can shortchange themselves on calcium. You need calcium for healthy teeth and bones. Vitamin D helps your body use calcium. "People who are lactose intolerant are at higher risk for osteoporosis," says Saito-Loftus. If you have lactose intolerance, you don’t have to miss out on the bone-building benefits of calcium and vitamin D. Some lactose-free foods are fortified with these nutrients, such as lactose free milk and cottage cheese. Some nondairy milks -- almond, oat, rice, and soy -- are also enriched with calcium and vitamin D. Be sure to look at the label and try to get at least as much calcium and vitamin D as you would get from regular cow’s milk. Calcium and vitamin D supplements can help you fill in any gaps to ensure you get your daily requirement of these vital nutrients.   

Add these foods to your diet for an added boost of calcium (without the lactose!):

  • Bok choy and Chinese cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Collards
  • Greens: collard, kale, mustard, or turnip
  • Orange juice that is calcium-fortified orange juice
  • Salmon or sardines with bones, canned
  • Soybeans
  • Tofu, calcium set

Vitamin D-rich foods include:

  • Eggs
  • Orange juice that is fortified
  • Swordfish or salmon, cooked
  • Tuna fish or sardines, canned
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Reviewed on April 07, 2014

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