Dairy in the Diet
Recently, trends have emerged that encourage the population to completely eliminate dairy from the diet. Diets such as Paleo, Vegan, and Whole 30 are popular examples of dairy-free diets, with claims of benefits ranging from improved digestion to weight loss.
However, since dairy products are the main contributors of calcium to the American diet,1 those with low intakes of dairy are at risk of insufficient calcium intakes. And according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025, calcium is a nutrient of public health concern for Americans.2 In fact, dairy contains three out of the five nutrients of public health concern—not just calcium but vitamin D and potassium, as well.
Understanding Milk Allergies and Lactose Intolerance
The only people who truly need to avoid dairy are those with a milk allergy. A milk allergy occurs when the immune system reacts to the proteins in cow’s milk. This reaction can cause a range of symptoms, including hives, nausea, vomiting, bloody stools, and even life-threatening anaphylactic shock.
Lactose intolerance, on the other hand, refers to an impaired ability to digest the sugar lactose that’s found in milk. This condition is associated with the body making an insufficient amount of the enzyme lactase, which is required for lactose digestion. Symptoms of lactose intolerance can include gas, bloating, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. However, those who are lactose intolerant can comfortably consume specially processed lactose-free milk, in addition to yogurt and hard cheeses.