With research finding that the body prefers calcium from food, not supplements, it can be a challenge to meet daily requirements if you’re lactose-intolerant.
On average, adults need about 1 000 milligrams of calcium a day. Fortunately, there are choices within many food groups that deliver on calcium.
Leafy greens are a great calcium source, and at the top of the list are cooked spinach, collard and turnip greens. Salad lovers, reach for raw kale.
Calcium content in greens
- Cooked spinach, collard greens and turnip greens, 1 cup: 200mg
- Raw kale, 1 cup: 90mg
Among legumes, beans and white beans in particular are calcium-rich, as are green soybeans, better known as edamame. Some brands of firm tofu made with calcium sulphate have more than half the daily requirement in a serving – check nutrition labels before you buy.
Calcium content in legumes
- Cooked white beans, 1 cup: 160mg
- Green soybeans, 1 cup: 260mg
- Firm tofu, 3.5 ounces: up to 650mg
Some seeds and nuts also pack in calcium along with their unique mix of healthy fats, protein and carbohydrates. Choices include sesame seeds and tahini (sesame seed butter), chia seeds and amaranth, a seed that cooks up like a grain. Enjoy almonds as a snack or spread almond butter on your morning toast.
Calcium content in seeds and nuts
- Sesame seeds, 1 ounce: 280mg
- Tahini, 2 tablespoons: 100mg
- Chia seeds, 2 tablespoons: 180mg
- Amaranth, 1/2 cup uncooked: 150mg
- Almond butter, 1 tablespoon: 90mg
- Almonds, 20: 60mg
Among fruits, fresh and dried figs, oranges and tangy rhubarb all have some calcium.
Calcium content in fruits
Is milk really a super food?
- Dried figs, 1/2 cup: 120mg
- Fresh fig, 1 large: 22mg
- Orange, medium: 60mg
- Rhubarb, raw, 1 cup: 100mg
If you’d like to include some true dairy foods in your diet, consider lactose-free and lactose-reduced foods or try lactase tablets or drops. Among dairy foods, it’s hard to beat plain yogurt for its calcium content, which is more than 400mg in eight ounces.
Keep in mind that your body needs vitamin D to process calcium and protect bone health. Because D is hard to get naturally, it’s a supplement that might be of benefit to you. If you’re concerned about meeting these nutrient goals, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian.
Almost everyone, as a baby, has the ability to digest lactose, the natural sugar found in mammal milk, but many adults lose this ability as they age. If you experience abdominal discomfort, cramping, gas and diarrhea after eating dairy products, you can feel better and prevent these unpleasant symptoms by keeping lactose-containing foods out of your diet.
Regular milk is the most concentrated source of lactose. Avoid drinking milk, adding it to your cereal or cooking with it to keep your lactose intake as low as possible and prevent symptoms. Goat milk and the milk of other mammals contain a similar amount of lactose compared to cow milk.
Lactose-free milk is a suitable alternative. Lactose-free milk is supplemented with lactase, the enzyme that’s required to properly break down lactose. If you prefer to avoid dairy, choose soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk or rice milk, but be aware that only enriched varieties provide the same calcium content as regular milk.
Fresh cheeses have a moderate lactose content. Avoid ricotta cheese, cottage cheese and feta cheese and foods prepared with these ingredients to prevent embarrassing digestive problems. Even if you are lactose intolerant, you can still enjoy aged cheeses, such as Brie, cheddar and Swiss. Aged cheeses have a very low lactose content. Most people with lactose intolerance can tolerate moderate amounts, but try not to eat too much at once to avoid exceeding your individual tolerance.
Commercial yogurts still contain some lactose, but not as much as regular milk. Depending on the severity of your lactose intolerance, commercially-prepared yogurts may be best to avoid. However, you can prepare your own homemade yogurt and make it almost completely lactose-free by extending the fermentation process to up to 24 hours. A longer fermentation time allows the bacteria to break down most of the lactose before you eat the yogurt, which prevents you from experiencing gastrointestinal problems.
Ice cream contains less lactose than milk and commercial yogurts, but it can still be enough to cause bloating, abdominal pain and diarrhea in very sensitive people. You can make your own ice cream with lactose-free milk or coconut milk if you want to enjoy a safe lactose-free iced treat.
Skim Milk Powder
Many processed foods can contain skim milk powder or other lactose-containing ingredients. Read food labels and make sure you don’t see any skim milk powder, cheese or yogurt on the label of the foods you want to buy. For example, Bechamel sauces, creamed soups and prepared mashed potatoes are all likely to contain hidden lactose. Make them yourself at home with low-lactose ingredients.
Acidophilus Milk Vs. Kefir
Kefir and acidophilus milk both consist of regular milk to which “good” bacteria, or probiotics, are added. Probiotics are identical to or similar to the beneficial bacteria found naturally in the human body. There’s strong evidence that probiotics are useful in treating diarrhea, and they show potential for treating a number of other conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome, eczema and tooth decay, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Kefir and acidophilus milk both contain live cultures, but vary quite a bit in which bacteria and how many they contain. Acidophilus milk contains Lactobacillus acidophilus. It may also contain Bifidobacterium bifidum, a probiotic that’s also found in yogurt. Kefir may contain anywhere from 10 to 20 or more beneficial bacteria, including several different strains of Lactobacilli, according to an article in the “Food Science and Technology Bulletin.” It also contains yeasts.
Flavor and Texture
Kefir and acidophilus milk have very different flavors and textures. Kefir is tangy, like yogurt, and has the consistency of a milkshake. Traditional kefir, which may be made from cow’s, sheep’s or goat’s milk, is slightly fizzy. Sweet, or unfermented, acidophilus milk closely resembles regular milk in flavor and texture. Fermented acidophilus milk is a bit tangier and thicker than regular milk. Kefir also comes in a variety of flavors, like yogurt, while acidophilus milk is usually sold plain.
Both kefir and acidophilus milk have the same nutrition profile as the milk they’re made from. Unflavored acidophilus milk or kefir made from 1 percent milk has 120 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 12 grams of sugar and 8 grams of protein, and provides 10 percent of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s daily value for vitamin A, 30 percent of the DV for calcium and 25 percent of the DV for vitamin D. Flavored, sweetened kefir has more calories and sugar.
Lactobacillus acidophilus may not have much effect on lactose intolerance, according to MedlinePlus. Fermented dairy products such as kefir often contain less lactose than fresh dairy products. In a small study published in the “Journal of the American Dietetic Association,” kefir reduced symptoms in lactose-intolerant participants. The researchers recommended further studies of kefir’s effects on lactose intolerance.
High-Protein Snacks for Kids
Offering your child high-protein snacks throughout the day can help him meet his daily protein requirements. Most children in the U.S. consume plenty of protein, according to MedlinePlus. However, children following a vegetarian or vegan diet may lack adequate protein if the diet is not properly planned. According to the Institute of Medicine, kids ages 1 to 3 need at least 13 grams of protein, children ages 4 to 8 require 19 grams and kids ages 9 to 13 should eat at least 34 grams of protein each day.
String Cheese and Cottage Cheese
String cheese and cottage cheese are loaded with protein and calcium, and make a quick and easy snack for kids. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reports that one-half cup of low-fat cottage cheese provides 14 grams of protein. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1 ounce of part-skim, low-moisture mozzarella cheese, often used in string cheese, provides about 7 grams of protein.
Nuts, Seeds and Peanut Butter
Nuts, seeds and peanut butter make excellent high-protein snacks for most children. However, ask your pediatrician before offering these snacks to children under the age of 2; children who are not developmentally ready for nuts, seeds and peanut butter are at risk for choking. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reports that 2 tablespoons of peanut butter contain 8 grams of protein. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1 ounce of dry-roasted sunflower seeds contains about 5.5 grams of protein, and 1 ounce of almonds contains about 6 grams of protein.
Kefir is a milk-based dairy drink that comes in a variety of kid-friendly flavors. Whole-milk or low-fat kefir provides your child with protein, calcium and probiotics, which are the “good” bacteria naturally present in your child’s digestive system. According to a 2012 review published in the “Journal of the American Medical Association,” probiotics can help prevent diarrhea associated with the use of antibiotics. Four ounces, or one-half cup, of whole-milk kefir with probiotics contains about 7 grams of protein.
Yogurt makes an excellent snack for kids because it’s easy to take on the go, and is high in protein, carbohydrates, calcium and probiotics. Many brands of yogurt are also rich in vitamin D and zinc. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 8 ounces of whole-milk yogurt provide about 8.5 grams of protein, while 8 ounces of low-fat, vanilla yogurt contain about 11 grams of dietary protein. Whole-milk yogurt is often appropriate for infants ages 6 months and older and toddlers since they need extra fat for proper cognitive development; ask your pediatrician about a good time to switch to low-fat yogurt.