Nutrition

What is lactose? Where to find it? What alternatives are there?

Feuilles
  • 03/07/2019
Noix de coco

For those that are lactose intolerance, the naturel instinct is to remove any food containing lactose from their diet. However, this is not necessary.

So, what is lactose? Why are some people intolerant and what are the alternatives to foods that contain lactose?

Lactose is the main sugar in milk.

It is a carbohydrate (sugar) composed of two subunits: galactose and glucose. Digestion releases these two subunits through an enzyme present in the intestine: lactase.

Where does lactose come from in our diet?

Lactose is found in dairy products and any food or beverage containing milk in general. However, the lactose content varies greatly from one dairy product to another.

PER 100 GRAMS

Whole milk/skimmed milk – 4.9g
Goat’s milk – 4.5g
Fresh cheese – 4.1g
Fresh cream – 2.5g
Milk delactose – 0.1g
Soft cheese – 1.5g
Butter – 0.6g
Semi-hard cheese – 0.5g
Hard cheese – 0g

 

DID YOU KNOW?

Studies have shown that the presence of probiotics in fermented dairy products facilitates their digestion.

The fermentation of the dairy product allows for the transformation of lactose into lactic acid, which is more easily digestible (e.g. in yoghurts or cheeses).

As a result, some people who are lactose intolerant may still consume milk-containing products that go through this transformation.

 

Lactose intolerance is due to a deficit or total absence of lactase in your body.

The more lactase you produce, the higher your lactose tolerance level.

DID YOU KNOW? 

Over time, the lactase produced by your body becomes less effective, which increases the risk of developing lactose intolerance. A large part of the population significantly reduces its consumption of dairy products during adolescence, which leads to a decrease in lactase production. This is when age-related lactose intolerance appears.

However, the effectiveness of lactase can be maintained through regular and uninterrupted consumption of dairy products.

In infants, lactose intolerance is a rare disease called congenital lactase deficiency.

Be careful, there is a distinction to be made between being lactose intolerant and allergic to the protein present in cow’s milk. The latter is manifested by various symptoms (vomiting, pain, diarrhea, breathing issues, etc.) following the ingestion of cow’s milk.

In some cases, it can even lead to anaphylactic shock (allergic reaction).

Foods to avoid are cow’s milk, goat’s milk, powdered milk, butter, cream and cottage cheese.

Symptoms of intolerance

This lactase deficiency does not allow the lactose to be fully digested in the intestine, where it is fermented by bacteria in the colon.

As a result, symptoms related to intolerance physically result in an acceleration of intestinal transit and therefore diarrhea, gassiness and intestinal pain.

What diet to follow in case of intolerance ?

The degree of lactose intolerance varies from person to person.

Some will tolerate yogurt and cheese (which contain little lactose) while others will not.

There is no need to remove all lactose-containing foods from your diet at the first sign of symptoms. Instead, try to test out different products sparingly to determine the degree of your intolerance.

Feed. products are 100% lactose-free. 

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Because of the growing number of people affected by this disease, food alternatives have been created to replace lactose-containing products.

Alternatives to milk

There are plant-based milks such as soy milk, almond milk, hazelnut milk, rice milk, quinoa milk and oat milk.

These products are obtained by mixing water with the cereals or oilseeds in question, with a little oil and sometimes thickeners, flavors and sugar. They are sometimes also industrially enriched with calcium.

Lactose-free milk

Lactose-free milk is milk that has been processed to remove lactose or add lactase.

This process preserves all the nutritional qualities of normal milk while being the ideal alternative for people with lactose intolerance.

Soy milk

This vegetable juice is obtained by grinding soybeans. Its protein content is similar to that of cow’s milk, however, it is low in calcium, as soy does not naturally contain calcium.

It does have other benefits for the body though. Soy contains isoflavones, a molecule that protects the heart and reduces bad cholesterol.

Almond milk

This milk is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, but also in certain minerals such as magnesium, potassium and calcium.

Unlike cow’s milk, almond milk does not contain cholesterol and much less saturated fatty acids, but its protein content is also much lower.

Fat alternatives: fresh cream, butter

Although they contain little lactose, some fats of milk origin will not be tolerated by some people with lactose intolerance. But again, there are alternatives.

Soy cream

Soy cream is a 100% plant-based alternative to fresh cream. It is made from soy juice, vegetable oil and a binder such as guar or xanthan gum.

Compared to traditional fresh cream, it contains omega 3 and protein but with half the number of calories.

Coconut cream

Coconut cream is obtained by simply pressing the coconut. Although it is lactose-free, it is a little more calorific than some fresh creams.

 

IN SUMMARY

Lactose is the main sugar in milk. Lactase is an enzyme that splits lactose into two other sugars: galactose and glucose.

Lactose intolerance results from a lactase deficiency, which does not allow proper digestion of lactose and causes digestive disorders.

It is not necessary to remove all lactose-containing foods at the first signs of intolerance. Instead, adjust your diet by testing foods and assessing your tolerance level.

There are now many alternatives to lactose-containing products, mainly based on plants such as soy, almonds, rice, hazelnuts or coconuts.

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