Saturday, April 14, 2007

Cheese tips for the lactose intolerant

A wise man once said, “In the practice of tolerance, one's enemy is the best teacher.” Not to belittle the teachings of the Dalai Lama, but this philosophy works when it comes to cheese as well.

Lactose intolerance occurs when the body stops producing lactase, the enzyme it needs to properly break down lactose. Everyone is lactose intolerant to some degree, but some of us are clearly more affected than others.

This should not, however, be an impediment to enjoying nature's greatest gift - cheese!

Hard, aged cheeses are best for the weak of stomach, as they contain lower levels of lactose (and sometimes none at all), but even a standard swiss or cheddar cheese still only contains about 5% of the lactose found in whole milk. Fresh cheeses like mozzarella may be more of a problem.

Researchers from Purdue University have found that people who stay away from dairy products because of presumed intolerance have stronger symptoms than those who eat small amounts of dairy on a regular basis. This is because over time bacteria in the intestine begin to adapt and more effectively digest lactose. They also found that lactose consumed with a meal is tolerated about three times better than lactose consumed in a fasted state.

So what's the lesson in all this? "Cheese every day will keep the wind away (just choose older, harder cheeses and don't eat them on an empty stomach)"

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