Keep Dairy in Your Playbook

If you are an athlete and suspect you have lactose intolerance, you can still enjoy dairy foods. In fact, taking dairy out of your diet is a big mistake as the nutrition advantages of dairy foods cannot be replaced by plant-based alternatives. For instance, real dairy milk provides 13 essential nutrients including high-quality protein for building muscle, calcium and vitamin D for bone strength, potassium, vitamin D, and magnesium for muscle functioning, plus zinc and selenium for immune health. Also, consider the added benefits you will get with fermented dairy foods such as kefir and yogurt. Their live and active cultures support a healthy gut and immune system. Plus, they may play a role in helping decrease inflammation and muscle soreness.

Follow these tips to enjoy dairy foods even if you are lactose intolerant:

  1. Try chocolate milk. Chocolate milk is not only an excellent recovery beverage, research suggests it may be more easily digested than regular milk.
  2. Consider Greek yogurt. In addition to its hefty serving of high-quality protein, Greek yogurt’s live and active cultures help break down lactose, making it easier to digest.
  3. Swap regular milk for lactose-free white or chocolate milk. Lactose-free milk contains the same nutrients found in regular milk but without the lactose.
  4. Sprinkle hard cheese such as cheddar, Monterey Jack, Gouda, or Parmesan on your salads, potatoes, and vegetables, or add it when cooking casseroles, burgers, and other dishes. The good bacteria and enzymes used to make cheese break down the lactose making these hard cheeses great options for those with lactose intolerance.

Research shows many athletes are missing several nutrients in their diet that contribute to overall health, growth, and athletic performance. Dairy foods can help you avoid these nutrient gaps and feel your best.  Click here for more ways to manage your lactose intolerance and enjoy dairy again.

Marie Spano, MS, RD, CSCS, CSSD is a sports nutritionist who loves helping athletes achieve peak performance and optimal health.

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