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I’m lactose intolerant. Can I still incorporate cheese into my diet?
Are there other foods besides dairy I eat that contain calcium?
Are calcium supplements a good alternative to cheese and other dairy foods?
Q1: I’m lactose intolerant. Can I still incorporate cheese into my diet?

A1: Cheese can still play an important role in your diet. New research finds that most people who are lactose intolerant can digest some milk sugar, and thus enjoy some dairy foods daily, especially hard cheeses.

Most of the lactose found in cheese is removed with the whey during the manufacturing process. Most ripened cheeses, such as Cheddar and Swiss, contain about 95% less lactose than whole milk. Aged cheeses contain almost no lactose - only 0.4-1 gram of lactose per ounce. Processed cheeses contain about 0.5-4 grams per ounce.

When shopping for cheese, look at the Nutrition Facts panel on the labels. If the amount of sugars listed is 0 grams, it does not contain lactose. You can always call the manufacturer if you are still unsure.

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Q2: Are there other foods besides dairy I can eat that contain calcium?

A2: Plenty of foods contain calcium. However, foods outside the dairy group generally contain less calcium and in some cases can contain substances that bind with calcium making it less available for absorption. This means you’ll need to eat more to get the same amount of calcium (300 mg) provided by an ounce and a half of cheese.

Though leading health experts recommend dairy products as the preferred calcium source, calcium can be found in a variety of foods including leafy greens such as turnip greens, kale, mustard greens, bok choy in addition to sardines and canned salmon with bones

Some good calcium sources containing at least 10% of the Daily Value for calcium include:

Food Serving Size Calcium (mg)
Swiss cheese 1 ounce 300
Cheddar cheese 1 ounce 270
Tofu, firm (processed with calcium sulfate) ½ cup 205
Salmon, canned (with edible bones) 3 ounces 205
Turnip greens, cooked ½ cup 100
Source: USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 13
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Q3: Are calcium supplements a good alternative to cheese and other dairy foods?

A3: Leading health organizations including the National Institutes of Health Expert Panel recommend we eat calcium-rich foods like dairy products (cheese, milk and yogurt) to meet our calcium needs. Foods contain many nutrients that work with calcium to keep bones healthy. Relying on calcium supplements will correct a calcium deficiency, but will not provide the many other nutrients supplied by calcium-rich foods.

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