Recipes for the Lactose-Intolerant

Health, food, calcium, milk, cheese
It's estimated that up to 50 million Americans are lactose-intolerant to one degree or another: They can't digest dairy products.

It can be tough avoiding dairy, but that doesn't mean lactose-free food has to be drab.

On "The Early Show," Gourmet magazine Executive Editor "Doc" Willoughby dished out recipes loaded with flavor but without any dairy.

The following is from the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearninghouse, among other Web sites:

Lactose intolerance is the inability or insufficient ability to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and milk products. Lactose intolerance is caused by a deficiency of the enzyme lactase, which is produced by the cells lining the small intestine. Lactase breaks down lactose into two simpler forms of sugar called glucose and galactose, which are then absorbed into the bloodstream. Simply put, if you don't have enough lactase, you can't eat dairy, or only eat limited amounts.

The enzyme lactase is heavily produced in the human body until two years of age, with an inevitable slowing of lactase production through a person's early years. Someone who is lactose intolerant doesn't produce enough lactase, and most sufferers won't show symptoms until their teens or twenties.

Symptoms include diarrhea, gas, nausea, abdominal pain, and bloating. Lactose intolerant people have variances in how much lactose they can consume. Some can consume absolutely none, some can absorb dairy up until a certain point. In fact, most sufferers can.

For the lactose intolerant, a big glass of milk can bring on the distressing symptoms of lactose intolerance. The condition is so common -- and so natural -- that some doctors don't even like to call it a disorder. That's because many of us naturally lose the ability to digest lactose as we grow into adulthood.

Your ethnicity seems to play a role, too: As many as 90 to 100 percent of Asian Americans and 80 percent of African Americans and 80 to 100 percent of Native Americans are lactose intolerant. At 20 percent, Caucasians are least likely to be affected.

Besides the obvious exclusions of milk, cream, cheese, yoghurt, and ice cream, what else do the lactose-intolerant need to avoid?

Breads often use dairy, as do biscuits, cookies and mixes to make them. Processed breakfast foods often contain dairy such as doughnuts, frozen waffles and pancakes. Processed breakfast cereals often contain some dairy. Also be wary of instant soups, potato chips, processed snacks, salad dressings, processed meats, and any liquid or powdered milk based meal replacements. Power bars, protein powders, non dairy whipped topping and non dairy liquid and powdered milk based meal replacements often contain dairy as well.

When looking at labels in the grocery store what words on the label should someone with lactose intolerance be looking for?

Words such as milk, lactose, whey, curds, milk by-products, dry milk solids and non fat dry milk powder should all send up a red flag for someone with lactose intolerance.

What are good substitutions for milk when cooking? The only milks that are always 100 percent lactose-free are plant milks, such as soy milk , coconut milk, rice milk, hemp milk, peanut milk, horchata (occasionally made with dairy-so check that label), and hazelnut milk. There are some products specifically offered to lactose intolerant people. That doesn't mean that any of these are 100 percent, so CHECK THE LABELS.

Coconut milk is good for ethnic foods, or where you are looking for a little exotic flavor. It works very well with desserts. Often, unsweetened soy milk is a great substitute in cream/rose sauces, regular soy milk works well in baking, and vanilla soy milk is nice in my smoothies. Rice milk can be the least noticeable difference from regular milk. It can be used in cereal, and smells and looks just like milk. It is however, more watery in consistency.

For Doc's recipes, go to Page 2.