Lactose is a type of naturally occurring sugar in dairy products. Lactose intolerance refers to our body's inability to digest and absorb lactose efficiently, causing bloating, diarrhea, and gas. Our body needs a digestive enzyme, lactase, to break down lactose completely. However, the ability to produce such enzyme decreases as we grow up. It explains why people experience stomach cramps when they drink milk later on in their lives. Sometimes people get mixed up with milk allergy and lactose intolerance, yet they are very different in nature.
Lactose intolerance is very common in Asia, affecting more than 90% of adults. This is related to genetic makeup and eating habits of Asians. The activity of genes controlling lactase production is gradually reduced after infancy. Also, the Asian diet does not include a large amount of dairy products like the Westerners. As a consequence, the amount of lactase found in digestive system becomes less and less, resulting in lactose intolerance.
Lactose-intolerant people have different degree of tolerance to the amount of lactose consumed. Some dairy products like cheese and yogurt are lower in lactose content after fermentation, which make them easier to digest and absorb than milk. However, most lactose-intolerant people will have their gastrointestinal symptoms alleviated significantly after cutting dairy products.
It is worth noticing that dairy products are rich in calcium. Substitutions like calcium-enriched soy milk, almond milk, oat milk or calcium-enriched vegan cheese are suggested. There is also a lot of natural foods which are sources of calcium, such as broccoli, bok choy, kale, okra, sesame and firm tofu. Although these foods contain less calcium than dairy products in terms of absolute values, they are far more easily absorbed by human body.
Yes there is! Daiya vegan cheese is one of them. Its major ingredients are coconut oil, potato starch and tapioca starch. It contains no preservatives and artificial colorings. Like ordinary cheese, they melt and stretch when heated.
Regarding the nutritional values. Daiya vegan cheese has similar calories as regular cheese, and is also enriched with calcium. One piece of it has 136 mg of calcium, which is equivalent to about 14% of daily calcium intake for adults. As for sodium, it is 35-47% lower than some common regular cheese in the market. This is particularly important to bone health as high sodium intake can lead to loss of calcium from bones. In addition, the cholesterol and trans fat content are zero due to the absence of milk. One thing to bear in mind is that vegan cheese has a low protein content, and those who need extra protein may consider supplement it with other foods.
Apart from cheese, Daiya offers a wide range of dairy-free vegan products include yogurt, cheesecake and pizza. All of them do not contain the 7 common allergens, even those who are allergic to milk, soy, and gluten can still enjoy!