As we discussed in the previous article, lactose intolerance is a digestive problem where the body is unable to digest lactose, which is naturally found in milk and dairy products as a type of sugar – but is also found in many foods as an additive.
The body digests and uses lactose with the help of an enzyme called lactase, which lactose intolerant people do not produce enough of. Symptoms usually develop within a few hours of consuming a food or drink containing lactose, in the form of diarrhoea, bloating, stomach cramps or nausea.
What can I eat on a lactose-free diet?
● soya foods: tofu, tempeh, soya milk, soya yoghurt
● fruit juices
● plant milk alternatives: rice milk, coconut milk, soya milk, almond milk, oat milk
● colored meats
The question arises as to how those who do not consume dairy products can supplement vitamins or minerals that they do not take in their diet. In fact, it shouldn’t be difficult with a little planning. Let’s look at calcium first.
What role does calcium play in the functioning of our body?
Calcium is the fifth most abundant element in the earth’s crust: it is ubiquitous as a constituent of rocks and boulders, from where it is transported by water to plants, which are consumed by herbivorous/ omnivorous animals to meet their calcium needs. Calcium is an essential mineral for human health and is stored in the body, mainly in bones and teeth.
Calcium also contributes to the following basic bodily functions:
● Transmission of information between the brain and other organs of the body
● Enabling the movement of nerves and muscles
● The proper functioning of muscles, nerves and blood vessels
● Transporting enzymes and hormones through the blood
● Proper blood clotting speed
● Maintaining healthy blood pressure
● Adequate functioning of the myocardial signalling system
From these functions, it is clear to see how much vital background work is required in addition to healthy bones and teeth. But how much of it is enough?
The US FDA recommendation for an adequate daily calcium intake for people over 18 years of age is between 1000 and 1200 mg. Teenagers, pregnant women, breastfeeding and during/after menopause may also need 1300 mg per day.
However, as I always stress, intake is only the first step. We need to make sure that the vitamin or mineral is being properly utilised, i.e. absorbed.
Many things can affect how much calcium can be absorbed in the body:
● Smoking contributes to calcium loss, thus reducing bone density and increasing the risk of fractures (not only calcium, but also vitamin C, for example, is depleted from the body!)
● General vitamin deficiencies: in order for the body to absorb and use calcium properly, it needs other nutrients, including vitamins D, C, K, E, B12, magnesium and boron. (However, it is worth avoiding the trap of multivitamin preparations: here calcium will prevent the absorption of other substances and trace elements.)
● Oxalates in green leafy vegetables can inhibit calcium absorption, so foods rich in this, such as spinach, rhubarb, beetroot leaves and Swiss chard, should not be considered as the sole source of intake. However, as they are very healthy, it is safe to eat them, especially cooked – it neutralises oxalates.
● Inadequate intake of phytates: phytates, which are found in whole grains, beans and seeds, can combine with calcium and other important minerals, hindering their absorption. Therefore, seeds and beans should be pre-soaked, sprouted and cooked to get rid of the phytate content.
And for cereals, look for products made with leaven.
● Table salt increases calcium loss and has many unhealthy effects. Choose healthier types of salt! (see my previous article on DW salt)
● Heavy consumption of anticonvulsant medications prevents calcium absorption, due to the vitamin D deficiency they induce. If you have to take these medications for certain illnesses, increase your supplementation of these minerals and time your intake well in advance.
● If we eat animal-based, lactose-free foods just to be sure of our calcium intake.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that calcium from leafy greens can be absorbed and utilized by the body at a significantly higher rate than dairy products. Budded kale absorbed 64% of the calcium and curly kale 50%, while only 32% of the calcium in cow’s milk was utilized.
An interesting fact!
In the past, bone meal ground from animal bones was used as a substitute for calcium, but this practice was discontinued because of the intense lead contamination that was detected. Therefore, human use has been discontinued, however, it is used as feed for animals in large-scale livestock production. So anyone with heavy metal problems has a realistic chance of being exposed to lead through this route.
Absorption can also be affected by the state of our digestive system: the health of the intestinal mucosa, the health of the intestinal flora and the balance of the microbiome.
Finally, here is a list of calcium content
Vegetables (Calcium/1 cup)
● Bok choy (cooked) – 330 mg
● curly kale – 180 mg
● Brussels sprouts – 320 mg
● Spinach (cooked) – 250 mg
● kale (cooked) – 260 mg
● Sarepta mustard (cooked) – 100 mg
● radish greens (cooked) – 200 mg
● Swiss chard (cooked) – 100 mg
● Seaweed (Wakame) – 120mg
● okra – 130 mg
● broccoli – 45 mg
● aniseed – 45 mg
● artichokes – 55 mg
● celery – 40 mg
● leek – 55 mg
● mushrooms (100 g)- 200 mg
Nuts, seeds and seed butter
● Almonds (1/4 cup) – 95 mg
● Brazil nuts (1/4 cup) – 55 mg
● peanuts (1/4 cup) – 55 mg
● almond butter (1 tbsp) – 43 mg
● sesame seeds (1 tbsp) – 63 mg
● tahini (1 tbsp) – 65 mg
● amaranth (cooked, ½ cup) – 135 mg
● Brown rice (cooked, 1 cup) – 50 mg
● quinoa (cooked, 1 cup) – 80 mg
Lentils and beans
● Chickpeas (cooked, 1 cup) – 80 mg
● pinto beans (cooked, 1 cup) – 75 mg
● soybeans (cooked, 1 cup) – 200 mg
● tofu (1/2 cup) – 400-450 mg
● tempeh (1 cup) – 150 mg
● navy beans (1 cup) – 110 mg
Fruit (1 cup)
● figs (dried) – 300 mg
● apricots (dried) – 75mg
● kiwi – 60mg
● rhubarb (cooked) – 350 mg
● orange – 70 mg
● prunes – 75 mg
● blackberries – 40 mg