More families are cutting dairy completely out of diet

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For years dairy has been considered among the healthiest food types to consume. And now, many families are cutting dairy out of their diet.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, many Americans on average drink 37 percent less milk today than they did back in 1970. A total of 25 percent of the country's population has lactose intolerance with an even higher percentage worldwide at 75 percent. Lactose intolerance is when people cannot tolerate the enzyme in milk, leading to gastrointestinal upsets.

Cindy Gates, a dietitian at Rapid City Regional Hospital, says there are other reasons why people are cutting out dairy.

“People who don’t drink milk won’t have an issue absorbing calcium,” Gates says. “A lot of people are avoiding milk products just because of how many calories and how many grams of saturated fat. And the average American eats 25 to 30 grams of cheese per year. So cheese is not the best source of calcium, because it is very high in fat and calories.”

However, not every country struggles with the same calcium-related health issues that the United States does, even though Americans are one of the top dairy consumers in the world.

“You have to look at what Americans do to our bodies, too,” Gates said. “People in the different African cultures, Chinese cultures - they don’t get Osteoporosis and they don’t drink any milk. It’s what Americans do to our body. We eat too much protein, too much sodium, too much alcohol, too much caffeine and too much pop. And that depletes the calcium out of our body. So sometimes, it’s not what we’re taking in.”

Gates also says there are numerous ways for people to cut out dairy, yet still get the essential nutrients. And depending on why someone is cutting out dairy, calcium supplements are also safe to consume as a substitute.

“We do need to have a source of calcium in our diet,” Gates says. “That can come from non-dairy sources, such as green leafy vegetables. Almonds are a great source of calcium, tofu. There's foods fortified with calcium; orange juice is fortified with calcium.” 

Gates also says that if you do buy almond milk or cashew milk, make sure you get the unsweetened version, to avoid high sugar intake. And if you decide to buy dairy milk, make sure to buy the low-fat or fat-free versions. 

If you believe that you’re lactose intolerant or want more information on how to cut out dairy, you can start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner.

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