Teen Essay: Milks for those who can’t drink milk
Why are so many people lactose intolerant?
Do you have any of these non-dairy milks: almond, lactaid, soy, cashew, coconut, rice, oat, flax, macadamia nut or hemp milk? If so, you could be a part of the two thirds of the world’s population who need it.
You may have noticed how many people are lactose intolerant these days (or you might be yourself). Lactose intolerance occurs when your body has trouble digesting lactose, which is a sugar found in dairy products. An enzyme called lactase is what breaks down the lactose in order to be digested. This is where lactose tolerance comes into the picture.
Lactose tolerance, also known as lactose persistence, is a result of evolution. But, why? Thousands of years ago in some cultures, dairy was necessary for survival. This meant that these people produced more of the lactase enzyme in order to be able to digest the lactose. In fact, only 25% of the population is lactose persistent because of how these cultures have evolved since milk isn’t as vital as it was in the past.
However, back in the regions where dairy was not a necessity, these ethnic groups no longer needed their lactase enzyme after adolescence. As more cows, sheep, and goats became domesticated, these ancestors started to over-excessively consume dairy products, resulting in an intolerance to the nutrient.
For those of you who are lactose intolerant, there are many alternatives to dairy products available. Before I eliminated dairy from my diet completely, I would always drink lactaid milk. Lactaid milk tastes pretty similar to regular milk, but it doesn’t have any lactose in it.
There are also other options such as almond milk, coconut milk, and rice milk. But, it doesn’t stop there. From cashew cheese to coconut milk ice cream, any of these lactose-free options can help the function of your digestive system which improves your overall health.
Next time you’re at the store, consider trying out a new variety of dairy substitutes!
Kili is a sophomore at Mountainside High School. She loves singing, playing piano and ukulele, and also running track and field.