There’s a debate raging around dairy, with some people advocating its consumption for a variety of health reasons, and others shunning it based on their own digestive or ethical concerns. But the newly released dietary guidelines are clear: They continue to recommend three servings per day of dairy as the best way to meet the requirements for calcium, potassium, vitamin D, vitamin A and magnesium. “The guidelines say that dairy is crucial, because for most Americans it is the primary source of those nutrients that many come up short on,” says Isabel Maples, RDN, spokesperson for the Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics.
But many Americans experience symptoms of lactose intolerance that make consuming dairy products particularly unpleasant. The gas, bloating and diarrhea are caused by an inability to digest lactose — the sugar that naturally occurs in cow’s, sheep’s and goat’s milk. Recently, however, science has started to tease out another possible explanation for many people’s post-dairy discomfort. “Researchers looked into why people who thought they were lactose-intolerant could drink goat’s milk without issue, even though it has as much lactose as cow’s milk,” says Bonnie Johnson, M.S., R.D., nutrition director, a2 Milk Company.