All fresh, frozen or canned vegetables and fruits prepared without milk or milk products are lactose-free, as are fresh meats, poultry, eggs, seafood and legumes. Potatoes, pasta, nuts and seeds, clear soups and vegetable oils are also lactose-free.
Milk and dairy products are the main sources of lactose, a naturally occurring sugar. When a person does not produce enough of the enzyme lactase to break down lactose during digestion, he is lactose-intolerant and may show symptoms such as abdominal cramping, bloating, diarrhea, nausea and gas after consuming foods containing lactose. Some lactose-intolerant people produce enough lactase to allow them to consume small amounts of lactose, but some cannot tolerate any lactose without taking over-the-counter lactase supplements.
Manufacturers add lactose or milk products containing lactose to many processed foods, including creams and creamed foods, baked goods and prepared baking mixes, salad dressings, instant cereals and seasoning mixes. If the ingredient list on the food label includes lactose, milk solids, whey, milk products or nonfat dry milk, the product contains lactose. Other ingredients containing lactose include curds, caseinate and any kind of cheese.
Lactose intolerance is most common among older people and people of Asian, African, Native American and Jewish descent. People with severe lactose intolerance need to be careful to get enough calcium from non-dairy sources such as broccoli, canned tuna, green leafy vegetables, pinto beans and calcium-enriched soybean products.