What Are the Benefits of Milk for Vegetarians?

Whether you’re just looking to eat more plant-based foods or you’ve decided to follow a vegetarian diet, it’s important to pack the right nutrients into your meatless meals — particularly protein and calcium.

A vegetarian diet can be a healthy option for many reasons. When choosing vegetarian foods, consider the different ways to get the nutrients you need, including vegetarian protein sources. For those looking for meatless protein sources, especially lacto-vegetarians whose diets do not include eggs, milk and milk products are a great choice because milk is a good source of high-quality protein.

Experts agree a well-planned vegetarian diet is one of many dietary plans that can be healthful and nutritious. In fact, this eating plan may even help reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Vegetarians who included eggs and dairy in their diet had an 18 percent lower risk of developing colorectal cancer compared to meat-eaters, according to a study from JAMA Internal Medicine.

4 Reasons Why Milk Is a Good Choice for a Vegetarian Diet

1. Milk Is a Complete Source of Protein for Vegetarians: If you’re leaning towards a meatless diet, remember that many plant-based protein sources are incomplete proteins, which means you may miss some of the building blocks our body needs. Real dairy milk is a high-quality, natural protein source, meaning it provides vegetarians with the full mix of essential amino acids your body needs. From muscles to hair, bones to teeth, the body needs protein to be healthy and strong.

2. Milk Is an Excellent Source of Calcium for Vegetarians: Whether or not you follow a strict vegetarian diet, calcium is another important nutrient you can get from milk. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Americans don’t get enough calcium in their diets. While research suggests vegetarians drink 30 percent more milk than non-vegetarians and get an extra 150mg of calcium in their diets, most vegetarians still fall short of the recommended three daily servings of milk and milk products.

It’s true that many of the plant-based foods vegetarians eat contain calcium, but “consuming enough plant foods to meet calcium needs may be unrealistic for many,” according to ChooseMyPlate.gov. At 300 mg of calcium per cup, drinking milk can help get those who eat meatless meals closer to the recommended amount. To reach the daily recommendation for calcium, you would need to eat 21 cups of raw broccoli to get the same amount that milk provides in three 8-ounce servings.

3. Milk Offers Other Essential Nutrients That Can Be Hard for Vegetarians to Add to Their Diet: In addition, substituting milk with non-dairy calcium sources like fortified soy milk and leafy greens can lead to gaps in other key nutrients like protein, vitamin D, phosphorus, riboflavin, potassium, magnesium, vitamin A and vitamin B12.

4. Milk Is A Budget-Friendly Choice for Vegetarian Nutrition: One of the best reasons to drink milk is because it helps to stretch your food budget. For about 25 cents a glass, milk offers more nutritional value than just about any other beverage you can buy. An 8-ounce glass of milk contains nine essential nutrients including B vitamins for energy, protein for lean muscle, vitamin A for a healthy immune system and bone-building nutrients, like calcium and vitamin D. It’s an easy, delicious and affordable choice at mealtime.

4 Morning Meals to Make for a Delicious Meatless Monday Menu

Use Amaranth in porridge and serve with a glass of milk for a great protein-packed vegetarian breakfast.

Amaranth Porridge With Pears, Crunchy Pecans and Yogurt

Amaranth is an ancient grain, cultivated by the Aztecs, and is similar to rice or maize. Create this delicious porridge with pears and top with pecans and yogurt for a filling way to have 31 grams of protein when served with an 8-ounce glass of milk in the morning.

This breakfast bowl with black beans and eggs is packed with meatless protein.

Black Bean Breakfast Bowl

Take your burrito to a bowl the next level with a tasty twist on a Mexican-inspired breakfast. Black beans and rice mix with traditional Southwest spices before topping with eggs for 31 grams of protein when served with an 8-ounce glass of milk.

An omelet with cottage cheese and spinach paired with a glass of milk serves up 30 grams of protein.

Omelet with Herbed Cottage Cheese and Spinach
Add more protein to your two-egg omelet by folding in cottage cheese and spinach for a filling breakfast. Complete the garden fresh flavor with basil, chives and parsley and pair with an 8-ounce glass of milk for a filling breakfast.

Recipes and photos are created by Erin Alderson of Naturally Ella.

Ricotta cheese and Roma tomatoes on toast with milk for an easy breakfast.

Ricotta and Roma Tomato Toast
Top your toast with Roma tomatoes and homemade ricotta cheese for way to bring a classic Italian dish to your breakfast plate, and serve with an 8-ounce glass of milk. 

To learn more about the benefits of milk, check out milklife.com/nutrition.