What Are the Benefits of Milk for Vegetarians?

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

Without meat in your diet, opting for milk and milk products is a great choice because it’s not only a good source of high-quality protein; it’s also the top source of calcium in our diets.

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

 

Here are four reasons why drinking milk is a good choice:

1. Complete Protein: 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 natural source of high-quality protein, meaning it provides the full mix of essential amino acids our body needs.  From muscles to hair, bones to teeth, the body needs protein to be healthy and strong.  

2. Calcium: Plant-based diet or not, calcium is another important nutrient you can get from milk. According to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report, Americans don’t receive enough calcium in their diets — so much so the committee named calcium as a nutrient of concern. And 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.

Plus, while many plant foods contain calcium, “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 meatless diners closer to the recommended amount.

3. Other Essential Nutrients: In addition, substituting milk with other 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 and vitamin B12.

4. Affordability: But one of the best reasons to drink milk is because it maximizes your food budget. For just about 25 cents a glass, milk offers more nutritional value than just about any other beverage you can buy. An 8 oz. glass of milk, including lowfat, fat free and organic, contains nine essential nutrients, including B vitamins for energy, protein for lean muscle, vitamin A for a healthy immune system and bone-building nutrients, including calcium and vitamin D. It’s an easy, delicious and affordable choice at mealtime.

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

Keep reading: Three Vegetarian-Friendly Breakfasts