Is Cutting Out Dairy Good For You?

  • Article
  • 2 min read June 11, 2018

Due to the many nutrients milk, cheese and yogurt offer, it’s not easy to replace these dairy products while maintaining a healthy dietary pattern. 

Every serving of milk contains 13 essential nutrients in a unique combination not naturally found in a comparable serving of many other foods.

In fact, milk is the No. 1 food source of 13 essential nutrients for children and six essential nutrients for adults. National dietary survey data (NHANES 2011-2014) shows on average that dairy foods (milk, cheese and yogurt) provide more than 50 percent of the calcium and vitamin D in the diets of Americans aged 2 and older, as well as approximately a quarter of the vitamin A, vitamin B12, phosphorus and riboflavin per day.

Why Dairy Products Are Good For You

In a modeling study, when researchers removed one serving of dairy foods from USDA food patterns for Americans 9 years or older, they found that calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin A and vitamin D dropped significantly. Replacing dairy foods with other food sources of calcium within a healthy diet pattern would require a significant change in most Americans’ eating habits, including having more than one serving of a fortified soy beverage or bony fish or more than two servings of leafy greens just to equal the calcium in one cup of milk. Calcium is only one of 13 essential nutrients in milk. As this infographic illustrates, three glasses of milk has the same amount of protein as four large eggs and the same amount of vitamin B12 as in one pound of pork chops.

Nutrient Content and Related Benefits

One reason people may may look to give up dairy is lactose intolerance. However, people with the condition can generally still enjoy certain dairy foods like lactose-free milk. The Dietary Guidelines recognizes that healthy eating patterns that include recommended amounts of dairy foods are associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes. Milk, cheese and yogurt also provide essential nutrients like protein and calcium, which is why it’s important to use simple strategies for keeping dairy foods in meal plans, such as trying lactose-free milk or eating yogurt with active cultures or hard cheeses.

Some people may not realize they can’t easily replace the nutrients in dairy foods with other foods while staying within calorie limits. But eating milk, yogurt or cheese every day as part of a healthy eating pattern has a substantial nutritional payoff and doesn’t have to be boring. Check here for some creative ways to add dairy pizzazz to everyday meals and here for 12 healthful reasons to include dairy in your routine.