As children it seemed obvious that drinking a big glass of milk with dinner was a healthy decision. Today, with so many dairy free diets and cow’s milk alternatives available, many can’t help but wonder… is dairy-free the way to be?
Benefits of Dairy
Nutrients found in dairy products play an important role in our overall health. Dairy is rich in both calcium and vitamin D, both of which help in building strong and healthy bones. Furthermore, calcium, vitamin D and additionally, vitamin K (also found in dairy products) are believed to be beneficial for cardiovascular health. Evidence from a recent study indicates that individuals who regularly consume two or more servings of dairy per day may have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, or heart related death than those who do not consume dairy as part of their daily diet.
Despite the benefits, many are choosing to opt out of dairy in their daily diet. The decision to omit dairy can stem from a variety of reasons. Some may choose to go dairy-free due to digestive issues or lactose intolerance. Others may make the decision based on ethical or environmental motives. A desire to lose weight or reduce fat intake could also be the deciding factor in saying no to dairy.
Alternative Dairy Options
If you decide to forgo dairy, it is important to account for the nutrients you will be leaving on the table. Luckily, there are many alternatives to help you maintain a balanced diet. Green vegetables and plant foods are a great source of calcium and vitamin D. You can also find foods in the grocery store that are fortified with calcium, such as juice or cereal. In addition to greens, dark berries are a great source of vitamin K. Of course, many milk alternatives, such as oat, almond and coconut, are readily available to replace the irresistible creaminess milk-drinkers crave. If changing your diet is not realistic, you may talk to your doctor about vitamins or supplements that could help to ensure you are receiving adequate nutrients.
Making the Choice
The decision to go dairy-free is certainly not one size fits all. The good news is there are options available should this be the route you take. Whatever the reasoning, it is always best to consult a doctor about the choice to go dairy-free.