As plant-based beverages continue to dominate the conversation and garner more shelf space, some consumers are beginning to believe that plant-based beverages are a solution to improving personal and global health. To counter this perception, it is important to shed light on the fact that drinks made from nuts, grains, or coconuts do not compare nutritionally to dairy milk.
A growing body of scientific evidence links dairy consumption to a wide range of health benefits. This also presents a great opportunity for the dairy community to spark a new dialogue about the value of dairy foods in supporting optimal health.
Dairy farm families and milk processors know that dairy milk provides a unique package of nutrients that is simply unmatched by plant-based beverages. It’s still important to recognize nutrients such as high-quality protein, vitamin D, and calcium found in milk.
At the same time, nutrition researchers and health leaders are discovering benefits well beyond the sum of individual nutrients, making dairy an integral part of healthy eating patterns. Dairy milk’s role as a functional health food continues to be uncovered through nutrition science, revealing milk’s unique biological properties that support growth and development of children, prevent chronic disease, and more.
The Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee links the consumption of milk and dairy foods at all ages to a wide range of health benefits. This includes well-studied associations like controlling blood pressure and improving bone health to newer associations like reducing the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Additionally, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourage dairy consumption as part of all three recommended healthy eating patterns, which are the Healthy U.S.-Style Eating Pattern, the Healthy Vegetarian Eating Pattern, and the Healthy Mediterranean-Style Eating Pattern. All three eating patterns emphasize consuming a variety of plant-based foods as well as dairy products to meet nutritional needs and reduce the risk for chronic disease.
However, many Americans still underconsume vegetables, fruits, and dairy. Instead, this same subgroup of Americans overconsume high-calorie, nutrient-poor foods that put them at risk for negative health outcomes. Reinforcing the critical role of milk and dairy foods in an overall healthy diet can empower Americans to make small changes that will create lifelong healthy eating habits.
The dairy community has a powerful story to tell.
Milk and dairy foods offer a unique package of nutrients that are different from all other beverages, helping consumers – especially families with young children – optimally grow and develop cognitively, which sets them up to thrive healthfully throughout their lifetime. By promoting dairy milk’s unique nutritional qualities, we ensure dairy foods are valued as a solution to optimal health and remain a recommended part of daily healthy food choices.