We live in a time, where people don’t look at us funny if we say we’re vegetarians. It’s been accepted as a valid diet, and a lot of people know the advantages of it.
The thing is that just like any diet, it has its weaknesses and strong points when it comes to nutrition and practicality. Due to the narrower food choices there are, we need to pay more attention to what we eat so we get all the necessary nutrition for our body, be it from a performance or health viewpoint.
That being said, vegetarians have a strong ally to help us. That is milk and other milk products, as they are rich with certain nutrients that compliment our diet so we don’t feel or get any shortcomings diet wise, despite not eating meat.
They are a quality source of protein
Be it children who are still growing, athletes, fitness fanatics, or senior citizens who are losing muscle mass at an increased speed (sarcopenia), every group needs to get the necessary amount of quality protein.
But why are they a quality source of protein you may be asking? That is because milk protein has all the essential amino acids our body needs. Amino acids are the building blocks for our body, as they’re needed for our organs, muscles, connective tissues, hair, nails, and even bones, as they represent 50% of their volume and 30% of the weight (1).
Let’s go back to amino acids. There are 22 of them and 9 of them are essential, which means the body can’t produce them itself, so we need to ingest them with food, or it can lead to a case of malnutrition and other health problems.
The issue at hand is, that if we only eat plant-based food, as it doesn’t have the whole range, so we always need to combine different sources. That is the case regardless if we talk about health, wellbeing or physical activity.
For strong bones
While some plant-based food does contain calcium, it also contains a lot of oxalates and phytates – chemicals that reduce the absorption of calcium.
Milk products on the other hand have a lot of biologically available calcium, which means our body can easily absorb and use it. That in turn makes it easier for us to reach our daily bodily needs for calcium.
On top of that, they also contain magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin D, and vitamin K, which are crucial for the proper absorption of calcium so we have healthy and strong bones.
They contain a lot of vitamins and minerals
Along with the aforementioned vitamins and minerals, milk products also contain the following.
- vitamin A
- vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9 in B12
- vitamin E
I would like to stress the fact that getting enough vitamin B12 is especially important for vegetarians. Plant-based does not contain it, while it’s an essential vitamin our body needs.
Shortage of vitamin B12 can lead from milder symptoms like less overall energy, anemia to serious medical problems like permanent nerve damage (2).
Vegetarians and milk – you get more for your money’s worth
If we take calorie for calorie, full-fat milk is the best thing we can drink, as it basically has a little of everything our body needs.
Be it vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, or quality protein, milk products have everything regardless of our lifestyle.
It’s like a one-stop-shop for everything.
Not all are the same – choose grass-fed
As consumers, we need to realize that not all milk and milk products are of the same quality. The nutrition content differs a lot based on how the cows were fed and raised.
This is clearly seen when it comes to fatty acids, many of which are biologically active and have a strong positive effect on our health. Cows that are grass-fed and properly raised have milk that is richer in Omega 3 fats and have as much as 5 times more CLA content (3, 4).
On top of it, their milk is also richer in vitamin K, which plays a crucial role in calcium metabolism and has a big effect on our cardiovascular system and our bones.
Some simple and healthy meals for vegetarians
I’m not going to tell you that we’re always in a hurry. Some of us to school, jobs, daycare,… we have many obligations, so our time is very precocious.
That is also one of the reasons I like some simple and fast recipes when we are tight on time, but know that we still need a nutritious yet and tasty meal.
Here are a couple of examples
- a shake with curd and a banana
- oats with milk and strawberry (you can replace strawberries with honey)
- rye bread with peanut butter and a glass of kefir
- fried cheese in an almond crust
If we have time, curiosity, and a love for cooking the number of recipes for vegetarians is practically limitless, till next time.
REFERENCE – Vegetarians and milk
- Heaney, R. P. (2007, March). Effects of protein on the calcium economy. In International Congress Series (Vol. 1297, pp. 191-197). Elsevier.
- Scalabrino, G. (2001). Subacute combined degeneration one century later. The neurotrophic action of cobalamin (vitamin B12) revisited. Journal of Neuropathology & Experimental Neurology, 60(2), 109-120.
- Lindmark Månsson, H. (2008). Fatty acids in bovine milk fat. Food & nutrition research, 52(1), 1821.
- Hebeisen, D. F., Hoeflin, F., Reusch, H. P., Junker, E., & Lauterburg, B. H. (1993). Increased concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids in milk and platelet rich plasma of grass-fed cows. International journal for vitamin and nutrition research. Internationale Zeitschrift fur Vitamin-und Ernahrungsforschung. Journal international de vitaminologie et de nutrition, 63(3), 229-233.