How to Get Milk’s Nutrients without Dairy - dummies

How to Get Milk’s Nutrients without Dairy

By Suzanne Havala Hobbs

Like most foods, cow’s milk is made up of a mix of nutrients. You need to get some of these nutrients from your diet whether you drink cow’s milk and eat other dairy products or you decide to go dairy-free and get them from other sources.


Riboflavin, which also is known as vitamin B2, is responsible for many functions in your body, chief among them helping enzymes initiate certain chemical reactions. Symptoms of a deficiency of riboflavin include a sore tongue, cracked and sore lips and corners of the mouth, and red, itchy eyes.

Dairy products are good sources of riboflavin, but many other sources are available, too. Meats (including organ meats) and eggs are a few examples, but you can opt for healthier choices as well.

Dairy-free sources of riboflavin that are healthiest for you overall include almonds, asparagus, bananas, beans, broccoli, figs, fortified soymilk and breakfast cereals, kale, lentils, mushrooms, peas, seeds, tahini, sweet potatoes, tempeh (a soy food), tofu, and wheat germ.

Vitamin B12

Like riboflavin, you need vitamin B12 for the proper functioning of enzymes that play critical roles in promoting normal metabolism. You need only a teeny-tiny amount of vitamin B12, but that teeny-tiny amount is vitally important. Deficiencies can cause a form of anemia and neuropathy (damage to the nerves in your hands, legs, feet, spinal cord, and brain).

Vitamin B12 is found only in animal products. If you don’t drink milk or eat dairy products, you can get vitamin B12 from meats, seafood or fish, and poultry. If you don’t eat any animal products at all, you can get vitamin B12 from fortified foods, such as vitamin B12–fortified soymilk, rice milk, and breakfast cereals. Or you can take a vitamin B12 supplement.

Assorted other vitamins and minderals

Cow’s milk also contains phosphorus, potassium, selenium, and other vitamins and minerals. All these elements have roles in maintaining your health. Fortunately, you have many ways to get what you need from foods. A variety of diet approaches can work, with or without cow’s milk and other dairy products.

The healthiest foods for humans include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads and cereals, beans and peas, and nuts and seeds. These foods contain the substantial amounts of dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, protein, complex carbohydrates, and fats that you need to be healthy. Including a wide variety of these foundation foods in your diet and getting enough calories to meet your energy needs are two ways you can help ensure you’ll get all the nutrition your body needs.