Understanding the Importance of Dairy in Diet for Health


Adopting healthy eating habits is, without a doubt, an important factor when it comes to achieving good health. But with so much nutrition information circulating these days, it can be hard to know what to make of it all. For example, there are many misperceptions about the role of dairy products in a healthy diet. To help give you a clearer perspective, let’s address three important questions.

By DFC - PLC, Nutrition Team
The unique role dairy products play in a healthy diet

Where are dairy products found in Canada’s new Food Guide? 

In 2019, Health Canada published a new version of its Food Guide. One of the main changes was the introduction of the “Protein Foods” category, which includes milk, cheese and yogurt along with other sources of protein. 

Recognizing the importance of dairy products in a healthy diet, this new version of the Food Guide unites all the foods that share the benefit of helping you to meet your daily protein needs. These Protein Foods, including dairy products, are considered nutritious foods that contribute to the foundation for healthy eating patterns. That’s why Health Canada recommends that we eat these foods daily.     

>> Do you know just how beneficial protein is for your health? Protein helps to promote optimal growth and development in children, to support muscle and bone health in adults, and to facilitate muscle recovery after a workout. Learn more about protein

Why are dairy products important in a healthy diet? 

Dairy products contain up to 15 essential nutrients that each play a role in supporting good health throughout life. And did you know that they’re also a source of six nutrients that many of us don’t consume enough of? In fact, according to the most recent national health survey  by Statistics Canada, many Canadians have insufficient dietary intakes of calcium, magnesium, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin D, and potassium! Enjoying three servings of dairy foods each day can help you meet your needs for these essential nutrients. 

Dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt, are naturally rich in calcium. Very few foods provide as much calcium and in a form that your body can absorb so well. Studies show that people who consume few or no dairy products generally have a diet that’s deficient in calcium. Dairy products are also one of the few foods that provide a unique combination of complete protein, calcium, as well as a whole host of bone-building nutrients that promote optimal growth and development in children.   

>> Did you know that you would have to eat eight cups of spinach, or more than two cups of broccoli to obtain the amount of calcium found in a single glass of milk? Learn more about the essential role of calcium. 

Does cow’s milk have nutritional advantages compared to  plant-based beverages?  

Although some plant-based beverages have added calcium, the calcium found naturally in cow’s milk is often better absorbed by our bodies. Studies also show that the calcium added to plant-based beverages tends to settle at the bottom of the container, even when you shake it vigorously. On the other hand, cow’s milk is a reliable source of calcium that’s highly bioavailable to our bodies. 

As well, the Canadian Paediatric Society and Dietitians of Canada advises parents that most plant-based beverages are low in protein and may not be able to support good health and optimal growth in young children. Cow’s milk, however, is an excellent source of complete protein—among the best, in fact! 

Looking for nourishing, delicious recipes made with dairy products?  

The possibilities are endless! There are all kinds of simple and nourishing recipes made with dairy products that are sure to please your whole family. Here are a few of our favourite recipes to keep you fueled all day long, from breakfast, to dinner, and dessert.  


  • You don’t have to head to the restaurant to start your day off right with a delicious vitamin-packed smoothie! Energize your whole family with smoothies 3 ways