Dairy + Plants: The Ultimate Power Couple

What better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than acknowledging my favorite power couple: plant foods and dairy! I love this power couple because each one contributes unique and important nutrients to the diet; they were made for each other! 

This couple goes great together because they complement one another: what one lacks, the other provides. Take, for instance, the nutrients of public health concern: nutrients identified in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans that some Americans are not eating enough of and that contribute to health concerns of chronic disease. These nutrients include fiber, potassium, calcium and vitamin D. Plant foods provide fiber, while dairy foods provide a powerful nutrient package that includes calcium, potassium and vitamin D. The Dietary Guidelines advise increasing consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and dairy foods to help close this nutrient gap. Additionally, dairy foods complement a plant-based diet by adding high-quality protein, important for flexitarians and vegetarians.  

Beyond the nourishment of this couple, plants and dairy play a vital role together in sustainability. Without plants, it would not be possible to feed the cows that produce amazingly nutritious dairy products. Due to their 4-chambered stomachs, cows can eat parts of plants that may otherwise be discarded, and would potentially end up in a landfill. For example, citrus pulp leftover from juice, cottonseed hulls that remain from making your t-shirt and even the grain that was used to distill your favorite beer. All these plants help to nourish dairy cows while in return, the cows help to keep the plants’ by-products out of landfills. And don’t forget plants need nutrients in the soil to grow; cow manure used to fertilize crop fields help to do just this!  

Last, but certainly not least, the plant and dairy power couple reign supreme as the star of many delicious dishes. Together, plant and dairy help to create popular bites like a fruit & yogurt parfait in the morning, grilled cheese and tomato soup on a chilly night or a pizza that can be dressed up for a special occasion.  Try this mushroom and arugula flatbread that would be perfect for a cozy dinner in on Valentine’s Day! Check out more great recipes for additional ways to feature the ultimate power couple at mealtime.  

Callie Yakubisin, RD 

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