Want the most nutritious yogurt? The study says to choose plant-based milk over dairy products

AMHERST, Mass. — The verdict is that almond milk yogurt is the best yogurt you can eat. A new study comparing the nutrition of 612 plant-based and milk-based yogurts found that almond milk yogurt offers the greatest health benefits.

Plant-based yogurts have overall less total sugar, less sodium and more fiber than dairy products, but have less protein, calcium and potassium than dairy yogurts, says lead author Astrid D’Andrea, a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, in a media publication. But when you look at the overall nutrient density, comparing dairy yogurt versus plant yogurt, with the nutrients we looked at, almond yogurt has a significantly higher nutrient density than dairy yogurt and all other low-fat yogurts. plant based.

The rationale behind the study was more than a yogurt popularity contest. DAndrea cites the growing boom in plant-based yogurt, which has a market expected to grow from $1.6 billion in 2021 to $6.5 billion by 2030. The rise is a reflection of adults away from food products of animal origin and eat more environmentally friendly sustainable products. However, just because he has the word “plant” in his name doesn’t mean he’s the healthiest for you.

Plant-based diets are gaining popularity, especially in American culture, but just because they’re plant-based doesn’t mean they’re more nutritious, explains DAndrea, who is heading into graduate school of food science at Penn State. There must be specific research that answers this question.

Almond milk
Almond Milk (Photo by Austin Wilcox on Unsplash)

The research team collected nutritional information from 612 yogurts sold between 2016 and 2021. Of the 612 in the study, 159 were full-fat dairy products, 303 were low-fat or nonfat dairy products, 61 used coconut milk, 44 used almond milk, 30 used cashew milk and 15 were oat-based.

The study authors ranked all the yogurts using the Nutrient Rich Foods Index, which assigns scores based on the number of nutrients in each product. This allowed the researchers to compare the yogurts based on nutrients like protein, fiber, calcium, iron, potassium and vitamin D. They also compared how each product restricted things like sodium and saturated fat.

Almond and oatmeal yogurts have scored high on the charts due to their low levels of total sugar, sodium, and saturated fat. The findings could help the food industry develop new ways to improve the nutritional content of vegetable yoghurts. One option proposed by the researchers is to create a hybrid yogurt that is both plant- and dairy-based. Dairy yogurts are high in protein, and the combination might boost vitamin B12 and calcium, as well as limit sugar, sodium and saturated fat.

Switching from dairy to plant-based products is a big change, adds Alissa Nolden, a sensory scientist and assistant professor of food science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. There are changes in the nutritional profile and there is a change in the sensory profile, which may prevent consumers from trying it.

A separate study from the same lab actually found that people preferred two-in-one, plant-based, dairy-based yogurt over regular plant-based yogurt.

Blending offers benefits, Nolden explains. It provides a complete protein and the dairy part helps form the gelling structure within the yoghurt that we are as yet unable to replicate in a plant-based system.

Additionally, the researchers believe that a combination yogurt would create a delicious snack while saving the planet with less environmental impact.

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The study is published in the journal Frontiers of nutrition.

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