Almond milk yogurt has a higher overall nutritional value than dairy-based milk
In a nutritional comparison of plant-based and dairy-based yogurts, almond milk yogurt came out on top, according to a study conducted by a food science student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
“Overall, plant-based yogurts contain less total sugar, less sodium, and more fiber than dairy products, but they contain less protein, calcium, and potassium than dairy yogurts,” he says. lead author Astrid D’Andrea, a senior graduate whose paper was published May 25. in a special issue of the journal Nutrition Frontiers titled “Food of the Future: Alternatives to Meat and Dairy”.
“But when you look at the overall nutrient density, comparing dairy yogurt to plant-based yogurt, with the nutrients we looked at, almond yogurt has a significantly higher nutrient density than dairy yogurt and all other plant-based yogurts.”
Working in the lab of lead author Alissa Nolden, sensory scientist and assistant professor of food science, D’Andrea became interested in comparing the nutritional values of plant-based and dairy-based yogurts, an area of research was missing. Driven by concerns about environmental sustainability and consuming less animal-based food products, the plant-based yogurt market is expected to explode from $1.6 billion in 2021 to $6.5 billion in 2030.
“Plant-based diets are growing in popularity, especially in American culture, but just because they’re plant-based doesn’t mean they’re more nutritious,” says D’Andrea, of Hazlet, NJ , who is heading to graduate school in food science at Penn State. “There must be specific research that answers this question.”
D’Andrea collected nutritional information for 612 yogurts, launched between 2016 and 2021, using the Mintel Global New Product Database, accessible through UMass Libraries. She used the Nutrient Rich Foods (NRF) Index, which assigns scores based on the nutrient density of foods. “This allowed us to compare the nutrient density of yogurts based on nutrients to encourage (protein, fiber, calcium, iron, potassium, vitamin D) and nutrients to limit (saturated fats, total sugars, sodium),” writes D ‘Andrea. in his paper.
The researchers chose the NRF model based on the nutritional benefits of dairy yogurt, which provides complete protein, which plant-based products cannot.
Of the 612 yogurts analyzed, 159 were whole dairy, 303 were low-fat and fat-free dairy, 61 were coconut, 44 were almond, 30 were cashew, and 15 were coconut. oats. The researchers used the NRF index to rank yogurts from highest to lowest nutrient density: almond, oats, low-fat and non-fat dairy, whole dairy, cashew, and coconut.
D’Andrea attributed the high scores of almond and oatmeal yogurts to their low levels of total sugar, sodium and saturated fat. She and Nolden say the study results can inform the food industry on ways to improve the formulation and nutritional composition of plant-based yogurts.
One option proposed by the researchers is to create a plant-dairy hybrid yogurt. This will add protein, vitamin B12 and calcium while minimizing total sugar, sodium and saturated fat.
“Switching from dairy to plant-based products is a big change,” says Nolden. “There are changes in the nutrient profile, and there is a change in the sensory profile, which may prevent consumers from trying it.”
In fact, a recent study in Nolden’s lab, led by former UMass Amherst Visiting Scholar Maija Greis, investigated consumer acceptance of plant- and dairy-based blended yogurt and found that people preferred blended yogurt to plant-based one.
“Mixing provides benefits,” says Nolden. “It provides complete protein, and the dairy part helps form the gelling structure in yogurt that we haven’t been able to replicate in a plant-based system so far.”
The UMass Amherst team says more research is warranted, based on their findings that suggest a way to maximize the nutritional and functional characteristics of yogurt.
“If we can mix plant-based and dairy-based yogurts, we can achieve a desirable sensory profile, a potentially better nutritional profile, and have less impact on the environment,” Nolden says.
Astrid E. D’Andrea et al, A Comparison of Nutrient Profile and Nutrient Density of Commercially Available Plant-Based and Dairy Yogurts in the United States, Nutrition Frontiers (2023). DOI: 10.3389/fnut.2023.1195045
Provided by University of Massachusetts Amherst
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