According to a study, almond milk yogurt is more nutritious than milk
In a nutritional comparison of plant-based and dairy yogurt, almond milk yogurt emerged as the most nutrient-dense option, according to a study led by Astrid D’Andrea, a food scientist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
The results were published in a special issue of Frontiers in Nutrition magazine.
The study used the Mintel Global New Products Database to analyze nutritional information for 612 yogurt products released between 2016 and 2021.
The data set included whole, low-fat, and non-fat dairy, and plant-based yogurts made from coconut, almond, cashew, and oats.
To measure the nutritional value of each yogurt, the research team used the Nutrient Rich Foods (NRF) Index, a rating system that ranks foods based on nutrient density.
The NRF Index accounts for the presence of “nutrients to promote” such as protein, fiber, calcium, iron, potassium and vitamin D, and “nutrients to limit” such as saturated fat, total sugars and sodium.
The researchers found that while plant-based yogurt typically has lower total sugars, less sodium, and more fiber than dairy yogurt, it is generally lower in protein, calcium, and potassium.
However, when looking at overall nutrient density, almond milk yogurt proved superior to both milk yogurt and all other plant-based alternatives.
The low levels of total sugar, sodium, and saturated fat were major contributors to the high levels found in almond and oat yogurt.
Based on the NRF Index, the yogurts were ranked from highest to lowest nutrient density: almond, oat, low-fat and non-fat dairy, full-fat dairy, cashew, and coconut.
Implications and future directions
The results of the study could serve as a guide for the food industry in its quest to improve the formulation and nutritional composition of plant-based yoghurt.
The researchers propose developing a hybrid yogurt — both plant- and dairy-based — that could increase protein, vitamin B12 and calcium levels while reducing total sugar, sodium and saturated fat levels.
A recent study by the same lab, led by guest researcher Maija Greis, found that consumers preferred a blended yogurt to a purely plant-based yogurt, further underscoring the potential of this approach.
Senior author Alissa Nolden, sensory scientist and assistant professor of food sciences, observed, “If we can mix plant-based yogurt and dairy yogurt, we can achieve a desirable sensory profile and potentially better nutritional profile and have less of an impact on the environment.”
The UMass Amherst team is calling for further research into the concept of blended yogurts based on their promising results.
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The study was published In limits in nutrition.
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