Almond milk yogurt tops dairy in nutritional battle, study finds

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Who would have thought that your favorite almond milk yogurt might be healthier than the traditional dairy one?

A new study led by a food science major from the University of Massachusetts Amherst revealed that when it comes to overall nutritional value, almond milk yogurt takes the crown.

According to lead author Astrid D’Andrea, plant-based yogurts generally have less total sugar, less sodium, and more fiber than dairy. But, they lack in protein, calcium, and potassium compared to dairy yogurt.

However, considering overall nutrient density, almond yogurt is a clear winner over dairy yogurt and all other plant-based yogurts.

The Growing Plant-based Trend

These days, more people are opting for plant-based diets. Concerns about environmental sustainability and a desire to reduce consumption of animal-based food products have fueled the plant-based yogurt market.

The industry is projected to skyrocket from $1.6 billion in 2021 to an astonishing $6.5 billion by 2030.

But just because a food is plant-based doesn’t necessarily mean it’s more nutritious, points out D’Andrea. That’s why studies like this one are essential.

The Science Behind the Study

To conduct the research, D’Andrea collected nutritional information for 612 yogurts introduced between 2016 and 2021.

She used the Mintel Global New Products Database and the Nutrient Rich Foods (NRF) Index, which scores foods based on their nutrient density.

The NRF Index made it possible to compare the nutritional density of the yogurts.

It looked at beneficial nutrients like protein, fiber, calcium, iron, potassium, and vitamin D, and less desirable nutrients like saturated fat, total sugar, and sodium.

The yogurt types analyzed included full-fat dairy, low- and nonfat dairy, coconut, almond, cashew, and oat.

Based on the NRF Index, the yogurts were ranked from highest to lowest nutrient density. The winners, in order, were almond, oat, low- and nonfat dairy, full-fat dairy, cashew, and coconut.

The Future of Yogurt: A Plant-Dairy Hybrid?

The researchers attributed the high scores of almond and oat yogurts to their low levels of total sugar, sodium, and saturated fat.

The results of this study provide valuable insights for the food industry, suggesting ways to improve plant-based yogurt formulations.

An intriguing proposal from the research team is the creation of a hybrid yogurt, combining both plant and dairy elements.

This combo could provide complete protein, vitamin B12, and calcium while keeping sugar, sodium, and saturated fat low.

Alissa Nolden, a sensory scientist and assistant professor of food science, explains that making the switch from dairy to plant-based can be a big leap for consumers.

Both the nutritional and sensory profiles change significantly. But a blended yogurt might just be the solution. In a recent study, people preferred the taste of blended yogurt over pure plant-based versions.

Looking Forward

The UMass Amherst team calls for further research, given their findings hint at a way to maximize yogurt’s nutritional and functional characteristics.

Blending plant-based and dairy yogurts could achieve a desirable taste and an improved nutritional profile, while also reducing environmental impact, says Nolden.

In the end, the goal is to find the perfect balance – a yogurt that’s not only nutritious but also tasty and good for the planet. And that sounds like a win-win situation to us!

If you care about nutrition, please read studies about how Mediterranean diet could protect your brain health, and the best time to take vitamins to prevent heart disease.

For more information about health, please see recent studies about plant nutrients that could help reduce high blood pressure, and these antioxidants could help reduce dementia risk.

The study was published in Frontiers in Nutrition.

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