Is dairy-free yogurt better than the real thing? here’s the scoop

Not too long ago, going dairy-free meant you were practically doomed to a life without yogurt. But thanks to the growing popularity of all things plant-based and improvements in manufacturing capabilities, those days are long gone. He wanders down the dairy aisle and you’ll find all kinds of creamy dairy-free yogurt alternatives made with everything from oatmeal to coconut to cashews. A boon for those who need to avoid or limit dairy products to prevent unwanted gastrointestinal symptoms like gas and bloating, or for others, like vegans, who follow dairy-free diets. Increasingly, brands are nailing down flavor and texture.

Plant-based yogurts are here to stay. But are these substitutes worthy of regular milk yogurt when it comes to nutrition and gut health? Here’s what to look out for when scouring the dairy aisle for the spoonable, cow-free grown club.

How do you make dairy-free yogurt?

Regular milk-based yogurt is made by heating milk, letting it cool, and then adding a culture of bacteria. Then it rests (ferments) until it thickens and is spicy.

In contrast, plant-based yogurts use non-dairy liquids such as soy, almond, oat, coconut or cashew as a base and then inoculate them with a culture of bacteria in the form of a probiotic powder. After which the mixture is left to ferment for 24 hours or more. While dairy yogurt relies on natural bacteria to give it a thick, creamy consistency, vegan yogurt needs the addition of a thickener such as pectin, tapioca starch, or agar to achieve this texture.

How does dairy-free yogurt compare nutritionally to regular yogurt?

Here’s how all the dairy alternatives compare:

1 container (227 g) regular plain low-fat yogurt contains:

  • Calories: 143
  • Protein: 12g
  • carbohydrates: 16g
  • Fat: 3.5g
  • Calcium: 415mg

    1 container (227g) of plain i’m yogurt contains about:

    • Calories: 150
    • Protein: 6g
    • carbohydrates: 22g
    • Fat: 4g
    • Calcium: 300mg

      1 container (150g) of plain almond yogurt contains about:

      • Calories: 140 calories
      • Protein: 4g
      • carbohydrates: 12g
      • Fat: 9 grams
      • Calcium: 50mg

        1 container (150g) of plain coconut milk yogurt contains about:

        • Calories: 110 calories
        • Protein: <1g
        • carbohydrates: 17g
        • Fat: 1 gram
        • Calcium: 260mg

          What to know about the specific nutrients in dairy-free yogurt

          Protein

          In general, dairy-based yogurt can be considered a good source of protein for athletes. “The protein in regular yogurt is beneficial because it’s highly absorbable and great for lean muscle mass synthesis and muscle recovery,” he says. Jennifer O’Donnell-Giles, MS, RD, CSSD, owner of Eat4Sport. She cautions that athletes should be aware that dairy-free yogurt alternatives are often much lower in protein, and if an athlete is using one of these products as a recovery option, this can be problematic. “There is not enough protein per serving in these dairy-free yogurts to help with optimal muscle recovery.”

          Protein levels will vary between brands and what was used to make the yogurt, but can be as little as 1 gram in a serving of coconut yogurt, and typically no more than 8 grams for some almond or almond options. soy. And if you’re giving up dairy-based greek yogurt, which will have at least 16 grams of protein in a ¾-cup serving, the protein split is even higher. (Note that some brands have developed higher protein Greek-style dairy-free yogurts that typically contain added protein from things like soy protein isolate).

          Nutritionists like O’Donnell-Giles often stress that it’s important for people who rely on dairy-free versions of products like yogurt and milk to make sure they get sufficient amounts of protein elsewhere in their diets or consume it with other foods. protein sources such as mixed in a shake with protein powder.

          probiotics

          Many of today’s cow-free yogurts also contain probiotics, beneficial bacteria that can support digestive and immune health. a random to study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that regular intake of probiotics could help endurance athletes avoid gastrointestinal problems during prolonged exercise. “However, it’s important to read the label and look for the words ‘live active cultures’ to make sure the product contains probiotics,” says O’Donnell-Giles. Bicycling.

          Also, we’re not yet sure if there are any health differences between the strains of bacteria found in regular yogurts compared to their non-dairy counterparts, as they are sometimes not the same.

          micronutrients

          Beyond protein and probiotics, traditional yogurt also contains a variety of important micronutrients including vitamin A, bone-supporting calcium, vitamin D and b12 vitamin, which according to the National Institutes of Health is required for the formation of red blood cells (the cells that carry oxygen to working muscles), a healthy nervous system, and the production of DNA. None of these nutrients will be naturally present in useful amounts in dairy-free yogurts, including almond, oatmeal, and cashew.

          Increasingly, though, brands are fortifying their products with one or more of these elements to better mimic what’s found in regular yogurt. Therefore, to make it easier for cyclists to meet their overall nutritional needs, it may be helpful to look for options that are fortified with forms of these nutrients, such as calcium citrate, vitamin D2, and vitamin B12. But if you’re sure you’re getting enough of these elsewhere in your diet, it’s not a must.

          Sugar

          Even plain cow’s milk yogurt will never be sugar-free as it contains some lactose, a naturally occurring sugar (about 8g to 10g per individual container for regular low-fat yogurt and 5g to 6g for Greek) . But one thing to keep in mind with dairy-free yogurt (and regular yogurt) is the amount of added sugar that goes into it. Dairy-free yogurt makers often try to make up for differences in taste by adding extra sugar, and it can be more difficult to find dairy-free plain (unsweetened) yogurt options. In the end, you may end up eating something high in sugar and low in protein.

          Look for a dairy-free yogurt option with less sugar if you plan to enjoy this food frequently. Ideally, no more than 10 grams of added sugar in a serving. The latest Nutrition Facts panel clearly tells you how much added sugar is in the product. That said, O’Donnell-Giles believes that after a long and/or high-intensity training session, this added sugar can be a good thing. “It can help replenish depleted reserves and help with recovery.”

          Lactose

          Some people who are lactose intolerant will choose non-dairy yogurt as it is easier on the stomach. However, it is worth noting that when milk-based yogurt is fermented, the bacteria essentially digest much of the lactose present in milk, which is why yogurt it will typically have lower levels of lactose than fluid milk and may be more tolerable for those who are sensitive to lactose.

          Other additives

          Almost all dairy-free yogurts on the market are made with one or more emulsifiers, substances like xanthan gum and locust bean gum that are added to help the product better mimic the texture of regular yogurt. While the Food and Drug Administration recognizes them as safe food ingredients, recent studies have found that high intake can alter our microbiome by altering which bacteria are most prolific in our digestive tract.

          We don’t know if there are health consequences as a result of this, which emulsifiers have the most impact, and how much a person needs to eat to have a noticeable effect on the microbiome. But if you’re eating these yogurts, as well as many other foods packaged with emulsifiers (they’re now ubiquitous in the processed food supply), it’s something to consider.

          Fat

          Fat levels can vary considerably among non-dairy yogurts, and those made with nuts, such as cashews, are often higher than those made from soy or oatmeal. But O’Donnell-Giles stresses that this comes primarily from heart-healthy unsaturated fats. Coconut milk yogurt is an outlier, as it can have even higher amounts of saturated fat than regular full-fat yogurt.

          “An athlete needs to be aware of this so they know how it fits into their overall balanced diet and any potential health considerations,” says O’Donnell-Giles. the American Heart Association warns against consuming too much saturated fat from coconut products, as it can have a detrimental impact on cholesterol levels and perhaps heart health.

          Fiber

          You’ll likely find a gram or two of dietary fiber in dairy-free yogurts, which is more than cow’s milk yogurt, but they shouldn’t be considered high-fiber foods in the same way as other plant-based foods, such as beans and grains Whole grain oats, soy and nuts will give you more fiber than yogurt made with them.

          The bottom line of dairy-free yogurt

          Dairy-free yogurt can certainly fit into a healthy eating pattern and offers a viable option for those who love yogurt but don’t love dairy. But it’s important to recognize their nutritional limitations and not consider them as nutrient-dense as other plant-based foods. A bowl of oatmeal yogurt, for example, is not nutritionally equivalent to a bowl of oatmeal.

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