6 March 2018Dairy Free Yogurt Alternatives
Eating yogurt has been shown to promote gut health, enhance immune function and reduce the incidence of diarrhea, thanks to the contribution of probiotics or healthy bacteria. Yogurt's notable macro and micronutrients are protein, calcium and in some cases dietary fiber. I enjoy it regularly for those reasons and because it is highly transportable and filling. It's an easy choice when I need a snack or the making of a meal on the go!
Alternative yogurts are a great option for folks who have an allergy to dairy, lactose intolerance, or for individuals who avoid animal products for ethical and health reasons. Research suggests that following a plant based diet can aid in weight management, decrease risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes, reduce the chance of developing certain cancers and may even lengthen a person's lifespan! And yet, letting go of dairy means missing out on this long standing health food: yogurt. Over the past decade food manufacturers have filled in this gap by creating a variety of dairy free yogurt alternatives using cashew, flax, almond, coconut and soy as their base. Below you will find a comparison of the macro, micronutrient as well as the probiotic contents of 6 different popular plain dairy free yogurt alternatives. In an attempt to make things easier I've compared 1 cup portions of each yogurt, though packaging and portions for each brand may vary. Read on to learn how plant based yogurts stack up against one of the originals: low fat plain cow's milk yogurt.
How do the dairy free yogurt alternatives compare?
Generally speaking, plant based yogurts are higher in calories than cow's milk yogurt. This tends to be a result of the higher fat content as compared to cow's milk yogurts which are available in low fat, fat-free and whole milk varieties.
Calories: If you are trying to limit calories you may want to try the So Delicious® unsweetened coconut milk variety or stick with fat free plain cow's milk yogurt. As with any unsweetened yogurt, dairy or not, adding 1/2 cup of fresh berries and 1/2 oz (15g) of toasted nuts or seeds can make for a satisfying snack.
If you are looking to put on a few pounds, try Silk® almond milk yogurt alternatives. They contain 270 calories for 225g of yogurt.
Vitamin D: If you are looking to find a way to boost your vitamin D intake, the So Delicious® unsweetened coconut milk yogurt alternative stands out. It is fortified to provide 45% DV for vitamin D.
Calcium: Calcium content is highest in the So Delicious® unsweetened coconut milk variety (50% DV) while it is the lowest in the Forager® plain cashewgurt (2% DV).
Protein: If you are looking for a way to boost your protein intake, then your best bet would be the Ripple® variety. It boasts 18g of protein for 1 cup. The protein is derived from yellow peas. With the high protein content it has 45% more protein than the low fat plain cow's milk yogurt.
Omega-3 fats: If you are following a vegan diet and struggling to get omega 3 fatty acids, you might consider trying the Good Karma® brand. One serving of their yogurt alternative provides 800 mg of omega 3 fatty acids derived from flax.
See the table below for a detailed comparison of yogurt brands.
|Stonyfield Farms®, Organic, Low Fat Plain||Silk® Almond Milk Yogurt||Silk® Dairy Free Yogurt Alternative||Good Karma® Yogurt Alternative||Forager® Cashewgurt Plain Yogurt Alternative||So Delicious® Yogurt Alternative||Ripple® Original Greek Yogurt Alternative|
|Type||Unsweetened low fat yogurt made from cow's milk||Unsweetened made from almonds||Unsweetened made from soy||Unsweetened made from flax and pea protein||Unsweetened made from cashews||Unsweetened made with coconut milk||Unsweetened made with pea protein|
|Live & Active Cultures||S. Thermophilus, L. bulgaricus, L. acidophilus, Bifidus, L. paracasei, and L. rhamnosus||Live Active Cultures, not specified||Live Active Cultures, not specified||Contains 7 live active cultures. Label lists specifics||S.Thermophilus, L. Bulgaricus, L. Acidophilus, Bifidus, L. Lactis, L. Plantarum||Live Active Cultures, not specified||Bifidobacterium Bifidum, L. Acidophilus, L. Casei, L. Bulgaricus, L. Rhamnosus, S. Thermophilus.|
|Serving Size||1 cup(227g)||1 cup(225g)||1 cup(225g)||1 cup(225g)||1 cup(225g)||1 cup(225g)||1 cup(225g)|
|Total fat (g)||2||19.5||5||3.3||9||7||7.5|
|Saturated Fat (g)||1.5||2.25||0.5||0||1.5||7||0.75|
|Total Carbs (g)||14||15||13||17||12||10||15|
|Vitamin D (%DV)||0||30||35||20||N/A||45||0|
What provides the creamy texture in yogurt alternatives?
Manufacturers attempt to replicate the texture of cow's milk yogurt by adding a variety of thickening and gelling agents. The most common is pectin and locust bean gum though some add tapioca flour derived from cassava root or disodium phosphate. The good news is that all yogurts listed above (and most plant based yogurts in general) have been reformulated so they no longer contain carrageenan.
What about the live and active cultures?
Yogurt is generally made by adding bacteria to milk or a milk alternative, by which the bacteria ferment some of the carbohydrate. This process results in lactic acid production which provides the traditional tang we associate with yogurt. The strains of bacteria added during production will result in different bacteria or probiotic endpoints. Some of the manufacturers like Forager® and Good Karma® spell out which bacteria are found in their yogurts while Silk® and So Delicious® simply state on the ingredient list "live and active cultures." It is quite possible to find out more information by contacting the manufacturers to dive deeper into exactly what bacteria are used to make their yogurts.
Ultimately at the end of the day, we make decisions around what to eat based on taste, convenience and cost. If you don't have a food allergy to contend with and are looking for the most affordable yogurt option, the plain cow's milk variety tends to be the most affordable, sometimes even 50% less than the plant based yogurts. Take a look at the table above to see how the different yogurts compare and find one that works for your macronutrient and ingredient needs. Everyone has a different palate and different preferences when it comes to which flavors and textures they deem most enjoyable. So, the next time you are at the grocery store, try picking up some yogurt alternatives and giving them a try. There are a lot of different options to choose from!
Joanna Kriehn is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator with a passion for supporting individuals as they move towards a healthier lifestyle. You can learn more about Joanna by visiting her LinkedIn pageHave questions or comments about this post? Please feel free to comment on MyNetDiary's Community Forum or Facebook page – We would love to hear from you. And consider visiting our new Pinterest page!
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