Yoghurt is a traditionally animal-based food that is produced by the fermentation of milk. Since yoghurt is part of the dairy food group, it is regarded a staple in a healthy diet for meeting your protein and calcium needs. On the other hand, plant-based yoghurts don’t yet come with the nutritional benefits that dairy-based yoghurts have. That isn’t to say that it can’t be incorporated into a healthy diet – there are just a few extra considerations to make when finding healthier options.
Here are five things to look out for in plant-based yoghurts when doing your grocery shopping:
1) Yoghurt Base
Unlike traditional yoghurt, plant-based yoghurts can come in many different bases e.g. soy, oats, coconut, cashews, pea protein, and almonds. This can majorly dictate the nutritional content of the yoghurt. For example, coconut-based yoghurts are generally higher in saturated fats, whereas those made from soy or pea protein may be higher in protein. If you’re unsure about this or if it isn’t advertised at the front of the packet, look at the first few ingredients on the ingredients list.
To complement the above tip, comparing the protein between different products using the nutrition panel can help you make more informed decisions. Since protein can lead to greater satiety, focusing on this macronutrient is a good way to build a nourishing meal or snack. Ideally, you should aim for at least 5 grams of protein per serve in vegan yoghurts.
As all plant-based yoghurt bases aren’t a natural source of calcium, it’s important to look at the ingredients list to make sure that the product is fortified. Unfortunately, this is not a requirement for food manufacturers to do, but we know for sure that the vegan Chobani and Kingland range are! Take note that calcium can be found in many different forms like calcium chloride. It may be also listed on the nutrition panel, along with the quantity.
4) Added Sugar
Just like traditional yoghurts, some vegan yoghurts include added sugar to improve its taste. Try to find a brand of yoghurt that either has no added sugar or less than 4g of it. Remember that this ingredient can appear in many forms in the ingredient list like honey and sugar cane. A good tip to boost flavour is to add fruit to non-sweetened yoghurt.
Traditional yoghurt relies on natural fermentation to create its distinct tart taste and silky texture. The addition of probiotics to vegan yoghurt replicates this, but keep in mind that some may be produced in other ways. The ingredients list should contain a list of probiotic species (for example, L. acidophilus and Bifidobacterium), if not, a general statement like ‘live probiotic cultures’ or ‘yoghurt cultures’.
Although dairy-based and plant-based yoghurts may have contrasting sensory (taste and texture) and nutritional properties, any type of yoghurt can be included in the context of a healthy diet. These five tips can be applied to any type of yoghurt, to identify healthier options in the supermarket!