14 July 2023

Dairy vs Non-Dairy Yogurts

Welcome back. Blogging about dairy vs plant-based, non-dairy yogurts while residing in “America’s Dairyland,” on a former dairy farm no less, is probably unwise. If dairy yogurts come out best, I may appear biased. If non-dairy yogurts come out best, I may have to move. Nevertheless, I’ll proceed.

A 1940 license plate from America’s Dairyland (from www.ebay.com/itm/255375422976).
Why? Because a recent study by researchers with the University of Massachusetts Amherst compared the nutrient density and nutritional profile of commercially available U.S. dairy and non-dairy yogurts.

Before I get carried away with terms, please note that I’ve defined nutrient density, nutritional profiling and one I’ve yet to mention, nutrient rich food index, below, under the P.S.

The dairy industry’s greenhouse gas emissions, use of water resources and required land area have a significant impact on the environment. In 2015, the global dairy industry was estimated to have emitted more than 1,700 million tons of CO2 equivalent, primarily from enteric fermentation and emissions from feed production and manure management. In the U.S., livestock is estimated to be directly responsible for 38% of methane emissions.

Approximately 6.3% of all dairy consumed in the U.S. is yogurt. Given that plant-based yogurt production emits fewer greenhouse gases and requires less land, environmental cognizance is a driver for adopting non-dairy yogurt. In 2021, consumers spent nearly five times more on dairy yogurt and yogurt drinks than on non-dairy yogurt products; however, the latter is growing.

Yogurt Comparison
The researchers collected nutritional information on 612 yogurts, launched between 2016 and 2021, using the Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD). GNPD monitors consumer packaged goods in 86 markets, 46 categories and 270 subcategories, with more than 40,000 food, drink, household, beauty, personal care and pet products added monthly.

The 612 yogurts included full-fat dairy (159), low- and nonfat dairy (303), coconut (61), almond (44), cashew (30) and oat (15).

To compare and rank the yogurts, the researchers used the Nutrient Rich Foods (NRF) Index 6.3, which assigns a positive sub-score based on six encouraging (qualifying) nutrients and a negative sub-score based on three limiting nutrients. The qualifying nutrients and their reference amounts are protein (50 g), fiber (28 g), calcium (1300 mg), iron (18 mg), potassium (4700 mg), and vitamin D (20 mcg). The limiting nutrients and their reference amounts are saturated fat (20 g), total sugar (50 g) and sodium (2300 mg).

Of the 612 yogurts, 275 were removed from the NRF model calculations because the products did not report one or more nutrient values required for the calculation. The remaining 337 yogurts were assigned an average score based on their nutrient density.

The highest to lowest nutrient density yogurts were: almond, oat, low- and nonfat dairy, full-fat dairy, cashew and coconut.

Comparison of NRF 6.3 scores by yogurt showing number of each yogurt base and scores as mean ± SD; superscript letters indicate significant differences among yogurts (Table 1 from www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2023.1195045/full).

Wrap Up
Don’t fret, dairy farmers. Although the nutrient density of almond and oat yogurts scored higher than that of dairy yogurts--likely because of less sugar and sodium and more fiber--dairy yogurts contain significantly more protein, calcium and potassium.

The researchers note that the study’s findings point to ways the food industry can improve plant-based yogurt nutrition, such as formulating a plant- and dairy-based hybrid yogurt.

Stay tuned it would seem. And thanks once again for stopping by.

Study of dairy vs. non-dairy (plant-based) yogurts in Frontiers in Nutrition journal: www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2023.1195045/full
Articles on study on EurekAlert! and Healthline websites:
Review of Nutrient Rich Foods Index in The American Jour of Clinical Nutrition: www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0002916523017847?via%3Dihub
Review of nutrient dense foods on HealthCentral website: www.healthcentral.com/nutrition/most-nutrient-dense-foods

Some Terms:
Nutrient density is simply the nutrient content of foods expressed per a reference amount. Typically that reference amount is 100?kilocalories, 100?grams or per serving. Most calculations rely on nutrient-to-calorie ratios.

Nutrient or nutritional profiling
refers to classifying or ranking foods based on their nutrient content per reference amount. Nutrient profiles can be based on qualifying nutrients (protein, fiber and a variety of vitamins and minerals); on disqualifying nutrients (typically fat, sugars and sodium), or both. Nutrient profiles are usually nutrient based, though some models consider food groups.)

Nutrient Rich Food Index (NRF) refers to a family of nutrient profiling models that balance nutrients to encourage against 3 nutrients to limit (saturated fats, sugars and sodium), using 100?kcal as the basis of calculation. Versions of the score exist that vary in the number of positive nutrients from 6 (NRF 6.3) to 15 (NRF 15.3). The NRF score can be applied to individual foods or to total diets.

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