When you’re looking to cut back on dairy, finding the perfect yoghurt alternative can be complex and confusing to say the least. With more varieties than ever before filling the supermarket shelves in a wide array of flavours and each one offering something slightly different to the next. We spoke to Nutritional Therapist Eleanor Hoath for her top tips on what to look out for when shopping for a dairy-free yoghurt alternative.
Why choose dairy free yoghurt?
Yoghurt has been part of a human diet for thousands of years, and traditionally has always been created with cow’s milk. This provided a source of protein and essential vitamins, and minerals explains Eleanor. The dairy consumed by our predecessors was organically sourced and had an impressive nutritional profile, however, with the growing demands of dairy-farming due to Western overconsumption has massively impacted the quality of dairy across the world. Consumers are now growing concerned over the use of antibiotics, pesticides, and growth hormones as well as the welfare of animals and environmental concerns. This has seen a massive rise of people looking for a plant-based alternative to fermented yoghurts.
What are the options for dairy free yoghurts?
If you have a look at the options available in the supermarket you will see dairy-free yogurt alternatives made from coconut, almonds, soy, and oats – so it’s hard to know which is right for you. Eleanor talks us through the pros and cons of the most popular dairy alternatives on the market right now.
Coconut – Coconut milk is naturally creamy and rich – making it a fantastic base for a plant-based yoghurt alternative. The tropical taste will whisk your tastebuds to the beautiful beaches of Southeast Asia. With a luscious texture, it is often the thickest and most similar texture to traditional Greek style yoghurt that we know and love. With a sweet but subtle coconut flavour, a full fat coconut yog alternative can provide essential carbohydrates in relative amounts to create a balanced bowl with a low glycaemic load. Coconut milk is naturally high in saturated fats, including a specific type of fat also known as medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). Research has linked the use of MCTs with regulating hunger signals and keeping appetite and hormones regulated – big win!
Almond and Cashew – you guessed it, made using popular nuts such as almond or cashews, this style of yog creates a lighter, slightly nutty flavoured yoghurt alternative providing a wonderful source of Vitamin E, and an abundance of antioxidants that aid in the natural defence mechanisms of the body. This alternative is less thick and creamy compared to coconut yoghurt – due to the lower fat content.
Soy – back in the day, this was the one and only for the dairy-free community, but things have changed and there’s more variety and options available! As one of the most popular and widely available yog in the free-from aisle, soy-based yoghurt alternatives are made with soybeans or soy protein isolate, this gives it a creamy and mild flavour. However, many generic soy milks are highly processed with conflicting research into the potential large amounts of isoflavones in soy which can impact hormone regulation.
Oat – oat milk has massively grown in popularity here in the UK in recent years – so it’s no surprise that we’re seeing more oat products on the market, and yes that includes yoghurt alternatives! Oat milk is created by blending oats with water to create a naturally sweet and mild flavour. Nutritionally, oat milk is naturally higher in fibre content (it is oats after all) however they are also higher in carbohydrates, which can very quickly turn to sugar in the blood stream. Sadly, many oat-based yogs have added ‘flavourings, gums, oils, and salts’ to make them creamy and desirable therefore the ingredient list for oat yoghurts are normally more complex when compared to Cocos Organic’s ingredient profile.
Eleanor’s Top 3 Tips When Buying Dairy-Free Yogs
1) Keep it simple
The shorter the ingredient list – the better. Traditional ‘Greek Yoghurt’ will contain 1-3 ingredients, so you should expect the same from your dairy alternatives! If it has a long list of ingredients sadly it will most likely be nutritionally lacking, high in sugar and filled with synthetic ingredients and unfavourable fillers.
2) Look at the ‘added’ ingredients
When buying a yog alternative – always read the label to make sure it’s free from synthetic additives, sugars, and emulsifiers. Plenty of alternatives on the market are full of colourants, sugar, sweeteners, bulkers, and general unnecessary ingredients to mimic the consistency of regular yoghurt. However, these ingredients quite simply counteract the desired functional health benefits gained from eating a fermented product in the first place and can often hinder your health. Choosing an alternative made with pure coconut milk with a higher fat content means that the structure of the product is thicker without the need for seed oils, gums, and additional thickeners.
You should also look out for the inclusion of live cultures in your dairy alternatives. Yoghurt is traditionally good for your gut due to the live bacteria, so you want to make sure your alternative contains the same functional, gut loving benefits. The bacteria strains nourish the gut and have multiple health benefits that you can read about here. Choosing a dairy-free alternative with organic forms of these bacteria strains including Bifidobacterium will help support your skin, hair, and nails too!
3) Taste, Texture and Time
It goes without saying that when it comes to buying food-products it’s important to consider personal enjoyment…after all life is too short to not consume foods that you genuinely love the taste of! Cocos Organic yog alternatives are thick and creamy in texture meaning that they are fulfilling and satisfying whilst also mirroring the Greek yogurt texture we know and love, so you don’t need to compromise when it comes to making healthier, plant-based swaps. With a variety of flavours there are plenty of ways to incorporate Cocos Organic products into your daily routine too… If you’re looking for direct replacement for your morning unsweetened Greek Style yoghurt Cocos Organic’s Natural yoghurt is the perfect way to go! For the evening, if you’re craving something sweet then Vanilla is a great option, add a couple of squares of dark chocolate for some gut-friendly indulgence.
As a Nutritional Therapist, Eleanor loves using Cocos Organic products in her recipes. “The natural coconut yoghurt makes a perfect addition to my breakfast bowl or as a topping on my Gut Loving Kitchari. But, equally I love using the Vanilla option on top of a slice of warm Banana bread and the Natural Kefir as the base of my skinful smoothie!”. For more inspiration head to Eleanor Hoath’s website and social media pages.