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Dietitian Joel Feren shares his expert opinion on dairy and non-dairy yoghurts and which best support a healthy diet. 

Moove over cows (pun intended), now there are many plant-based yoghurts available in the supermarket refrigerator, with new ones popping up regularly. Flavour, taste, texture and mouthfeel are all key purchasing factors.

Traditional dairy yoghurt is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, particularly calcium, and it’s packed with probiotics and protein. However, the nutritional values of other yoghurt varieties vary considerably. It’s vital to take note of these factors.

So, should you ditch your cow’s milk yoghurt for one made with plants? Let’s compare the options.

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Dairy yoghurt

Dairy foods like yoghurt are rich in vitamins A, B1, B12, calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc and phosphorous, and low GI carbohydrates. As for protein, a 200g tub of natural yoghurt provides 7g, while some Greek yoghurts contain almost double that.

The protein in yoghurt is mostly casein. However, it also includes a small amount of whey. Both casein and whey protein are valuable protein sources as they help the body absorb minerals and boost muscle growth.

So downing a tub of high-quality yoghurt makes it a gift for your insides and may help to keep at hunger bay.

Soy yoghurt

Soy milk has a similar nutritional profile to cow’s milk in that it’s a rich source of protein, B12 and riboflavin. Encouragingly, it contains less saturated fat than cow’s milk.

Making soy yoghurt involves adding several bacterial strains to soy milk, which causes fermentation. Soy yoghurt is suitable for people with lactose intolerance. Be sure to choose one with added calcium.

Almond yoghurt

Almond yoghurt is one of the newest plant-based varieties on the block. It was a logical next step given the boom in almond milk production. Almonds are rich in vitamin E and a good source of calcium and protein; however, almond milk only contains a small percentage of almonds – it’s mostly water.

So by extension, almond yoghurt made with almond milk and live cultures misses the mark in some vital nutritional areas: namely protein, calcium and vitamin B12 (unless fortified).

Oat yoghurt

The rise of oat milk has led to the production of oat yoghurt. Oats are rich in a soluble fibre called beta-glucan, which has been shown to reduce cholesterol. So oat yoghurt may be helpful for your heart.

However, it lacks protein like many of the other plant yoghurts (soy being the exception). So if you follow a plant-based diet and are mindful of your protein intake, you may want to find an oat yoghurt with added protein or choose a different option.

Coconut yoghurt, aka Coyo

All things coconut were the rage a few years back. This dietitian is happy to see the back of that craze! Yet, coyo has stood the test of time. It is made by adding live cultures to coconut milk.

Nutritionally, it stands out for all the wrong reasons because of its high saturated fat content. There has been some conjecture over the years, but new research has shown that saturated fat from coconut products does increase our LDL cholesterol. Coyo is also an inferior source of calcium, with few brands on the market fortifying their products with the bone-building nutrient.

While coyo might go nicely with curry, I wouldn’t be adding it to my brekkie bowl in the morning or including it as an afternoon snack.

So, should you replace your dairy yoghurt with one made from plants?

Well, the answer may be one based on tolerance, taste and allergies. But if you’re looking for a healthy yoghurt that delivers vital nutrients and gut-loving bugs, then dairy yoghurt wins the gold medal in the Yoghurt Olympics. After all, it’s legen-dairy!

Joel Feren, aka ‘The Nutrition Guy’, is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Accredited Nutritionist with a background in biomedical sciences.

Any products featured in this article are selected by our editors, who don’t play favourites. If you buy something, we may get a cut of the sale. Learn more.

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