Want yogurt but don't like the exploitation of dairy cows?

Researchers at the Universitat Politècnica de València have some good news. They have used  plant-based “milks” to create products fermented with probiotic bacteria from grains and nuts - an alternative to conventional yogurts. They say the products are ideal for people with allergies to cow milk, lactose or gluten intolerance.

From the laboratories at the Institute of Food Engineering for Development, the team has worked with almonds, oats and hazelnuts as raw material for these new products. Their in vitro studies show how some of the products developed have anti-inflammatory properties in intestine cells, which could alleviate allergic reactions caused by food, and increase the bio-availability of iron. The caseins of cow's milk as well as being on the list of allergens components hinder the absorption of iron.

Plant-based alternative to yogurt. Credit: Asociación RUVID

"The results we have obtained also show that the 'milks' studied are a good matrix for the growth and viability of probiotic bacteria for the lifetime of the product, especially after their intake," says Chelo González, a researcher at the Universitat Politècnica de València. "Overall, the project results contribute to increase knowledge about the nutritional and health properties of vegetable milks, in view of future industrial applications to develop innovative quality products suitable both for the general public and for specific groups."

About plant "milks"

The "milk" made from nuts and grains represent an alternative to animal and soy milk. It also has components of nutritional value for consumer groups with specific problems (lactose intolerance, allergic to cow's milk, vegetarian...) and the general population.

 They say these plant "milks" are characterized by a profile of healthy fatty acids and carbohydrates with low glycaemic index (suitable for diabetics). Moreover, they constitute an important source of vitamins B and E, antioxidant compounds (phytosterols and/or polyphenols) and dietary fiber. They are also rich in potassium and very low in sodium, so these drinks help maintain a healthy balance of electrolytes.

 The "milks" derived from nuts can be good for pregnant women because of its richness in folic acid and its good calcium/phosphorus ratio. "This last property, together with the absence of lactose, milk protein and gluten, are what make these drinks good substitutes for cow's milk," concludes Chelo González.

The Institute of Agrochemistry and Food Technology (IATA -CSIC) and the University College of Dublin (Ireland) also took part in the study.