DOI: 10.3390/nu15153415 ISSN: 2072-6643

A Comprehensive Analysis of the Nutritional Composition of Plant-Based Drinks and Yogurt Alternatives in Europe

Elphee Medici, Winston J. Craig, Ian Rowland
  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

Concerns for human and planetary health have led to a shift towards healthier plant-based diets. Plant-based dairy alternatives (PBDA) have experienced exponential market growth due to their lower environmental impact compared to dairy products. However, questions have arisen regarding their suitability as dairy substitutes and their role in food-based dietary guidelines (FBDG). Our study aimed to analyse the nutritional profiles of leading PBDA across Europe and compare them with their dairy counterparts. We examined the nutritional profiles of 309 unflavoured PBDA representing the European market leaders, including 249 plant-based drinks (PBD) and 52 plant-based alternatives to yogurt (PBAY). PBD and PBAY, excluding coconut varieties, were low in saturated fat (<1 g per serving). Seventy percent of PBDA were unsweetened, and most had sugar levels comparable to dairy. Except for soya varieties, PBDA protein levels were lower than dairy. Organic PBDA lacked micronutrients due to legal restrictions on fortification. Among non-organic PBDA, 76% were fortified with calcium, 66% with vitamin D, and 60% with vitamin B12. Less than half were fortified with vitamin B2, and a few with iodine (11%) and vitamin A (6%). PBAY were less frequently fortified compared to PBD. PBDA displayed a favourable macronutrient profile despite lower protein levels, which would be compensated for by other protein-dense foods in a usual mixed diet. Enhancing fortification consistency with dairy-associated micronutrients would address concerns regarding PBDA’s integration into FBDG. Our analysis supports the inclusion of fortified PBDA in environmentally sustainable FBDG for healthy populations.

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