VALENCIA, SpainNew products fermented with probiotic bacteria from grains and nutsknown as plant-based or vegetable milks"can be consumed as an alternative to conventional yogurts and can provide a solution specifically for people with allergies to cow's milk, lactose or gluten, according to a new study from the Polytechnic University of Valencia.
Researchers worked with almonds, oats and hazelnuts to create products that can be consumed as replacements to traditional yogurt derived from dairy. Researchers plan to study walnuts and chestnuts as raw materials for these products as well.
The in vitro studies showed how some of the developed products have anti-inflammatory properties in intestine cells, which could alleviate allergic reactions caused by food, and increase the bioavailability of iron. The caseins of cow's milk, as well as being on the list of allergens components, hinder the absorption of iron.
"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," said Chelo González, a researcher at the Polytechnic University of Valencia.
Further, the research offers new clues to improve commercial plant-based milks available in the market today, which have deficiencies related to low physical stability during storage.
"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," González said.
These plant milks contain healthy fatty acids and carbohydrates with low glycemic index (suitable for diabetics). Moreover, they are a good source of vitamins B and E, antioxidant compounds (phytosterols and/or polyphenols) and dietary fiber, which helps to improve digestive health. The milks are also rich in potassium and contain low amounts of sodium.
The milks derived from nuts are especially recommended for pregnant women because of their folic acid content and 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," González said.