Many on the paleo diet are totally cutting out dairy, but still want a yogurt fix. Luckily, there are now innovative yogurt alternatives, many of which are also appropriate for vegans and those with lactose intolerance. Read on to get the skinny on the best paleo-friendly yogurts out there today.
What are the health benefits of traditional yogurts?
Traditional dairy yogurts are reported to have numerous health benefits:
- High in protein
- Help with weight management
- May be good for bone health
- Can strengthen your immune system
- Rich in nutrients
- Could help to protect your heart
- Aids digestion (through probiotics)
Although the paleo community is divided on the pros and cons of dairy consumption, if you’re on a paleo diet, you may wish to look for a paleo yogurt substitute that can offer access to some of the same benefits. We’ve provided some options below.
A popular alternative to yogurt made with coconut milk, coconut yogurt contains the same active cultures you find in the dairy variety. Coconut yogurt is rich and creamy, which means that it’s a great choice for people who are looking for a type of yogurt that you can include in recipes. It also boasts many of the same vitamins and nutrients that are found in dairy-based yogurts. As you’d expect, coconut yogurt has a distinctive coconut flavor that might repel anyone who isn’t a fan of the fruit. It also has slightly less protein than dairy-based or soy yogurts.
A yogurt alternative that’s commonly enjoyed by vegans, soy yogurt is made from soy milk and resembles dairy yogurts both in flavor and consistency. You can buy this type of yogurt in many stores, but lots of people choose to make it at home—all you really need to do is substitute regular dairy milk for soy milk. Soy is a relatively common allergen, so it’s important to take this into consideration before you incorporate soy yogurt into your diet.
Arrowroot powder is a grain-free, gluten-free, paleo-friendly ingredient that has multiple health benefits, including high levels of iron, Vitamin B and potassium and the ability to stimulate your immune system. Made from a combination of ground arrowroot, probiotics, and a thick fruit puree, arrowroot yogurt is ideal for anybody looking for a paleo yogurt. It’s important to note, however, that this type of yogurt offers a very different gastronomic experience than dairy varieties. It may have a grittier texture and taste more of grain or fruit than dairy.
Like coconut yogurt, almond yogurt has less protein than dairy or soy yogurts. It’s suitable for people following paleo, gluten-free, or vegan diets, and tends to have a smooth, creamy texture, as well as a sweet flavor. Although it doesn’t have the same probiotics and active cultures as yogurt, it’s a healthy alternative that offers some of the benefits of almonds, from added nutrients, antioxidants, and vitamins to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Made from rice milk, rice yogurt has the same actives cultures as dairy yogurt, offering a mild flavor that should be suitable for all palates. Because it’s much thinner than dairy or soy yogurt, it’s probably not a good choice as a dairy or soy yogurt replacement in recipes, but if you’re looking for a simple alternative that can be eaten on its own, it’s a great paleo yogurt option.
Kefir—a fermented, cultured milk drink—is made from kefir grains and cow’s milk, although it can be made with coconut milk or sheep/goat milk if you prefer. Because it has a dairy element, kefir isn’t strictly a paleo yogurt, but many paleo experts support incorporating kefir into your diet because of the wide range of probiotic organisms, vitamins, and minerals that it provides. Offering positive effects for both bone and gut health, kefir is an excellent “not-quite-paleo” yogurt alternative.
While it doesn’t really taste like traditional dairy yogurt, chia pudding still contains many of the same probiotics and omega-3s that make it a healthy alternative option—because chia seeds. Plus, it’s easy to make at home. All you need to do is soak the seeds in water, juice, or non-dairy milk (almond, coconut, etc.), add spices, fruits, nut butters or other flavorings, refrigerate it overnight, and serve. Suitable for people following gluten-free or vegan diets, as well as paleo-friendly ones, chia pudding is a perfect option for breakfast or a snack between meals. See our blockbuster article on the benefits of chia seeds for more on this and how to use them.
So, are you tempted to take a break from traditional yogurt yet? If so, take a walk on the prehistoric side and try some of these paleo-friendly yogurts for yourself!