Plant-based yogurt alternatives are increasing in market value, while dairy yogurt sales are stagnating or even declining. The plant-based yogurt alternatives market is currently dominated by products based on coconut or soy.
Coconut-based products especially are often low in protein and high in saturated fat, while soy products raise consumer concerns regarding genetically modified soybeans, and soy allergies are common.
Pulses are ideally suited as a base for plant-based yogurt alternatives due to their high protein content and beneficial amino acid composition.
This review provides an overview of pulse nutrients, pro-nutritional and anti-nutritional compounds, how their composition can be altered by fermentation, and the chemistry behind pulse protein coagulation by acid or salt denaturation.
An extensive market review on plant-based yogurt alternatives provides an overview of the current worldwide market situation. It shows that pulses are ideal base ingredients for yogurt alternatives due to their high protein content, amino acid composition, and gelling behavior when fermented with lactic acid bacteria. Additionally, fermentation can be used to reduce anti-nutrients such as α-galactosides and vicine or trypsin inhibitors, further increasing the nutritional value of pulse-based yogurt alternatives.
While not yet widely used in plant-based yogurt alternatives, pulses possess many traits that make them an excellent alternative to the currently predominant soy-, coconut-, and almond-based yogurt alternatives on the market.
Pulses are high in protein, and while low in sulfur-containing amino acids, due to their high lysine content, they are complementary to a diet rich in cereals and therefore lacking in this amino acid. Pulses are also rich in phenolic acids, polyphenols, saponins, and flavonoids, which can be beneficial due to their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancerogenic properties.
On the other hand, pulses also contain anti-nutritional factors such as lectins, trypsin inhibitors, and phytates, which can result in decreased intestinal nutrient uptake. Vicine and convicine, glycosides present in faba bean, can cause hemolytic anemia in susceptible individuals.
Some antinutritional factors, such as trypsin inhibitors, vicine, convicine, and α-galactosides, can be reduced or even almost eliminated by fermentation, while the level of beneficial compounds like isoflavones and antioxidants can be increased.
The effect of fermentation is strongly dependent on strains, substrate, and fermentation conditions, however. More research is needed to be able to influence pulse constituents in a controlled way by fermentation. In experimental set-ups as well as in commercially available plant-based yogurt alternatives, pulses have proven to be well-suited substrates for lactic acid fermentation with traditional yogurt cultures.
Current plant-based yogurts alternatives use a plethora of thickeners and stabilizers to attain satisfactory textures. More research into acid- and salt-induced gelling behavior of pulse proteins could result in “clean label” yogurt alternatives with promising market prospects.
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