By- Sweta Uchil-Purohit
We all remember Little Miss Muffet eating her curds and whey in the nursery rhyme, but how many of you eat curd every day? If you don’t, then you may want to start including it in your diet from today.
Yoghurt or ‘curd’as it is called in India is something that every desi is familiar with. Known as dahi in Hindi, Marathi, Punjabi and Gujarati, doi in Bengali, mosaru in Kannada, thayir in Tamil and Malayalam, it is something that is made at home and is a very simple procedure. Most of us have grown up seeing our grandmothers or mothers setting curd every night to be used the next day. This is done with a ‘starter’ or ‘culture’ which is usually a teaspoon of leftover curd, mixed in warm milk and left overnight for “the curd to set”. The time taken for the curd to set depends on the weather-the warmer the weather, the faster the curd sets but by next day the fresh curd is ready to use. Curd is eaten mostly with a meal. It can also be used in numerous ways like when added into salads to make a ‘raitha’, used as a base for gravy like ‘khadi’, as a tenderizer for meats in marinades or made into dips when added to chutney. Sweets like ‘mistidoi’, bappadoi’, ‘shrikand’ are also popular Indian sweets that are made from curds. Since it is such an integral part of desi khaana it’s not an uncommon sight to have a friend or neighbor who has just come back after a long holiday coming over to borrow some homemade dahi to use as a ‘starter’.
Though it’s an integral part of our diet, not many know the benefits of eating curds or yoghurt. The reason that the ‘starter’ helps in setting the curd is because it is full of a live bacteria called lactobacillus acidophilus or L.acidophilus which ferments milk into yoghurt. This is ‘helpful’ or ‘good’ bacteria and is also seen to be present inside our bodies mainly in the intestines. These kind of friendly bacteria are termed as ‘probiotics’ which is derived from the Greek word pro meaning ‘promoting’ and biotic meaning ‘life’. These bacteria present in dahi is thought to provide many health benefits when consumed on a regular basis. Here are some of health benefits of eating yoghurt:
- Helps maintain a healthy digestive system: The friendly bacteria help to maintain the balance of the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria that are already present in the digestive tract. That is why some doctors recommend eating yoghurt when antibiotics are prescribed to restore the good bacteria that are destroyed along with the ‘bad’ bacteria for which the antibiotic was prescribed. Researchers believe that yoghurt can also be helpful to prevent and treat diarrhea, constipation, peptic ulcers and other gut related disorders.
- Good source of calcium and protein: Since yoghurt is made from milk, it is an excellent source of calcium, protein, potassium, riboflavin, vitamin B12 and phosphorus. A cup of yogurt (100gms) made from skimmed milk can provide about 6gms of protein and 200mg of calcium whereas 100gms of low-fat milk provides 3.5gm of protein and 125mg of calcium. This is especially good for healthy and strong bones and also preventing bone diseases like osteoporosis in later ages. Even people who have mild lactose intolerance and cannot take milk can enjoy a cup of yogurt as the good bacteria in it help the body to break down the lactose in it.
- Helps boost the body’s immunity: Scientists believe that keeping the balance between the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria is what helps us stay healthy and yoghurt helps by restoring the level of the ‘good’ bacteria. This is especially true for senior citizens who tend to be more prone to diseases after a certain age. Eating yoghurt on a daily basis may help in fighting common diseases.
- Help in weight loss: When added to a balanced diet along with adequate physical exercise, low-fat yoghurt (with no sugar) can help in curbing the appetite. This is because of its higher protein and calcium content. Researchers feel that calcium rich foods may help in boosting the metabolism by increasing the breakdown of body fat. The high protein content makes you feel full and satisfied for a longer period and hence reduces the temptation to eat.
Besides these benefits, eating low fat plain yoghurt has also been shown in various studies to help prevent colds, high blood pressure, certain types of cancer, reducing inflammation, lower the ‘bad’ cholesterol and treating skin allergies like eczema. Many dermatologists believe that it is an excellent beauty aid when applied to the face as the lactic acid in it can act as a natural (yet mild) skin peel and can help in reducing wrinkles and blemishes over a period of time.
With all these benefits here is a word of caution for all those who are going to rush out to the grocery store to buy some yoghurt- the grocery store yoghurt may be the least healthy variety or in some cases may not be yoghurt at all! Surprised? Don’t be. Most of the yoghurt found commercially is loaded with sugar which only means more calories and fewer benefits. Your best bet would be to make it at home where you can be sure that it has the ‘live cultures’ and no other added flavours or ingredients. If you must buy yoghurt, then here are a couple of tips to keep in mind before buying:
- Choose ‘low-fat’ or ‘fat-free’ plain yoghurt instead of the many flavoured ones that are available.
- Check the ingredient list and look for one or more of the words ‘L-aciduphilus’; bifidus (bifidobacteria); L.casei or other ‘live and active cultures’.
- Avoid buying yoghurts that have thickeners like corn starch, gums or pectin in the ingredient list. This is added by manufacturers to give the product a creamy texture.
You can use the curd in various recipes like dips, smoothies, diluted with water and made into ‘chaas’ or eat it along with your meals. To get the benefits of the live cultures, avoid heating the dahi as that kills all the bacteria in it.
Dahi is also believed to cool the body and this is one of the reasons that it is consumed more often during the hot summer days. A simple yet delicious recipe is ‘Curd rice’ which is a staple in South India and is eaten at the end of a meal. Known as ‘mosaruanna’ in Kannada, ‘thayirsadam’ in Tamil it simply is rice mixed with curd, a little salt and eaten with some pickle or a vegetable.
|Recipe: Mosaruanna (Curd Rice)|
|Rice: 1 cup cooked (separate it and cool)|
|Curd (yoghurt): 1 cup|
|Oil: ½ tsp|
|Curry leaves: 2-3|
|Green chilli: ½ chopped (optional)|
|Mustard seeds: ½ tsp|
|Jeera (Cumin seed): ½ tsp|
|Urad dal- ½ tsp|
|Fresh Pomegranate or grapes: a handful (optional) for garnish|
|Cashew nut: 5-6no. or 1 tbsp peanuts|
|Coriander leaves: 1 tsbp chopped (for garnish)|
|Salt: to taste|
|Method: 1) Add the curd to the cooled rice and mix.|
|2) Heat the oil; add the mustard and cumin seeds. When it pops, add the curry leaves, the urad dal, cashew/ peanuts.|
|3) Add the chopped green chilli once the nuts start to brown. Fry for a few seconds then switch off the heat.|
|4) Add the tadka/ bagaarto the rice and curd, mix well. Add salt to taste and garnish with chopped coriander and pomegranate/grapes.|
|5) Serve with pickle.|
Sweta Uchil-Purohit is a dietitian with over 15 years of experience of handling diets mainly for ‘desi’s’, settled overseas and has recently moved to the Sydney area from the U.S.A.