Fermented milk products such as curd and yoghurt, kefir (a fermented dairy product from the Caucasian mountains) and koumiss (a traditional Central Asian fermented dairy product made from mare’s milk) have been an integral part of diets in many parts of the world since ancient times that have been recognised as health foods.
Curd and yoghurt are similar products yet they differ from each other on account of the bacterial strains that are used in their preparation. Yoghurt is prepared from very specific bacterial cultures, either Streptococcus thermophilus or Lactobacillus bulgaricus. Curd on the other hand may be made from these, as well as other bacterial cultures like Lactobacillus acidophillus and Lactobacillus bifidus. Lactobacillus acidophilus, is a species of gram-positive, rod-shaped bacteria that is found naturally in the gut of humans and animals. It is an anaerobic organism that produces lactic acid which reduces the pH which in turn has an inhibitory effect on other organisms especially candida.
From nutrition point of view, curd and yoghurt are easier to digest as compared to milk since the fermentation process converts the protein into its pre-digested form and lactose into lactic acid. Both contain higher amounts of B-complex vitamins like thiamine, riboflavin, folic acid and vitamin B-12 as compared to milk and contain bio-available calcium, phosphorus and magnesium, which are the three critical nutrients that are needed to build strong and healthy bones.
The bacteria that are used in the fermentation of curd and yoghurt function as probiotics in the body. Probiotics are foods that contain live microbial cultures that confer health benefits on the host by improving the intestinal microbial flora when administered in adequate amounts. Curd and yoghurt help restore the friendly intestinal bacteria that are destroyed by antibiotics and help relieve symptoms of antibiotic– induced diarrhoea. They also help reduce diarrhoea on account of radiotherapy, food poisoning and irritable bowel syndrome. Some research studies have shown that curd and yoghurt may help boost immunity, combat vaginal yeast infection and prevent cancer.
Curd and buttermilk form an integral part of the daily diet in many parts of India particularly in summer. Besides eating it plain along with sugar as a dessert after a meal, it is used in the preparation of kadhis, curd rice, dahivadaand raitas.
Here are some delicious recipes using curd that one can try out.
For a quick easy and nutritious breakfast on the move try this smoothie, blend together curd, banana or papaya or strawberries, flaxseed powder and honey. Top with muesli.
Instead of eating curd with sugar, try these delicious desserts; add a teaspoon of mixed fruit or strawberry jam to a bowl of curd or add chopped fruits and a little honey to curd for an unusual fruit salad.
This recipe is sure to be a favourite among children. In a mixer, blend together curd, any fruit pulp, sugar or honey to taste till smooth, pour into kulfi moulds or ice candy moulds and freeze for a delicious probiotic ice-cream.
(The writer is a consultant nutritionist with 19 years of experience, practicing at Panaji and can be contacted on email@example.com)