The origin of this fermented dairy food is not clear (although the name is Turkish). Curd or Dahi is a part of Indian meals throughout the country and is consumed as raitas, plain, lassie (buttermilk), smoothies, shrikhand, or mishti doi.
Milk is treated with bacteria (lactobacillus bulgaricus) to convert the sugar to lactic acid, which curdles the milk and acts as a preservative. Commercially, thickeners like starch, pectin, or agar may be added along with other acid producing strains of bacteria. Pasteurization kills the live bacteria, thereby limiting the benefits of this live food. Ishi Khosla, Nutritionist says when buying commercial yogurt, look for those that feature “live cultures” or “living yogurt cultures” on the label.
In terms of nutrients, yogurt resembles the milk from which it is prepared including the calcium content. The sugars (carbohydrate), proteins, and fats are broken into simple forms and yogurt is therefore called “predigested food” making it suitable even for infants. Ishi Khosla recommends yogurt to those individuals, who are intolerant to lactose (milk sugar). Individuals who are immuno-compromised like the elderly and those suffering from prolonged illness and on antibiotic therapy.
Ishi says poor diets and lifestyle, illness, or antibiotic therapy, does not allow optimal absorption of vitamins and minerals present in food but the good bacteria present in curd aids in better absorption of nutrients particularly calcium and B vitamins. Calcium is in fact best absorbed in an acidic medium along with phosphorus and vitamin D, which are provided in yogurt. Therefore, liberal consumption of yogurt in childhood can help prevent osteoporosis later in life.
Beneficial bacteria inhibit the growth of undesirable and disease causing micro flora (bacteria, fungi, and yeast) in the gut. They also aid in digestion and are used in the treatment of several gastro-intestinal conditions including bloating, flatulence, diarrhea, and irritable bowel syndrome.
According to a study, eating 250 ml. of live yogurt on a daily basis helped women in recovering from vaginal thrush caused by candida (yeast) infection. In addition, application of yogurt to the affected areas 2-3 times daily helped relieve itching and clear infections.
In addition, Yogurt contains (CLA) which stops the progression of free radicals (which damage healthy cells) and play a powerful protective role in disease prevention even in low doses. This may partly explain yogurt’s abilities to prevent cancer and heart disease.
Nutritionist Ishi recommends that for those people monitoring weight and wanting to loose weight yogurt should not be prepared from full fat milk, as it would increase the fat and calorie value. Indulgence in pre-sweetened yogurt or artificially sweetened varieties diminishes the benefits of CLA. It may be better to sweeten by adding natural sugars like honey or fresh fruits on your own as this helps in monitoring weight and increasing the nutrients.
Buttermilk and yogurt help relieve heat and are useful for sunburns both internally and externally. So take plenty of lassies to keep you cool during the hot summer months.
Yogurt can easily be called a bodybuilding, restorative, soothing, anti-fungal, anti-carcinogenic “probiotic” (supports the growth of good bacteria) food with special healing properties. At least a daily serving of 200- 300 ml. will ensure you get most of its benefits.