While everyone knows curd/dahi is good for you, what is a matter of great confusion is which variety you ought to choose: Probiotic, homemade or the slim version? This is one of those new age debates that demands an explanation, so we went straight to the experts.
Those who say: "Who cares-dahi is dahi”—are missing the point, which quite simply is this: there is more to differentiate each variety on the store shelves than just their fancy price tags.
Meet the good bacteria
All variants of curd or yoghurt contain gut-friendly lactobascillus bacteria that convert lactose into lactic acid. A probiotic curd could contain a variety of other beneficial bacteria in addition to these. Homemade curd may contain fewer numbers of the friendly bacteria, while probiotic curd may have higher numbers.
Also read: Bacteria in your tummy could be responsible for poor mental health
Probiotic vs Slim dahi vs homemade dahi: What's in a name
Plenty apparently. Traditionally, homemade curd is made by introducing the culture into boiled and cooled milk, and allowing the curd to set for a few hours. So why buy from a store what's easily made at home? One of the top reasons is convenience. With lifestyles getting more hectic by the minute, people may not have the time boil and cool milk, or even remember to set the dahi each day.
Where Homemade scores higher
You can control the type of milk (organic, A2, full cream or skimmed) to make curd or yoghurt with. Homemade curd is healthy, and scores high on fresh flavours, is more economical and yes, you’re reducing the use of single-use plastic by making fresh tubs of curd at home. And let us add that it is an exercise in mindfulness!
Also read: How to make greek yoghurt
Let’s list the pros for store-bought yoghurt
Dr. R. Hemalatha, Director, National Institution of Nutrition (NIN) points out: “Branded dahi is standardized, for texture, flavour and the culture that is used in it, whereas home-made curd is not standardized. However, the home-made curd can also confer immense health benefits. Regular consumption of curd can improve the immune system, manage hypertension and improve calcium levels. Some of our studies even show that it can help improve gut health as well as lipid profile and reduce the risk of hypertension."
The process followed in a commercial set up is standardized—and has a higher SNF (Solids Not Fat) content that is achieved through specific techniques thereby giving the curd a smoother, firmer texture and taste. The culture used in the commercial production of curd is the monoculture of a single cloned bacterium or it may be a cocktail of some specific bacteria. This ensures consistency of both texture and taste. At home, we usually use the culture from the previous day's dahi which can deteriorate if temperatures and timing is not maintained.
Having settled that, let’s look at your options for branded dahi—which popularly come in two main varieties, probiotic and slim.
Also read: Probiotics may not be healthy for everyone
Probiotic versus Slim
"Probiotics are live micro-organisms that provide health benefits when consumed in specific quantities. For any product to be called a probiotic, like the probiotic drink or milk or yogurt, the product must contain a specific strain of live bacteria in specific numbers that are resistant to gastric acid, bile and pancreatic juices—this product is standardised.
Slim Dahi on the other hand is a low-fat variant—an option peddled for weight watchers. "All varieties of dahi/yoghurt will have naturally occurring sugars present in milk, but some have way too much added sugars to boost the taste. This is particularly true of slim yoghurt. So leave it out. If you must, eat either pro-biotic or home-made but without extras like sugar, maple syrup, tinned fruit or nuts," says nutritionist Rati Singh from a Government Health Center in Pune.
The Verdict: Yes to homemade and Probiotic Dahi, No to slim Dahi
"Homemade dahi is still a good option especially for the common people who may not be able to afford branded stuff. It is cooling and a good digestive,” says Dr. SubbaRao M Gavaravarapu of NIN.
Also read: Dahi vada - sugar, spice and all things nice
What he would not use, he says, “is the ‘slim’ version for plenty of times the name is misleading. "Researchers in Spain who studied the benefits of full-fat variety vs low fat yoghurt in 8500 men and women over 7 years found that those who had a whole pot of curds/yoghurt a day were 19 per cent less likely to fall into the obese category than those who ate it less than twice a week. These benefits applied to only those who ate the full fat variety, probiotic or not. The benefits of low-fat yoghurt/curds may be cancelled out by it being more sugary than normal.
Closer home, nutritionist Rati Singh from a Government Health Center in Pune district says the choice would always be between Probiotic and homemade dahi; the slim version would not even be a choice. "To begin with, curd or yoghurt do not have a lot of fat. So why use a slim version at all? For children up to 18 years, Singh would go with good‘ol ghar ka dahi, "sans preservatives."
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