Curd has been a part of the Indian cuisine since historic times. With its immense health benefits and flavourful tales, it has integrated with our meals so much so that, many of us savour a humble preparation like curd-rice more than any pompous recipe! Although Ayurved too regards curd to be highly loaded with many health benefits, it has cautioned the intake of curd for regular consumption and has laid down certain rules for the same. Let us go a bit deep and find out more about the same.
‘Dadhi’ is the Sanskrit word for curd, which is typically translated to ‘curd’ in English and ‘dhai’ or ‘dahi’ in local languages. The curd is a probiotic, lacto fermented dairy product obtained by curdling milk with a portion of curd itself. In the west, curd refers to the product obtained by curdling milk with an acidic agent such as lemon juice which is known as ‘Yoghurt’. Yoghurt and Curd is not the same thing, although they look and taste similar.
How to make curd?
Dahi or curd is made in the home by transferring a spoonful of the previous batch of curd to milk. It is then left to curdle at room temperature. Of course, room temperature in India may be pretty hot, but not always. At about pH 4.6, the coagulation of casein (a protein) makes the curd. The time taken to curdle depends upon the level of heat; within 6 hours in hot weather and up to 16 hours in winters.
The general properties of curd that it has sweet and sour tastes, sour after-taste, is demulcent, heavy for digestion, is hot by nature contrary to the belief of being cold, boosts the sperm count, is vitalising, cures catarrh, intermittent and chronic fever and dysentery, loss of appetite, urinary problems and general debility. The uppermost thick creamy layer of properly coagulated curd is called “Sara”. This is heavy to digest, aphrodisiac, alleviates vata, and decreases digestive power, increases Kapha and Shukra. The watery part settles over the curd is called “Mastu”. It is light in nature, increases strength, creates a desire for food, relishing, alleviates fatigue, thirst, Kapha and vata, cleanses the micro-channels and removes the accumulated faeces.
Types Of curd Based On Acidity: This is dependent upon the length of time the product is allowed to ferment.
- Sweet curd—greatly increases mucus, Kapha dosha and fat.
- Acidic or sour —causes acidity, deranges pitta
- Extremely acidic or sour—vitiates the blood, causing various blood and skin disorders.
Types Of curd based on the source of milk-
- Cow curd-it is demulcent, sweet and acrid, appetising and strengthening. It calms vata dosha. It is a good condiment, imparting relish to the meal. This is often the best choice for vata (unless you are allergic to cow dairy).
- Goat curd-This is a great choice for pitta and kapha, for it is lighter for digestion than cow curd and calms deranged pitta and kapha. It is also curative for vata provocation and wasting diseases. It kindles appetite and is helpful in haemorrhoids, breathlessness and cough.
- Buffalo curd-it is high in fat content and is, therefore, heavier for digestion. It is very unctuous, increases Kapha dosha, and reduces vata and pitta. It is to be consumed by individuals with good digestive capacity.
- Strained curd
Curd is thickened by straining through a cloth. This process—identical to that used to prepare Greek yoghurt, removes much of the lactose and whey, resulting in a product that contains less sugar and twice as much protein per ounce as unstrained curd. Strained curd calms down provoked vata and is demulcent and restorative. While it is great for pitta, it does tend to provoke kapha. Also, it is heavier for digestion.
- Non-Fat curd
The non-fat curd made from low or non-fat milk is dry, astringent, constipating in nature and increases vata. On the plus side, it gives taste to food, while being lighter than other types of curds.
The store-bought curd is cold, heavy, and difficult to digest and can cause the finer channels of the physiology to become clogged. Also, once the curd has been refrigerated, the quantity of friendly bacteria decreases and thus the health-producing benefits are less. Also, from the Ayurvedic perspective, it may contribute to weight gain due to the cold and heavy qualities it has.
Some points to consider-
- Curd should not be taken continuously for a long time. Over intake may lead to metabolic disorders like diabetes, skin disorders, hyperacidity, swelling and inflammatory pain and congestive breathing disorders. Curd should not be eaten at nights as it potentially leads to mucus development. Our digestive capacity is weaker at nights as compared to the day.
- It should not be boiled or heated either.
- It is ideal to mix it with honey / sugar /amla powder or any indicated medication directed by your doctor before consuming, rather than consuming directly as it is. Its properties get enhanced when mixed with cooked green gram or ghee or gooseberries. This reduces the sourness and thereby its side effects if any are mitigated.
- Curd should be used only when it is well formed or completely coagulated. Consumption of incompletely coagulated curd may flare up herpes outbreaks, psoriasis, bleeding in haemorrhoids, gastric imbalances etc. or may cause giddiness.
- It is also ideal to avoid curd in case of any inflammation or fever as it may worsen the condition. Other contraindications are gastric disorders, heamaturia, increase in body heat, skin disorders, diabetes, inflammatory disorders, swelling, wounds etc
- Curd is usually contraindicated in summer, autumn and spring seasons and its intake in winters and rainy seasons is beneficial, although its effects are modified by other conditions like the nature of the patient and disease condition etc.
- Certain food items should never be consumed with curd as they are incompatible foods so difficult to digest together and may produce allergic reactions e.g. milk, radish, melon, jamun, sour fruits etc. it should not be heated too.
So now we know that to gain maximum health benefits of curd, we should eat, completely coagulated curd at right time, in right quantity, and with right food combinations. In some conditions where curd is prohibited, buttermilk may be used sensibly. One who follows the principles regarding intake of curd would be benefitted by all its nutritive and therapeutic effects, without suffering from any imbalance!
- Sujal Torgal Patil
- CMO at TRAYA NATURAL HEALTH CENTRE