Ayurveda prescribes its consumption after every meal, our ancient scriptures describe it as one of the five sacred foods, and modern-day nutritional studies tell us that as a health food, it has no equal.
Nutra-peddlers put it into capsules, give it a fancy name called ‘probiotics’ – and make a lot of money selling those capsules back to us in India.
Dahi, or yoghurt, has been made in India since at least three thousand years.
Dahi is filled with billions of helpful bacteria, mainly Lactobacilli and Streptococci. These bacteria break down milk proteins and make it easier for the body to assimilate them. They also consume the lactose present in raw milk, allowing lactose-intolerant people (like me) to safely consume it. Dahi is rich in several vitamins and it also has calcium in a form that the body can absorb.
Ayurveda prescribes Dahi for diarrhoea, indigestion, acidity and other gastric ailments. And with good reason. The helpful bacteria in Dahi multiply rapidly in the small intestine and quickly outnumber any harmful bacteria present. They overwhelm a gastric infection through sheer volume of numbers.
Dahi being a natural product, cannot be patented. That’s why nutra-peddlers extract lactobacilli and other friendly bacteria from Dahi and develop products that they can patent.
In addition to its beneficial effects on the body’s digestive system, Dahi is good for weight loss, cholesterol, blood pressure and for preventing osteoporosis. It might be useful in preventing tooth decay in children, according to research done in Japan.
Dahi is an effective cooling agent after a spicy meal. Capsaicin is a key phtyochemical found in chillies. It causes intense inflammation and heat. Capsaicin is not soluble in water, so there’s no point drinking buckets of water if you bite into a chilli. But it binds readily to milk proteins in Dahi and can be removed harmlessly by the body. That is why it is a tradition to eat Dahi in some form after an Indian meal.
Several countries consume yoghurt, but only in India do we use it in so many different forms like raita, lassi, mishti dohi (sweet curds) and my favorite, shrikhand. And only in India, do we use Dahi as a cosmetic in home-made facepacks and as a hair conditioner.
Do you know, the dahi that you make every day at home is made from bacterial cultures that are hundreds of years old? In many homes across India, it is basically the same dahi that has been continuously used since decades.
Dahi making is an art as much as a science. Here are some tips from Yours Truly:
Use whole milk or toned milk. Skimmed milk is no good. Heat the milk to boiling point, turn down the flame, and simmer for ten minutes more. This will thicken the milk. Cool the milk to 450C (1130F). Add not more than one tablespoon of yesterday’s dahi. Stir briefly. Pour into a casserole. Cover casserole with a thick towel or scarf. Set for five hours. At five hours, gently open the casserole and check the dahi visually. If it appears firm, transfer the casserole carefully to the fridge, and use it the next day.
Important: Ensure that all vessels used are spotlessly clean and thoroughly rinsed until they are completely free from detergent. Otherwise, the bacteria do not grow properly.
So go ahead, Dahi jamaa lo.
Cheers … Srini.