EAT SMART Some bacteria are good and some obviously are bad. Make sure you get enough good ones in… MALATHI MOHAN

When have we not been used to curd in our diets? From north to south, we have been calling it as dahi, thayir, perugu, mosuru or more… In English, it is called curd because the acidic bacteria that is introduced, as a starter, curdles the milk. Yoghurt is quite a recent christening.

Healthy Discovery

Our diets have been quite balanced because of this healthy, or should I say, the healthiest preparation in Indian cuisine. In the West, similarities can be seen in sour cream, cultured milk and in yoghurt.The western countries have been gradually recognising and accepting that some traditions of the countries they call ‘developing’ had already developed way ahead of their knowledge in health and living styles. Now, they want to patent ‘their discoveries’, like the use of turmeric, the neem and the ‘probiotics’, to name a few. Why did our country hold tightly to our wonderful knowledge? That’s where we fell behind and we do not have sufficient documented research to prove that our beliefs are time-tested.Fermentation of foods with or without the addition of a ’starter’ organism has been in use for a very long time.

There is no record of when it was discovered, unlike the famous discovery of penicillin by Sir Alexander Fleming, who noticed the growth of a mould in a petri dish, which destroyed other harmful bacteria around it. Research in the area of probiotics and prebiotics has been recent, though it has been known that certain bacteria are ‘good’ for us and some are’bad’. Nothing new about this, is there? The whole world consists of good and bad in every sphere of life. Some clever people discovered that these good bacteria will produce curd and preserve milk for a longer period without refrigeration. Have you ever tried leaving milk aside from morning to night? It will curdle to a smooth, sticky consistency with a bad smell and a bitter taste, may be due to the ‘not so good’ bacteria… However, when warm milk is set to form curds, with a ’starter’, it curdles to a slightly sour flavour, due to the lactic acid forming bacteria. In both cases, bacteria are responsible, but the latter is a welcome development, while the former is not.

Benefits of Probiotics and prebiotics

Fortunately, in good health, the friendly bacteria are evidently more and ready to attack the unfriendly ones. This is called, immunity. In addition, we can introduce some more through our fermented curds to help the intestinal flora, as they are called. But recent research has identified the organisms which are not just friendly, but can be our ‘best friends’ and named them probiotics. yoghurtBeing living organisms, they also need suitable food to grow inside the body in the form of substances called prebiotics which our body does not or cannot use and are normally present in the large intestines. Since probiotics depend on prebiotics for growth and stimulation, both are symbiotic and are prescribed to be taken together, for therapeutics.

While, knowledge of the advantages of good bacteria is very old, the new thinking is based on isolating the organisms which are specifically helpful. Introducing them in differing health conditions can lead to specific cures and they can also be used to strengthen and improve good healthCurd is good for health, no doubt, but it comes along with saturated fats which are known to increase body weight, blood lipids and cholesterol. So, probiotics, which are available in many forms, can be considered for better results. Recently, companies have introduced probiotics in

curd, ice-cream, buttermilk and other drinks, as supplements. Have you read about ‘the nutritious scoop’? Ice-cream researchers at the University of Missouri, USA, have recognised the function of ice-creams as comfort foods which are consumed in plenty, and therefore they have added probiotics and fibre to improve ‘digestive health’! Thus, they have converted a comfort food to a functional food and hope consumers will not be upset with the tampering! Probiotics are also available in powder form, pills and capsules, for therapeutic doses. Looking for a common sense approach to probiotics and prebiotics is to consume curds and fruit regularly. Our elders were very wise, were they not?

  • Functions of probiotics
  • They boost the numbers of good bacteria in the gut…
  • Thereby reducing inflammation of the gut and…
  • Increase the immunity to infections and perhaps, allergies.

Conditions for which probiotics are usedyogurt

Mostly in gut related problems like constipation and diarrhoea, more so, for children

  •  Ulcerative colitis
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Allergies
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Weight loss in obesity
  • To support and increase the intestinal flora where antibiotics are used for treatment of any illness

Common probiotic organisms

  • Lacto bacillus
  • Acidophilus
  • Bifidobacterium Animalis
  • Saccharomyces Boulardi

Suitable prebiotics

Undigestible carbohydrates from unripe fruit, half cooked starches

  • FibreFructo-oligosaccharides
  • Fructans inulin
  • Fortified foods with the above mentioned products

Try these out

Recipes with probiotics and prebiotics in their natural settings.

Recipe 1: Vegetable lassi 

Beat together carrot 50g, cucumber 50g, capsicum 25g, green chilli and ginger, small pieces, mint, coriander and a few curry leaves, along with salt 1/4 tsp , sugar 1/2 tsp. Serve plain or chilled with a dash of lime.lassi

Recipe 2: Breakfast with Probiotics

Mixed cereals, oats, cornflakes and any other 1 tbsp each, Nuts, almonds 4, walnuts 1, Raisins a few, dates 2, Curd 3 tbsp, Fruit papaya, banana or any other 100g. Cook oats in water for 2 mins. Add all the other ingredients and serve with the curd on top, garnished with fruit.

The author is Dean Academy of Fitness Management, FitnessOne