Yogurt: A superfood
Even though Yogurt has been an integral part of the Indian diet since ancient times and one of Ayurveda’s main healing foods, it has only recently gained acceptance outside cultures as a health/diet food, primarily due to its low fat, high protein and high calcium content.
Ayurveda labels foods based on the influence they have on the body like light, heavy, wet, dry, hot and cool. Ayurveda believes that it is this influence that determines the type, time and combination that should decide the foods to be avoided and consumed by people of different types (prakriti).
Yogurt, the only “fermented” food recognized as saatvic by ayurveda, has a sour taste that works great especially for Vata types but recommended in lower quantities for Pitta or Kapha diets.
Homemade v/s Store Yogurt:
Store bought Yogurt has qualities that are cold, thick, wet and sour (because it is fermented), and the effect on the body is congestive (clogging finer channels called shrotas), mucous forming and gaseous, often causing bloating, indigestion and weight gain when taken in excess or when combined poorly with other foods. Refrigerated yogurt has less friendly bacteria and lower health producing benefits.
Freshly made yogurt is light, easy to digest and improves nutrient assimilation, and is an effective remedy for indigestion and upset stomach.
Why does Ayurveda recommend Fresh Yogurt?
Ayurveda recommends preparing yogurt daily to be consumed the same day, avoiding the need to refrigerate and store.
Pasteurized or heated yogurt at home will not provide benefits as the bacteria is destroyed in the process. 1 cup of Fresh yogurt contains protein (13 gms), B complex, calcium (450 mgs), potassium, phosphorus, and folic acid.
While milk takes about 3 hours to digest, Fresh yogurt takes just an hour and is recommended to counter and replenish the healthy lactic flora destroyed by antibiotics.
How to Make Fresh Yogurt?
It is one of those foods that needs a part of itself to reproduce. To make a quart (approx 1 litre or 1.3 kg) of yogurt, you’ll need similar amount of organic whole milk and 2 tablespoons of yogurt. Heat milk till it foams up and then allow it to cool down to body temperature (100 degrees). In a sterilized glass jar or ceramic bowl mix the milk and the yogurt, also at room temperature. Cover it and keep in a warm place where there is no draft. If you set it in the evening by morning you will have your fresh yogurt ready.
Another method is to take a thermos and pour hot water into it for several minutes. Empty the water out and add the milk yogurt mix into the thermos. Cover and let stand overnight. In the morning you will have fresh yogurt. Save some of the yogurt from the new batch for your next batch.
Things to Avoid:
- According to ayurveda, yogurt should not be combined with milk or cream.
- Never use unboiled raw milk for making yogurt as the friendly bacteria carry strong earthy energy that clogs (referred to as “abishandi”) the body’s physical and vibrational channels. Heating inserts more “agni” or fiery digestive/transformational energy into the yogurt making it lighter and beneficial to the channels. Though heating milk kills its own bacteria, by the yogurt bacteria more than makes up for it. The ultimate goal is for the body not to make ama-free body.
- Yogurt mixed with fruit (except mango) or granola creates the most gas (indicator of bad food combination and indigestion) as the fruit, grains and dairy each require different digestive processing times and enzymes in the stomach.
- Do not have yogurt as a standalone meal. Yogurt is simply too heavy on the digestive system to stand alone so blend it with spices and digestive aides.
- Do not use yogurt as an oil/fats substitute in baking recipes.