Yogurt with vegetables like carrot and sweet potato is trending worldwide, scoring quite over the sweet version with fruits.
For there is a growing realization about the ill effects of added sugar. Nutritionists say, in fact, that plain yogurt is better than the sweet variety any day.
Most Indian cuisines serve raita, which is yogurt mixed with grated or finely diced vegetable.
Traditionally, it is believed that having yogurt with meals aids in digestion and strengthens the gut. “There are many ways of introducing friendly bacteria into our gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The easiest and best way is by making yogurt a part of our daily diet,” says Reeti Kapoor, senior dietitian at Venkateshwar Hospital, Dwarka in Delhi.
Typically, 250gm of yogurt has 300mg of calcium, which is 30-40% of most people’s daily calcium needs, and 8-9g protein, about 10-15% of an average person’s daily protein needs. The protein from yogurt is complete and easy to digest. It is also a great source of B vitamins, phosphorus and potassium (it has almost as much potassium as a banana).
“In fact if you want to have your own stockpile of B vitamins without having to buy them, then simply eat yogurt every day. Yogurt sets up an efficient little factory in the intestinal tract and manufactures B vitamins for you,” explains Arti Bhalerao, dietitian, Columbia Asia Hospitals, Pune. She adds that even people who are lactose-intolerant (and cannot digest the primary carbohydrates in milk due to a deficiency of the enzyme lactase in the body), will be able to digest it easily, for it delivers lactic acid, which aids protein, calcium and iron assimilation in the gut. “To top it all, it is low in calories and a cup delivers less than 250 calories,” says Kapoor.
Even better, it is easy to sneak in more nutrients too by adding vegetables like lauki (bottle gourd) or beetroot to make a delicious raita. Similarly, sprouts tend to find greater acceptance when added to beaten yogurt. “Pairing with fruits is a great way to boost fruit intake too as pomegranate raita and pineapple raita are extremely popular as well. And while these help tame sweet cravings, and deliver antioxidants aplenty, they are better than the packaged sweet varieties available in the market as those tend to have a lot of sugar in them; often as much as 3-4 tbsp per serving,” adds Bhalerao.
It is also important to understand that while yogurt can be part of all healthy diets, it should be taken in moderation—like any other food. Three cups of dairy are recommended per day, and each cup of yogurt counts as one cup of dairy.
Chef Manish Mehrotra of Indian Accent, The Manor, Delhi, sums it up neatly. “Most vegetables and spices pair well with curd, so multiple combinations and interesting customizations are possible.”
Make it a part of every meal
Yogurt can be used in a snack, main course and dessert
Breakfast:Smoothies, hung curd sandwich, ‘dahi’ toast (spread yogurt between two bread slices and pan fry with mustard seeds and curry leaves), yogurt parfait, yogurt topped with granola or oats.
Lunch/dinner: Cucumber walnut ‘raita’, chicken marinade, add to soups, salad dressings.
Snack: Use yogurt-based dip with crackers, tacos, cucumber or carrot sticks.
Dessert: Frozen yogurt with fruits.
(All serve 2)
Pear and masala amla raita
70g pears, diced
1 tbsp masala ‘amla’, chopped
2 tsp salt
1 tsp crushed roasted cumin
In a bowl, whisk yogurt, salt and cumin. Add diced pears and half of the masala ‘amla’. Adjust the seasoning. Refrigerate. Serve cold garnished with the remaining ‘amla’.
Beetroot and goat cheese raita
N cup (50g) goat cheese
2 tsp salt
A pinch of cumin powder
1 tsp roasted cumin, crushed
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ‘chaat’ masala
Apply olive oil and salt to the beetroot. Wrap in aluminium foil and roast in a preheated oven for 20 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius. Let it cool and then peel and dice the beetroot. Marinate with olive oil, ‘chaat’ masala and lemon juice. In a bowl, mix yogurt, goat cheese, salt and cumin powder. Check for seasoning. Refrigerate. Serve cold, garnished with the beetroot.
Wild rice and cucumber raita
30g boiled wild rice/quinoa
20g seedless cucumber
2 tsp salt
A pinch of cumin powder
4 tbsp oil
1 tsp ‘urad dal’
1 tsp mustard seeds
A few curry leaves
Method Dice the cucumber. Heat oil in a pan. Temper with mustard seeds, ‘urad dal’ and curry leaves. Remove the tempering on to a kitchen towel to remove excess oil. In a bowl, mix yogurt, salt and cumin powder. Add the boiled wild rice and diced cucumber. Adjust the seasoning. Now add the tempering mix. Refrigerate and serve cold, garnished with fried curry leaves.
Recipes by Manish Mehrotra, chef, Indian Accent