Indian Probiotics? Well, say the word ‘germs’ or ‘bacteria’ and people are likely to think ‘disease’. But scientific research has in recent years established that there are good bacteria, too, and that they are essential for the efficient functioning of our body. Known as probiotics, which means ‘for life’, these microorganisms are widely prevalent in our stomachs and aid in digestion, boost immunity and prevent countless conditions ranging from allergies to autism. Unfortunately these useful fellows are often destroyed because of illnesses, frequent intake of antibiotic drugs, alcohol consumption and even stress.
The good news is that we can replenish them by consuming foods with probiotics such as lactobacilli species and bifidobacteria. Experts say a healthy adult can consume food containing around two million gut-friendly organisms daily. But you don’t need to go for factory-made yoghurts and shakes that are being marketed aggressively and sold at steep rates. These traditional Indian foods will give you your bacteria-fix, naturally.
Enjoy a bowl of the good old dahi or drink chaas/ lassi with your meals. Prepared by mixing starter cultures containing strains of lactobacillus in milk, curd contains live active cultures that are extremely beneficial for one’s digestive system. But experts say it is best to stick to the homemade version and let it ferment for a full 24 hours so that majority of the lactose (milk sugar) is used up and the strength of the probiotic culture has been established. Commercial versions are often made using chemical agents and not fermented long enough.
Idlis and dosa
These South Indian staples are prepared by fermenting rice and urad daal, which makes them a rich source of live cultures of good bacteria. Plus, they are low in calories too.
This traditional Punjabi drink made with black carrots, mustard seeds, sea salt and water is left to ferment for up to a week leading to the growth of bacteria. But drink in moderation to avoid excess salt intake.
Most people avoid pickle considering it a big bad lump of oil and salt. But the process of making this tasty concoction — vegetables and fruits mixed with sugar, salt, herbs and oil are allowed to ferment under the sun – favours the growth of good bacteria. Store-bought pickles often lack the natural enzymes so relish the one your granny makes.
Learn the art of dhokla making from a Gujarati friend. The dish is made using a batter of fermented besan (gram flour), daal or rice. Plus, the recipes use curd which adds an additional shot of probiotics.
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I have read that heating may or may not kill probiotics. It is not known at which temperature various probiotics are destroyed. Also studies have shown that even if the probiotics are destroyed they can still retain the same benefits as the living probiotics. So dosa and idly are good sources of probiotics along with the others.
These kind of articles are valuable and very relevant today. There are elderly farmers in India who regularly drink moru (yoghurt without the fat) every day and are still active to this day. I am still young, but I would like to live healthily like many of the older generation. Some doctors say that one of the keys to good health and longevity is a healthy gut, which is why consuming foods rich in probiotics and prebiotics is very important. I think many of us are already doing this without knowing. I thank the author for writing this article and spreading awareness about this.
If dosa/tosai is high in probiotics, won’t the probiotics got killed when they cooked the dosa?
Dosa is not a rich source of probiotics. If you are looking for foods rich in probiotics you can go in for yogurt or fermented pickles. However, on exposure to heat, the micro organisms will get killed.
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