Curd, a.k.a, dahi is a food well-loved by Indians. But its modern cousin, Yogurt is also gaining ground among the urban Indians. Milder in taste and less tangy, yoghurts are used extensively for making smoothies, adding to muesli, oats and such ‘modern’ food. Curd, on the other hand, is a traditional accompaniment to Indian food.
So, what are the differences between the two in terms of their nutrition, health benefits and manufacturing process? Let us explore in detail.
Making Yogurt And Curd
Yoghurt and curd are both fermented milk. The difference lies in the bacteria that aid the fermentation process. In both yoghurt and curd, the bacteria feed on the lactose and make lactic acid.
Curd can be made at home using milk and curd from the previous day to initiate fermentation. In the commercial setup, it is made using a starter culture of lactic acid bacteria. The bacteria used may be Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactococcus lactis, Lactococcus lactiscremoris etc. Curd made at home may have these bacteria in different quantities and may vary from batch to batch.
Yoghurt on the other hand is made by fermenting pasteurized milk with a starter culture comprising Streptococcus thermophillus and/or Lactobacillus bulgaricus. In a commercial setup, the process is monitored to ensure the mixture ferments till it reaches a pH level of 4.5.
Yoghurt and curd are both rich sources of calcium, protein and probiotics. 100 gm curd typically contains around 3 to 3.5 gm protein and 132 mg calcium. Read in-depth about the nutritional profile of curd here.
According to USDA, 100 gm yoghurt contains 10 gm protein and 111 mg of calcium. But the nutritional labelling of different brands say a completely different story. Epigamia’s unflavored yoghurt contains just 8.2gm protein, but 175 mg calcium per 100 gm. Mamie Yova, a supposedly French brand listed in Amazon India, but not Amazon France, has lower nutritional content as it is plain yoghurt, while Epigamia sells greek yoghurt. Mamie Yova has just 3.2gm protein and 105.5mg calcium. Flavoured yoghurt from Milky Mist too has a similar nutritional profile.
So, while on paper yoghurt appears to be more nutritional, when you look at the label, that is not the case.
While curd is plain, yoghurt is available in different flavours. Some of the typical flavours in which yoghurt is available are mango, strawberry, blueberry, vanilla, raspberry etc.
You might have noticed that many of the yoghurts in the market are labelled “Greek yoghurt”. It is made by straining yoghurt to remove whey and other liquids. If you find the label “Greek-styled yoghurt”, it would contain additives or thickeners to attain the desired consistency. As greek yoghurt requires more milk as the liquids are drained off, it is often more expensive than normal yoghurt. It is nutritionally denser than regular yoghurt too.
Health Benefits of Yoghurt and Curd
Yoghurt and curd are rich sources of healthy bacteria that improve gut health. To be classified as a probiotic, a portion of food should have at least 1 billion living organisms per serving and be resistant to the acids and enzymes secreted in the digestion process and be able to provide a beneficial effect on gut health. Researches suggest yoghurt passes these requirements. While many pieces of research show that homemade curd is rich in healthy bacteria, whether it is enough to be classified as a probiotic or not is debatable. But it is positive that both curd and yoghurt have a beneficial impact on gut health. Researches also suggest that curd improves immunity and stamina. They are also a rich source of calcium.
Though yoghurt is considered to have higher protein content, as we have seen earlier, this differs from brand to brand. Most Indian brands of yoghurt and curd have almost similar levels of protein.
Further, fermented food also has an anti-carcinogenic effect as a result of inhibitory action towards cancers of gastrointestinal tracts by degradation of procarcinogens and by stimulating the immune system.
The bacteria in yoghurt and curd convert lactose to lactic acid. But even so, it does contain lactose as the conversion is not complete. Certain experts are of the opinion that those with lactose intolerance can consume yoghurt and curd as it contains lactase enzyme which helps digest the lactose. However, whether it suits everyone is debatable depending on the extent of intolerance in individuals.
Which is Healthier?
Generally, yoghurt is considered healthier as it has higher levels of protein and healthy bacteria. However, as we have seen earlier, the level of protein varies from brand to brand. Most yoghurt brands in India have comparable levels of protein as curd. While homemade curd generally has a higher level of healthy bacteria, it is not conclusive as different homes adopt different methods of fermentation, which may affect its quality. So, it is rather inconclusive whether one is better than the other.