The list of traditional summer coolers will be incomplete without mentioning the various milk-based beverages that are consumed in different parts of the country.
Milk is a good source of protein and is the only natural source of the sugar lactose, a disaccharide made up of glucose and galactose. They are also very good sources of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, vitamins A, D, B2 and B12, but are poor sources of iron; copper and vitamin C. Milk and milk products also contain saturated fat and cholesterol.
Here are some of the popular milk-based summer beverages.
Thandai: A refreshing beverage from North India that is associated with the festival of Holi but is also a great energiser in the scorching summer. Thandai is prepared from milk, sugar, almonds, watermelon seeds, badishap, pepper, rose petals and saffron. These ingredients are of high nutritional value and have several benefits on health.
Falooda: This beverage is of Persian origin but has become popular throughout the country. It is prepared by mixing rose syrup, sweetened milk, vermicelli, sabja seeds (tupemirem) and served with a scoop of ice cream or kulfi. Falooda is a high calorie protein beverage that is meal by itself. The sabja seeds have cooling properties and are a rich source of soluble fibre.
Mango Fol: This is a delicious drink that is prepared using semi ripe mangoes and milk. To prepare mango fol take semi ripe mangoes, wash them well and boil them until soft. Remove the peel and squeeze the pulp from the seed by hand. Discard the seed and add cold milk and sugar to taste to the mango pulp mix well and serve ice cold. Mango fol is cooling and provides energy, protein, vitamin C and vitamin A. Since the beverage is made using mango pulp it also contains dietary fibre.
Fermented milk products such as curd are a part of diets in many states of India especially during summer. It is prepared by fermenting milk with bacterial cultures such as streptococcus thermophilus, lactobacillus bulgaricus, lactobacillus acidophillus and lactobacillus bifidus. Curd is easier to digest as compared to milk becasue the fermentation process converts milk protein into its predigested form and lactose into lactic acid. As compared to milk, curd contains higher amounts of B-complex vitamins and bio-available calcium, phosphorus and magnesium which help maintain bone health. The bacteria involved in the fermentation of milk into curd function as probiotics and have been shown to benefit digestive health by improving the balance of the intestinal microbiota. Popular curd- based summer coolers include lassi and chaas.
Lassi: This is a traditional beverage from Punjab. It is prepared by churning curd and water to a creamy consistency and may be served sweet or salty. In the sweet version, the lassi is sweetened with sugar and flavoured with cardamom or other spices. Sweet lassi can also be flavoured with fruit pulp or rose syrup. Salty lassi contains salt instead of sugar and is flavoured with roasted cumin powder or other spices.
Chaas: Also known asmor in Tamil Nadu, mooru in Kerala, and majige in Kannada and Telugu, chaas is a very popular salted curd-based drink that is consumed during or after a meal in many parts of India. Chaas is similar to lassi but contains more water, has a very thin consistency and is a refreshing beverage to combat fatigue and dehydration during summer. Chaas can be had plain salted or sweet. The salty version contains other ingredients such as roasted jeera, chopped coriander leaves, chopped ginger, crushed mint leaves, green chillies, chaat masala and black salt. These ingredients not only add flavour but add health benefits to this drink. Drinking chaas is believed to calm the stomach after a spicy meal as the spices and black salt all have carmative and digestive properties.
While most of chaas recipes do not contain sugar, piyush and ghol are exceptions. Piyush is a delicious summer cooler from Maharashtra and Gujarat. It is prepared from chaas, shrikhand, sugar and spices like nutmeg and saffron. Gondhoraj ghol is a refreshing beverage from West Bengal that is prepared by mixing curd, chilled water, sugar, black salt and the pulpy juice of the local gondhoraj lime.
(Writer is a consultant nutritionist with 20 years of experience, practising at Panaji and can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org)