Importance of Traditional Indian Dairy Products

Introduction, Origin and Importance

Traditional Indian dairy products or indigenous milk products can be defined as the milk products which are native to India and Indian sub continental countries like Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan and which were evolved over ages utilizing locally available fuel and coking ware which is the amalgam of culinary skills, age old wisdom and experience.

The vigorous efforts towards such accomplishment including concentration, coagulation, desiccation, fermentation and use of certain others ingredients resulted into an array of products which led to a vast arena of products and approximately 150 types of sweetmeats are available in our country. Over the millennia, these processes have largely remained unchanged, being in the hands of halwais, the traditional sweetmeat makers, who form the core of this cottage industry.

The traditional Indian dairy products and a great taxonomy of sweets are an integral part of vast Indian heritage. Depending upon various methods of processing, it possesses great social, cultural and economic importance. These products have been developed over a long period subjected to the amalgamation of culinary skills, age old wisdom and experience. It goes without saying that in India, no festival, marriage or any special occasion is complete without serving milk-based sweets. There is also a growing trend and interest in exporting traditional milk-based sweets. Traditional Indian dairy products provides a mean for preservation of precious milk solids for a longer duration in addition to the inclusion of value addition to milk and provides a substantial employment opportunity especially in rural areas, women farmer along with promising youth. It is estimated that about fifty percent of milk produced in India is converted into a variety of products such as khoa, chhana, paneer, dahi, ghee, shrikhandetc.It is having strong foothold not only in Indian market but also having a great export potential because of presence of Indian diaspora across the globe.

Nutritional and Health aspects

Due to high atmospheric temperature conditions prevailing in Indian subcontinent, the surplus milk gets converted into more stable products for conservation of its nutritional goodness which ultimately provides health benefits. The rich nutrient density of milk products which exhibits either inherently or developed in due course of preparation ruled through ages and persists to surprise the gourmet even today. While talking about its consumption pattern it is estimated that traditional products accounts for over 40% of all the dairy products consumed in our country. Although authentic statistical data is not available, but as per the market size and utilization pattern the consumption of Ghee, Chhana, Paneer,Curd and Khoais at widespread and it is estimated that the value of Khoa and Chhana based sweets if we packed together would be more than  Rs. 100,000 million which is double the value of milk handled by the organized dairy sector. More or less each of the dairy products possesses a brilliant nutrient profile in conjugation with health benefits, but  potential health and nutritional benefits of a few of them is attempted  here which is usually a base materials for the other products as well as having higher consumption pattern:

It is a heat desiccated indigenous dairy product known as khoya, mawa, khava,kava. It has been defined under the PFA as the product obtained by rapid drying milk of cow or buffalo or goat or sheep or milk solids or a combination thereof. The milk fat content shall not be less than 20 percent of the finished product and it may contain citric acid content not more than 0.1 percent by weight. For commercial trade three main types of khoa are recognized- Dhap, Pindi and Danedar, each type having preferred end uses.

Nutritional quality of khoa is almost as similar from the milk it is prepared except some heat sensitive nutrients which gets lost during preparation.To meet the minimum legal standards in khoa, the minimum fat content of 4.4% in cow’s milk and 5.5% in buffalo milk should be maintained.  Khoa is a rich source of calcium which helps in strengthening of bones and teeth. In addition to this it is quite helpful in osteoporosis. Abundance of riboflavin (Vitamin B1) in khoa helps to maintain healthy immune system, energy production and in maintenance of healthy hair and skin. Beyond this it is rich in vitamin D that helps to optimize calcium metabolism and vitamin K which helps blood to clot normally, preventing type 2 diabetes, highblood pressure and heart attack.


Paneeran important indigenous product which ruled over Indian kitchen obtained by heat acid coagulation of milk. It is used in culinary dishes/snacks and even consumed as such by sprinkling salt and seasoning. Perhaps the only protein rich dietary supplement in vegan diet is paneer. As per the Nutritive value of Indian Foods, National Institute of Nutrition declared that 100 gram of paneer yields 18 gram of protein. Paneer are packed with protein that exerts a wide range of health benefits. The high density of protein in paneer makes slow release of energy in the body leads to not cause a spike in one’s blood sugar levels. Being denser in protein it has been widely used for thegymnast as well as bodybuilder to maintain the muscular health. Because of its high satiety value, it can be used as a best alternative to combat the hunger pangs. Among micronutrients, it is as rich in calcium as of milk which again maintains the bone and teeth health. Though it is made from milk, but its final nutritional quality gets enhanced from which it is made up of and the only truss is that one can gain more calories from it. Being a wealthy source of calcium it can be included in diet for strengthening the bones and teeth to a certain extent. Asides being richer in protein and calcium it is richer in a fatty acid i.e. conjugate linoleic acid- a fatty acid that enhances the dissipation of fat from the body which in turns helps to lose the body weight.

As per Food Safety and Standards Regulation 2011, Chhana is a product obtained from cow or buffalo milk or combination thereof by precipitation with sour milk using lactic acid or citric acid as a coagulant. It should not contain more than 70% moisture, and its milk fat content should not be less than 50% on the dry matter basis. If skim milk is used,moisture content should not exceed 70% and  milk fat should not exceed 13%.The Solid curd obtained after filtration of coagulum is called chhana. It appears off white bears mildly acidic taste and spongy texture and used in preparation of  varieties of sweets like Rasogolla, Sandesh, Chamcham, rasmalai, Kheermohan,Chhanapodo, pantoa, Chhanamurki and others. It is a rich source of protein and even reported to reduce the cancer risks and as per Ayurveda, it prevents stomach upset. It is a packed source of minerals like calcium and met almost 25% of the total calcium requirements of body that in turns maintains the bones,teeth and check osteoporosis.


Among fat rich dairy products ghee occupies a prominent place in Indian dietary regime. Ghee bears impressive nutrition profile especially in terms of fat and it is believed that approximately two tablespoons of ghee contains about 72% of recommended saturated fat and 35% of recommended total fat. Among micronutrients it is rich source of vitamin A along with others fat soluble vitamins like D, E and K which are found in trace amounts in conjugation with minerals like folate, choline, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and selenium. Moreover it is suitable for the lactose and casein intolerant subject. Comprehensively it is great for bone building, digestion, weight loss and reducing body inflammation.  Being one of the ancient ayurvedic medicine it promotes physical and neural purification and has been used as an integral part in concoction of holy panchgavya and used as a multipurpose fat source topically to treat rashes, burns, dry skin and scalp.

 Ghee is a richest source of conjugated linoleic acids (CLA) and its importance does lies in the fact as it reduces cholesterol, high blood pressure, inflammation, body fat and tumors.The abundance of short chain fatty acids butyrate in ghee could be a potential candidate that is beneficial for controlling insulin levels in body and helps to keep diabetes at bay.

Presence of butyrate in ghee acts as a detoxifier helps in improving the colon health. As a result it may be helpful for those irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. The medium chain fatty acids in ghee helps in burning other fats in the body and it is believed to improved gallbladder function and jumpstart digestion which ultimately supports weight loss as a result. For efficient utilization of calcium, vitamin K2 is essential which is found in ghee in bountiful manner. Proper vitamin K2 levels supports proper growth and bone development, gives protection against tooth decay and calcification of the arteries as well as atherosclerosis. One of the precursors for the rise of many diseases like arthritis, Alzheimer’s and certain cancer types is Inflammation. Mechanism behind the decrease in body inflammation by ghee as it is creates alkaline system by lowering leukotriene secretion and prostaglandin in the body.

Curd (Dahi)

The role of fermented foods in human nutrition is well documented and virtue of its health benefits is known since human civilization. Under this category, Curd (dahi), being a bedrock for varieties of dahi based products have strong footholds in Indian market and rich consumer acceptance as a healthy food which can be consumed as such or can be used as a substrate for the products like lassi, chhach, shrikand, shrikhandwadi, raita, dahiwadaetc. It provides an array of nutrients in significant amounts making it an energy dense food.Among the essential amino acid high methionine content of curd executes health benefits by protecting the liver against becoming fat.The carbohydrate content of curd is lesser than to milk i.e. almost 2-3% of milk in the form of milk sugar or lactose which may attributed due to either it remains in the whey or used by starter bacteria as a substrate to produce organic acid in the form of lactic acid.

The fat content of classical curd is almost as same as from which it is prepared, which could be significantly varied depending on the technological intervention and it is possible to produce practically fat free curd having fat content as lower as 0.2%. Curd fats provide fatty acids to the human body especially mono-unsaturated fatty acids approximately 20-25% which are considered to be healthy as it does not oxidized. A very few water soluble vitamins are found in curd since some of them are destroyed during heating and some remains in whey. Although it is rich in calcium and phosphorus but not as similar to milk when it comes to supplying these essential mineral compounds to human body. The typical sour taste of curd credited to organic acids in particular lactic acid that stimulates the functioning of the digestive glands as well as the absorption of micro-minerals.

The health benefits of fermented dairy products are mainly due to virtue of culture involved in its production which enhances its bioavailability.The proposed health benefits of consumption of this fermented dairy products are alleviation of lactose intolerance that helps a lactose intolerant individuals better able to consume fermented dairy products, with fewer symptoms than the same amount of unfermented milk. Availability of viable lactic acid bacteria in the fermented dairy products protects the guts against invading pathogen and maintains the gut health. Anticarcinogenic potency of fermented milk products cannot be ruled out and scientific studies have shown that lactic acid bacteria exerts anticancerous effect either by prevention of initiation or by suppression of initiated cancer. Beyond this, the potential role of fermented milk products are in modulation of immune system, lowering of serum cholesterol, alleviation of constipation, antihypertensive and anti-allergenic activities along with the possible role in fat and weight loss. Consequently it can be elucidated as an undisputed king among the traditional dairy products.


The days are gone when the production of traditional Indian dairy products are limited to household for either immediate consumption or conversion of surplus milk production. With increases in technological advancement and sophistication, its production and manufacturing takes a defined shape and extends its arena from limited areas to a global market e.g. Canned rasogolla, modified atmosphere packaged burfi ,frozen paneer and others similar delicious dairy products. The therapeutic and worthwhile health benefits of its consumption is well established and to meet the demand of today’s health conscious consumer research are continued in its customized production either in terms of low fat paneer, low cholesterol ghee or many more, which opens the gateway for either the investment of dairy based business for our potent youth in terms for employment generation or to fulfill the nutrient need of our nutri-compromise society.

Rakesh Kumar Raman, Rajender Kumar, YogeshKhetra

Research Scholar ICAR-NDRI Karnal-132001 (Haryana)

Scientist Dairy Technology Division ICAR-NDRI Karnal-132001 (Haryana)

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