What is Kefir?
Kefir is a cultured milk product that is similar in taste and texture to drinkable yogurt. This creamy, tangy drink is made by adding kefir grains to milk, which leads to fermentation. Kefir grains are protein-based clusters containing probiotic cultures, proteins, fermenting agents, and lactic acid. Kefir contains Lactobacillus Caucasus, Leuconostoc, Acetobacter species, and Streptococcus species, as well as some beneficial yeasts that aren’t found in yogurt. Fermentation, bacteria and yeasts might sound unappealing, but this is what makes Kefir good for you! We have both good and bad bacteria in our gut. Probiotics are friendly organisms that restore balance of the good and bad bacteria in the digestive system. Research suggests probiotics can help with diarrhea caused by antibiotics, as well as excezma and immunity. Some brands of kefir also contain prebiotics, like inulin, which feeds the probiotics and enhances their population in the gut.
How is kefir used?
Kefir comes in plain, non-fat, low-fat and a variety of flavors like strawberry, blueberry, pomegranate and vanilla. All varieties will offer up probiotics, which makes the product popular with individuals suffering from gastrointestinal problems like constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and gas. Even those who are lactose intolerant can usually tolerate kefir because the live cultures “predigest” the lactose. It has been suggested that probiotics may even aid in cancer risk reduction, and weight control- but evidence is less conclusive at this time. You may see probiotics sold in the form of supplement pills, but consuming them in the form of kefir will come along with a number of other nutrients too. The protein content (8-11g per 8oz) can help with satiety, and you’ll also get a good source of Vitamin A (10% DV), Vitamin D (25% DV), and Calcium (30% DV) – based on a 2000 calorie a day diet. Just be careful not to over do it on the flavors with added sugars. Kefir can be drank alone, blended with fruit in a smoothie, poured over cereal, or used instead of buttermilk in recipes, like soups and baked goods. Some companies even produce frozen kefir as a dessert. The frozen probiotics defrost in the warmth of your internal body temperature, causing them to become live again once in the gut.
Recipe: Try the recipe below for a healthy start to your morning!
- 8 oz. Plain 1% Kefir
- 1 Cup Fresh or Frozen fruit of choice, No sugar Added
- 1 tbsp flaxseed meal
- Blend all ingredients in a blender. Add a splash of milk of choice if a thinner texture is preferred.
Article written by Jamie Lee McIntyre RD, CD-N, Supermarket Dietitian and Nutrition Consultant