If you think yogurt is healthy, wait till you hear about kefir. Kefir is still one of the lesser known foods in the western world as well as being among the most underrated superfoods out there. Well, it may not be that known today but that can could change fast. In this post, we shall look at the health benefits of kefir.
Just What Is Kefir?
Kefir, kephir, or kefir milk is a tart fermented milk that originated in the north Caucasus Mountains. It is made from kefir “grains” which are a yeast or fermentation starter. It similar to liquid yogurt but bubbly (which is why it is sometimes called the “raw food champagne” or natural soda).
Kefir is a superfood because of its nutrients-density and the array of benefits it provides, some of which we shall look at shortly.
Though traditionally is made from milk from cows, goats, or sheep, it can also be made from coconut, soy, or almond milk for those who want to avoid milk for any reason. All the same, milk kefir is friendly to the lactose intolerant as it aids in lactose digestion. In this post we shall talk about kefir made from cow milk (the most commonly available).
Why Is Kefir Better Than Yogurt?
Why is kefir better than yogurt if both are cultured milk products? There are several differences between the two that we shall briefly look at to answer this question.
Both kefir and yogurt are natural sources of beneficial bacteria, or probiotics. However, yogurt provides transient probiotics, which means that the beneficial bacteria do not colonize the digestive tract. Friendly bacteria from kefir do colonize the digestive tract. (See also: The Benefits of Having Good Bacteria in Your System.)
Kefir’s beneficial bacteria are naturally occurring. Today’s commercially manufactured yogurts are pasteurized, which means the bacteria are killed off – the good bacteria are then re-introduced into the yogurt. Kefir is never heated, so the good bacteria remain intact.
Also, kefir provides a far wider range of beneficial bacteria, plus probiotic yeast. The yeast is what makes kefir bubbly.
Though kefir and yogurt have basically the same flavor, kefir’s natural flavor is less acidic and therefore requires less sugar or fruit to flavor it.
Compared to yogurt, kefir might be a better option for some lactose-intolerant people, according to WebMD.
Health Benefits of Kefir
1. Boosts immune system: A number of studies have been conducted that show kefir’s ability to stimulate the immune system. Kefir is packed with health-promoting nutrients, which is why it is considered a superfood.
2. Promotes gut health: As previously mentioned, kefir provides beneficial bacteria (or intestinal flora) that promote a healthy digestive tract. It provides a wider range of probiotics than yogurt. And, unlike yogurt, the probiotics from kefir colonize your system, meaning they are more permanent.
3. Reduces inflammation: Kefir contains Lactobacillus kefiri, a probiotic found to be beneficial in the treatment of gut inflammatory disorders.
4. Promotes lean mass: Kefir provides high-quality protein and essential amino acids which may help in muscle maintenance and promote lean muscle mass. One cup of kefir provides 10 grams of protein. You can use kefir to mix your protein powders for a powerful protein drink. Kefir makes a great post-workout meal too.
5. Supports strong bones: Osteoporosis is a big concern for women. Although post-menopausal women are at greater risk of osteoporosis, it may strike at any age. Kefir is a good source of calcium and vitamin K2. Calcium supports bone strength and vitamin K regulates calcium in the body, keeping it in the body and out of the arteries.
6. May help fight cancer: Kefir contains butyric acid and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which may help reduce cancer risk while also supporting the immune system. One review study found that kefir may be associated with cancer prevention and it also has beneficial effects in cancer treatment.
7. May lower blood pressure: Regular consumption of kefir may help lower blood pressure. A study analyzing 543 participants and published in the journal Hypertension showed probiotics may help lower blood pressure. Kefir is one of the best natural sources of probiotics.
8. Reduces allergies and asthma symptoms: Kefir consumption may offer hope for allergy and asthma sufferers. One study showed that kefir consumption to offer potential therapeutic benefits for the treatment of allergic bronchial asthma.
9. Improves lactose intolerance: Many people out there can’t tolerate dairy products due to inability to digest lactose, a type of natural sugar found in milk. Not only is kefir friendly to the lactose intolerant, it may help improve lactose digestion by breaking down the sugar into lactic acid.
Kefir is available in most grocery stores. When buying kefir, it you may want to go for plain unflavored varieties, and add your own flavor to reduce sugar content (you can blend it with fruit, for example). However, if you can spare a few minutes… well, read the next paragraph.
Kefir can be easily made at home, which is great news as home-made may be better for you than the commercial varieties. All you need is milk (raw organic milk is best) and milk kefir grains. See video below for instructions.
Video: How to Make Milk Kefir
 Wikipedia: Kefir