The health benefits of kefir

To be honest, I hadn’t even heard of kefir until three years ago. But now I’ve discovered its wonderful health benefits, kefir has become a permanent staple in my fridge. It’s easy to make at home yourself and is now found widely in most major supermarkets and health foods stores.



For those who haven’t yet been acquainted with kefir, let me explain a bit more about this amazing food which is crammed full of friendly bacteria which our digestive systems love.


What is kefir?


Kefir is a fermented, mostly milk based liquid which is stored in the fridge. Many brands of kefir are fizzy which is due to the fermentation. This can be an acquired taste, however there are brands which are not fizzy or only mildly fizzy and more like a thick, natural yogurt.


How is kefir made?


Kefir is made from a type of yeast called ‘kefir grain’ which also contain healthy bacteria. These gluten free grains are combined with milk and stored in a warm place to ferment, in the same way as yogurt. After fermentation, the kefir grains can be strained and reused to make another batch.


A few different brands of kefir:





What if I’m lactose intolerant or dairy free?


Kefir can be made with water and non-dairy milks such as nut milk. However, the results are not usually as potent, with fewer bacteria present in the end product. Those who are lactose intolerant may even find they can tolerate drinking kefir since much of the lactose is broken down by the bacteria during the fermentation process.


Why is it healthy?


A healthy gut is the key to a healthy body and mind. One way of promoting gut health is by regularly topping up our good bacteria. Kefir is one of the most potent sources of healthy bacteria and has been shown to survive the harsh acidic environment of the gut to reach the lower intestines where they’re needed.


​Some health benefits include:

  • Bone support – due to its calcium, magnesium, vitamin D and vitamin K content

  • Satiety – due to its protein content

  • Energy – due to B2 and B12 vitamins

  • Weight loss – a greater variety of good gut microbes are associated with slimmer people

  • Improved digestion – probiotics help restore a healthy balance of good vs bad bacteria in the gut.

  • Lower Cholesterol – the probiotics in kefir may play a part in how the body processes bad cholesterol.

  • Blood sugar control – regular consumption of kefir may lower fasting blood sugar levels

  • H. Pylori reduction – A meta analysis of data found that including probiotics in a standard 14-day treatment improved the eradication rate by 5-15%

  • Urinary tract infections: Probiotics may help reduce infections by inhibiting bowel bacteria from migrating to the bladder.


How can you use it?


You can use kefir exactly the same as you would yogurt. So it can be mixed with fruit, added to smoothies, in dips and dressings or as a topping for desserts. It can also be drunk on its own. If you mix it with fruit, it should ideally be eaten as soon as possible as the fruit enzymes start breaking down the friendly bacteria.


Different brands


There are many commercial brands of kefir including my favourite bio-tiful dairy.com who produce a baked kefir (Riazhenka) which is mild, smooth. creamy and thick. Biona produce a non-fizzy kefir which is sold in a glass jar. Other popular brands include Rhythm coconut which is fizzy. It can also be fun making your own kefir from scratch by purchasing kefir grains. Most good health food stores sell these.


You can purchase kefir grains from Amazon - see below:





Here’s a great tutorial on making your own kefir plus lots more kefir help and information.


Here's a fantastic in depth article from Jen Reviews outlining 25 amazing health benefits of kefir plus 5 kefir based recipes.


Sources and further information:

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318353.php

http://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/milk-kefir/how-to-make-milk-kefir/

http://www.healthline.com/nutrition/9-health-benefits-of-kefir#section1

The Essential Guide to Vitamins, Minerals and Herbal Supplements; Dr. Sarah Brewer, p.258-259