Kefir is a fermented milk product with a sweet, yet tangy taste. It’s also being touted for its amazing health benefits.
As people become more aware of the role foods can play in their quest for better health, the challenge to find healthier alternatives to the traditional Western diet becomes important. One ancient food product that is being embraced for its apparent health benefits is kefir. Kefir is a fermented milk product that originates from the Caucasus Mountains in the former Soviet Union where it was used in ancient times to treat a variety of health related problems ranging from digestive disorders to infectious processes such as tuberculosis. Now, the Western world is starting to discover and embrace the apparent health benefits of kefir.
Kefir is made by adding a complex of yeast and bacteria to milk which are known as grains. These grains multiply as the milk undergoes fermentation which, in turn, creates more grains setting off a sort of self replicating process. It is this self replicating fermentation process that creates the uniquely tangy, carbonated taste of fresh kefir. Some describe its unique taste as similar to that of a fizzy yogurt. Although you can make your own rather kefir easily at home, it can be found at natural food markets such as Whole Foods and even in some supermarket chains.
Just what are the benefits of kefir that make it such a healthy food? Here are some reasons you may want to consider adding kefir to your diet:
It helps the digestion of lactose
With lactose intolerance being so common in this country, kefir can be a healthy alternative to traditional milk and yogurt. kefir contains a variety of bacteria that are thought to break down lactose in the stomach in people who are deficient in the natural lactase enzyme. This allows lactose deficient people to enjoy milk products again.
Promotes healthy immune function
A study published in the Journal of Immunobiology in 2006 showed that kefir has the potential to positively modulate immunity in mice making it more effective at destroying viruses and bacteria that enter the body as well as destroy tumor cells. Although these studies still need to be confirmed in humans, the potential for kefir to be helpful in maintaining a healthy immune system seems likely.
It’s rich in vitamins
Kefir is a rich source of vitamins including the B vitamins, vitamin K, as well as important minerals such as calcium and magnesium. These vitamins and minerals help to regulate almost every organ in the body, making the effects of kefir far reaching when it comes to nutrition.
It aids digestive function
Kefir is a rich source of healthy microorganisms known as probiotics which can help to maintain normal digestive function. It can be helpful in treating traveler’s diarrhea and can reduce gas formation in some people by promoting healthy digestive function. Kefir used during antibiotic treatment may help to cut down on the diarrhea sometimes associated with antibiotic use.
It may help to prevent breast cancer
A study published in the Journal of Medicinal Foods in 2007 showed that kefir extracts have components that specifically target and stop the growth of human breast cancer cells. For this reason, many women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer are adopting kefir as an alternative to milk.
The health benefits of kefir are still being discovered and explored, but it’s a simple and relatively inexpensive way to add vitamins, minerals, as health bacteria to your diet. Why not give this unique drink a try?