What is Kefir
Kefir is a yoghurt-like cultured milk drink with a natural sourish tang. It originated more than 1000 years ago in the Caucasus Mountains of Eastern Europe and is made by fermenting cow, goat or sheep milk with kefir “grains”.
A much more powerful version of yoghurt, kefir contains 35-50 strains of live probiotic bacteria and yeasts which are extremely beneficial for our gut health and immune system. As a comparison, yoghurt usually contains 1 to 4 strains.
Kefir, being made from milk, is also highly nutritious with various essential vitamins and minerals. It is easily digested as the bacteria and yeasts have partially broken down the milk protein and consumed most of the lactose. The enzymes produced by the kefir microbes also help the body to absorb more nutrients.
A cup of kefir contains 8 grams of protein and around 20% of the recommended daily allowance for calcium and phosphorus. It also contains plenty of Vitamin A, B, D, K (necessary for calcium absorption), potassium, magnesium and folic acid, as well as amino acids that help the body with healing and maintenance.
Unique to kefir is a gel-like polysaccharide called kefiran, which surrounds kefir grains with a slimy texture and makes kefir milk thick. Like other polysaccharides found in plants and fiber, kefiran has been shown to exhibit certain medicinal qualities.
Benefits of Kefir
Kefir’s unique set of powerful probiotics and nutrients provides many benefits to the human body.
Improves digestion and gut health - Regular consumption of kefir relieves digestive problems such as gastric, acid reflux and gas, and promotes bowel movement. It cleanses the intestines by replacing bad bacteria (usually caused by a diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates) with good bacteria and yeasts, which helps the body to reestablish a balanced ecosystem.
Aids weight loss - By rebalancing gut bacteria, kefir helps to eliminate unhealthy food cravings, and its high protein and nutrient value makes people feel satisfied and full longer.
Boosts immunity and fights infection - Kefir has antibacterial and antifungul properties, stemming from its probiotics and kefiran. These have been shown to inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria such as salmonella, and . infection in particular is common in Asians and causes ulcers and stomach cancer. Those with yeast (candida) infection also report that kefir is an effective cure.
Effective against Inflammatory Bowel Disease - An increasing number of people suffer from IBD and “leaky gut”, where the cells of the intestinal walls break down and allow toxins and food particles to pass into the bloodstream, creating a range of serious health problems. Kefir is one of the recommended probiotics to heal and rebalance the gut. In addition, the slimy kefiran in kefir acts as an extra layer of protection at the gut wall.
Fights allergies and asthma - Some studies have found that kefir has an effect on suppressing allergies and asthma, due to its strong anti-inflammatory properties.
Detoxification - Probiotics and fermented foods are believed to reduce toxins that may be cancer-causing. Although no human studies have been carried out to date, kefir has been shown to significantly reduce aflatoxins (a serious cancerous hazard produced by fungus on nuts) in a scientific study. Animal studies have shown a reduction in breast cancer cells after regular consumption of kefir in mice.