By Sue Bedford (MSc Nutritional Therapy)
Studies suggest that kefir can boost your immune system, aids in digestive problems, improves bone health and may even combat cancer, but what exactly is kefir? We turned to leading nutritionist Sue Bedford to tell us more.
So what exactly is kefir?
Kefir is a tangy fermented drink made from milk or sweetened water. The ‘tanginess’ is the result of bacteria and yeasts that use the sugars in the milk or water for fuel.
This probiotic food is made by culturing fresh milk with kefir ‘grains’- which are live colonies of yeasts and bacteria. The bacteria ferment the milk and create a range of different substances, including calcium, potassium, protein, vitamins, acetate, and lactate. Kefir makes a great addition to smoothies and soups, or you can use it as a base for salad dressing (add lemon juice and seasoning).
Where did Kefir originate?
It originated in the mountainous region between Asia and Europe, as well as Russia and Central Asia
What are the main types of Kefir?
Cow’s milk kefir
Goat’s milk kefir
Coconut water kefir
What are the health benefits of kefir?
Milk kefir has a number of health benefits particularly to the digestive system, which is linked closely to all other body systems including the endocrine, circulatory, immune and nervous system. There has been less research on the health benefits of water kefir which is fermented using a different culture of bacteria. Kefir helps to support the immune system as it contains a special fibre which also has anti-inflammatory properties. Consuming kefir on a regular basis may increase the activity of T helper cells in the immune system which help to initiate the immune response, along with increasing the body’s natural killer cells. The probiotics in the kefir help to control the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut and the mouth and at the same time, help maintain the balance of the healthy bacteria in the gut. Kefir in studies has been linked to helping lower LDL cholesterol (unhealthy cholesterol) and blood pressure. Kefir has also been found to help those who are lactose intolerant by breaking down lactose in milk. In lab studies it has also been seen to slow breast cancer cell growth.
Why not make your own kefir? To find out how visit here