by Dec 2016
is a thick drink made by fermenting milk with kefir grains composed of lactic acid bacteria, yeast and polysaccharides. The grains culture the milk, infusing it with healthy organisms. The result is a tangy, slightly effervescent drink similar to yogurt that supports a healthy gut and offers numerous other purported health benefits. Kefir is a fermented drink which is made by culturing kefir grains in milk, sugar water or juice. Milk-based kefir is frequently sold in supermarkets and health food stores on the yogurt aisle. Water kefir, when made at home, results in a delicious carbonated beverage. Both milk and water kefirs contain beneficial bacteria which promote general health and well being. Kefir grains can be purchased online and are often given away, as they multiply and you may soon have extra grains.
One cup of kefir is a source of protein, with 8 to 11 g per cup. Kefir also provides 10 percent of the recommended daily value for vitamin A and 25 percent of the value for vitamin D. Kefir is also a source of calcium, with 30 percent of the daily value per cup, based on a 2,000-calorie diet.
Kefir contains certain healthy bacteria that is not available in yogurt, including Lactobacillus Caucasus, Leuconostoc, Acetobacter species, Streptococcus species, Saccharomyces kefir and Torula kefir. These beneficial microorganisms may help support digestive health and prevent the growth of harmful bacteria in the intestines. Vitamins, such as vitamin K and B-12, are produced in the gut, and the probiotics in kefir may potentially help facilitate this production.
Boost Immune System
Bacteria naturally live in the digestive tracts of all human beings. Drinking kefir helps to replenish healthy bacteria, which are essential to fight viruses and germs that can cause illness. A study published in the June 2008 edition of the “BMC Immunology Journal” researched the effects of feeding probiotic fermented milk to mice. Kefir is classified as a probiotic fermented milk product. Their conclusion was that the milk had a beneficial effect on the immune systems of the mice, as well as on their offspring.
Inhibits Progression of Breast Cancer
A surprising effect of drinking kefir is the possibility that it slows breast cancer cell growth. A study published in the 2007 issue of the “Journal of Medicinal Food” found that kefir is beneficial in suppressing the growth of breast cancer cells in animals. In this study, kefir proved more beneficial than yogurt and pasteurized cow’s milk. Studies have not been performed on humans yet, but scientists feel that this discovery is promising in the future treatment and prevention of breast cancer.
Improves Digestive Function
Individuals suffering from lactose intolerance may be able to drink kefir without any difficulty. According to Dr. Kristie Long, MD, on HealthMad.com, the bacteria contained in kefir beverages help to break down lactose in milk kefir, allowing easy digestion even in those considered lactose intolerant.
Promotes Overall Health and Relaxation
According to Organic-Cultures.com, along with promoting a healthy immune system, kefir has been used to relieve a variety of conditions, including fatigue, intestinal disorders, AIDS, herpes and cancer. Although kefir has been around for centuries, the scientific community has only recently realized its possible health benefits; therefore, human studies have not been performed to verify these findings. Kefir also has been used in people with difficulty sleeping, depression and ADHD due to its calming and tranquilizing effect.
9 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Kefir supported by research
- Kefir is all the rage in the natural health community.
- It is high in nutrients and probiotics, and is incredibly beneficial for digestion and gut health.
- Many people consider it to be a healthier and more powerful version of yogurt.
1.- Kefir is a Fantastic Source of Many Nutrients
Kefir is a fermented drink, traditionally made using cow’s milk or goat’s milk.
It is made by adding kefir “grains” to milk.
These are not grains in the conventional sense, but cultures of yeast and lactic acid bacteria that resemble a cauliflower in appearance.
Over a period of 24 hours or so, the microorganisms in the kefir grains multiply and ferment the sugars in the milk, turning it into kefir.
Then the grains are removed from the liquid, and can be used again.
So basically, kefir is the drink, but kefir grains are the “starter kit” that you use to produce the drink.
Kefir originated from parts of Eastern Europe and Southwest Asia. The name is derived from the Turkish word keyif, which means “feeling good” after eating (1).
The lactic acid bacteria turn the lactose in the milk into lactic acid, so kefir tastes sour like yogurt, but has a thinner consistency.
A 175 ml (6 oz) serving of milk kefir contains (2, 3):
Protein: 6 grams.
Calcium: 20% of the RDA.
Phosphorus: 20% of the RDA.
Vitamin B12: 14% of the RDA.
Riboflavin (B2): 19% of the RDA.
Magnesium: 5% of the RDA.
A decent amount of vitamin D.
This is coming with about 100 calories, 7-8 grams of carbs and 3-6 grams of fat, depending on the type of milk that is used.
Kefir also contains a wide variety of bioactive compounds, including organic acids and peptides that contribute to its health benefits (1).
Dairy-free versions of kefir can be made with coconut water, coconut milk or other sweet liquids. These will not have the same nutrient profile as dairy-based kefir.
2.- Kefir is a More Powerful Probiotic Than Yogurt
Man Holding a Glass of Milk
Some microorganisms can have beneficial effects on health when ingested (4).
Known as probiotics, these microorganisms can influence health in numerous ways, including digestion, weight management and mental health (5, 6, 7).
Yogurt is the best known probiotic food in the Western diet, but kefir is actually a much more potent source.
Kefir grains contain about 30 strains of bacteria and yeasts, making it a very rich and diverse probiotic source.
Other fermented dairy products are made from far fewer strains, and don’t contain any yeasts.
Bottom Line: Kefir contains about 30 different microorganisms, making it a much more potent source of probiotics than other fermented dairy products.
3.- Kefir Has Potent Antibacterial Properties
Kefir Grains in a Bowl and a Kefir Drink
Certain probiotics in kefir are believed to protect against infections.
This includes the probiotic Lactobacillus kefiri, which is unique to kefir.
Studies show that this probiotic can inhibit the growth of various harmful bacteria, including Salmonella, Helicobacter Pylori and E. coli (8, 9).
Kefiran, a type of carbohydrate present in kefir, also has antibacterial properties (10).
Bottom Line: Kefir contains the probiotic Lactobacillus kefiri, and the carbohydrate kefiran, both of which can protect against harmful bacteria.
4.- Kefir Can Improve Bone Health and Lower The Risk of Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis (“porous” bones) is characterized by deterioration of bone tissue, and is a massive problem in Western countries.
It is especially common among elderly women, and dramatically raises the risk of fractures.
Ensuring an adequate calcium intake is one of the most effective ways to improve bone health, and slow the progression of osteoporosis (11).
Kefir made from full-fat dairy is not only a great source of calcium, but also vitamin K2. This nutrient plays a central role in calcium metabolism, and supplementing with it has been shown to reduce the risk of fractures by as much as 81% (12, 13).
Recent animal studies have shown that kefir can increase calcium absorption by bone cells. This leads to improved bone density, which should help prevent fractures (14).
Bottom Line: Kefir made from dairy is an excellent source of calcium. In the case of full-fat dairy, it also contains vitamin K2. These nutrients have major benefits for bone health.
5.- Kefir May be Protective Against Cancer
Kefir Grains in a Brown Bowl
Cancer is one of the world’s leading causes of death.
It occurs when there is an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body, such as a tumor.
The probiotics in fermented dairy products are believed to inhibit tumor growth by reducing formation of carcinogenic compounds, as well as by stimulating the immune system (15).
This protective role has been demonstrated in several test tube studies (16, 17).
One study found that kefir extract reduced the number of human breast cancer cells by 56%, compared with only 14% for yogurt extract (18).
However, take all of this with a grain of salt, as this is far from being proven in living, breathing humans.
Bottom Line: Some test tube and animal studies have shown that kefir can inhibit the growth of cancer cells. This has not been studied in people.
6.- The Probiotics in it May Help With Various Digestive Problems
Kefir Drink in a Jug
Probiotics such as kefir can help restore the balance of friendly bacteria in the gut.
This is why they are highly effective for many forms of diarrhea (19, 20).
There is also a lot of evidence that probiotics and probiotic foods can help with all sorts of digestive problems (5)
This includes irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcers caused by H. pylori infection, and various others (21, 22, 23, 24).
For this reason, kefir may be useful if you have problems with digestion.
Bottom Line: Probiotics like kefir can treat several forms of diarrhea. They can also lead to major improvements in various digestive diseases.
7.- Kefir is Generally Well Tolerated by People Who Are Lactose Intolerant
Regular dairy foods contain a natural sugar called lactose.
Many people, especially adults, are unable to break down and digest lactose properly. This condition is called lactose intolerance (25).
The lactic acid bacteria in fermented dairy foods (like kefir and yogurt) turn the lactose into lactic acid, so these foods are much lower in lactose than milk.
They also contain enzymes that can help break down the lactose even further.
Because of this, kefir is generally well tolerated by people with lactose intolerance, at least when compared to regular milk (26).
Also keep in mind that it is possible to make kefir that is 100% lactose free, by using coconut water, fruit juice or some other non-dairy fluid.
Bottom Line: The lactic acid bacteria have already pre-digested the lactose in kefir. People with lactose intolerance can often eat kefir without problems.
8.- Kefir May Improve Symptoms of Allergy and Asthma
Kefir Grains on a Brown Plate
Allergic reactions are caused by inflammatory responses against harmless environmental substances.
People with an over-sensitive immune system are more prone to allergies, which can provoke conditions like asthma.
In animal studies, kefir has been shown to suppress inflammatory responses related to allergy and asthma (27, 28).
Human studies are need to better explore these effects.
9.- Kefir is Easy to Make at Home
Young Blonde Cooking
The last one is not a health benefit, but important nonetheless.
If you are unsure about the quality of store-bought kefir, then you can easily make it at home yourself.
Combined with some fresh fruit, it makes one of the healthiest and tastiest desserts I have ever come across.
You can buy kefir grains in some health food stores and supermarkets, as well as online.
There are some good blog posts and videos on how to make kefir, but the process is very simple:
Put 1-2 tablespoons of kefir grains into a small jar. The more you use, the faster it will culture.
Add around 2 cups of milk, preferably organic or even raw. Milk from grass-fed cows is healthiest. Leave one inch of room at the top of the jar.
You can add some full-fat cream if you want the kefir to be thicker.
Put the lid on and leave it for 12-36 hours, at room temperature. That’s it.
Once it starts to look clumpy, it is ready. Then you gently strain out the liquid, which leaves behind the original kefir grains.
Now put the grains in a new jar with some milk, and the process starts all over again.
Delicious, nutritious and highly sustainable