Kefir is an ancient beverage made by fermenting milk with kefir grains, which produces a host of beneficial bacteria. It is thought to have originated in the North Caucasus mountains of eastern Europe and Asia, where shepherd nomads developed the recipe.
The word kefir comes from the Turkish word ‘keif,’ which translates to a state of good feeling. The recipe for making kefir was originally kept as a family secret and was considered a sign of status and wealth. In the early 1900s, when the secret of kefir became more well-known in Russia, it was used medicinally in Moscow as part of treatment plans for tuberculosis and other maladies, with reported success.
It is thought that kefir is one reason behind the larger-than-average centenarian population of certain parts of Russia and other nations bordering the Caucasus.
Kefir grains are composed of a combination of beneficial bacteria and yeast, mixed with milk proteins and complex sugars. They resemble small clumps of cauliflower and are strained out of the kefir once the fermentation process is complete. While kefir is usually made from milk, it can also be made from other beverages, such as coconut water.
The impressive nutritional profile
This ancient elixir sports a pretty impressive nutritional profile including:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamins B1 and B12 6 Vitamin D
Probably the most noteworthy benefit of kefir is its probiotic activity. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that balance out harmful bacteria in the gut, promoting optimal digestive health, and boosting overall health. Two of these beneficial bacteria strains are lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, which are normally produced in the large intestine. Adding more of these bacteria through diet can alleviate uncomfortable digestive ailments such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), bloating, constipation, and diarrhea.
The probiotic components of kefir make it a great part of a weight loss program, and may even help to reduce belly fat when consumed as part of a nutritious diet and coupled with regular exercise.
If you have been ill and have had to take a course of antibiotics, kefir is very beneficial for restoring optimal gut bacteria balance in the digestive tract, as antibiotics tend to destroy good bacteria along with the bad. This is why you may feel stomach pain or experience diarrhea after antibiotics. Thankfully, kefir can greatly ease these symptoms.
Kefir contains complete proteins, which are easily digestible thanks to the probiotic content. Many lactose-intolerant individuals, while unable to ingest other dairy products, can still enjoy kefir, as much of the lactose is broken down by the bacterial cultures.
In fact, some research shows that drinking kefir can make some people more tolerant of lactose over time. For utterly lactose-free kefir, coconut kefir water is a great option. It provides all of the benefits of coconut water along with the probiotic perks of kefir.
This beverage contains many important vitamins and minerals. One of these is vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium and boosts immunity while reducing inflammation.
Kefir also contains the minerals calcium and phosphorus, which are essential for strengthening bones and helping to prevent osteoporosis.
The B-vitamins found in kefir are important for the optimal function of the liver, kidneys, and nervous system, and maintaining energy and keeping skin looking its best.
Additionally, kefir can help to reduce anxiety and promote better sleep, thanks to the essential amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan is widely recognized for its ability to help relax the nervous system and is one of the reasons that dairy products consumed before bedtime can help curb insomnia.
To get the most nutrition out of your kefir, choose an organic variety made from the milk of grass-fed cows, goats, or sheep. If you do not wish to consume dairy, organic coconut kefir water is another excellent option.
Here are some delicious ways to enjoy more kefir!
Cherry Berry Kefir Smoothie
If you are short on time, this is the perfect pick-me-up!
- 1 cup kefir
- 1/2 cup fresh cherries, pitted
- 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
- 1 Tbsp honey
- 1/4 cup ground flax seeds
Place all ingredients in a blender. Mix until well blended. Pour into a glass and drink while cold.
Raspberry Kefir Breakfast Bowl
Get a jumpstart on the day with this delicious breakfast bowl.
- 1 cup kefir
- 1/2 cup fresh raspberries
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon zest
- 1/4 cup chia seeds
- 1 tsp maple syrup
Mix kefir and raspberries together in a bowl. Sprinkle lemon zest and chia seeds on top. Add a drizzle of maple syrup.