Super foods come and go. There are so many that it is difficult to keep up. We’ve gone through avocados, goji berries, chia seeds. They all claim to make you super healthy and full of energy. The truth, however, is often somewhat disappointing. Whilst healthy and good for you, avocados and chia seeds are almost as high in calories as a Big Mac. And you will have to eat your weight in goji berries to see any digestion benefits.As common sense tells us, there is not one magic berry or seed that you can take to become slim or healthy overnight.
But what if I told you that there is a drink that can really make a difference to your health. It is one of the strongest, if not the strongest probiotics available. It is recommended for people with digestive problems, skin conditions like acne and eczema, diabetes, allergies and asthma, osteoporosis as well as for those looking to lose weight. It will make your bones stronger, your skin clearer and will naturally make you lose weight by improving your digestion. It is recommended for children, adults, the elderly and even during pregnancy.
This super drink has been passed on from generation to generation in some Asian and Eastern European cultures. It is now gaining popularity in the West and is becoming more readily available in the UK. You can make it yourself or buy it in most major supermarkets and health shops in the UK.
Too good to be true? This article will hopefully give you enough information to form your own opinion and convince you to try it. It is about my experience, but is also based on research and scientific evidence. Have a look at Further Reading section for more information from reputable sources.
What is Kefir?
Kefir, keffir or kephir is a refreshing dairy drink that is high in probiotics and is incredibly beneficial for digestion. Its health benefits are second to none and its low cost and easy production make it one of the most popular healthy drinks in many countries. People who drink it on regular basis rarely feel bloated or experience constipation, indigestion or heartburn. It has no contraindications and is suitable for children, pregnant women and even those who are lactose intolerant.
The origins of kefir can be traced to Eastern Europe and South East Asia. The word kefir came from the Turkish keyif, which means “feeling well” after a meal.
Kefir is unique in its benefits and composition. It is made using kefir grains, which are small colonies of good bacteria that protect the microflora of your stomach. Kefir grains cannot be manufactured, they can only be grown and passed on from person to person.
There are many theories of where kefir originated from. Some say it comes from the tribes in the Caucasian mountains. Even today these tribes are known for their long life expectancy and strong health, they refer to Kefir as “The Gift From God”. Traditionally kefir grains could not be bought or sold. They were given to young brides as a wedding present. This was considered an important ritual that would ensure the wellbeing of the couple and their future children.
Other theories suggest that the kefir grains were the manna from heaven that the prophet Moses and the Israelites’ ate for forty years whilst wandering the desert.
Kefir probiotic vs yoghurt
The consistency of kefir is similar to a yoghurt drink and like yoghurt, it is made using milk. There is a major difference, however, making kefir a much healthier option.
Yoghurt is the most popular drink in Western Europe containing probiotic. Kefir’s probiotic benefits are much stronger than any yoghurt’s. To put things in perspective, yoghurt contains two strains of bacteria, whilst kefir 30-40. A glass of yoghurt would contain about 1 billion good bacteria, whilst kefir about 5 billion. Healthy bacteria in kefir is full of protein, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, biotin, vitamin K, vitamin B12. When you consume kefir the good bacteria suppresses the harmful bacteria in your gut, helping digestion, eliminating constipation and providing nutritional value.
Kefir for lactose intolerant
You might have heard that dairy products are not digested well by humans over the age of 6 months. The universally accepted advice these days is to avoid dairy products completely. Many of us are actually lactose intolerant without knowing. We might feel bloated, tired and lacking energy, but would not necessarily think to exclude dairy from our diet. There are studies linking milk to eczema, diabetes, acne. There are also studies showing that contrary to popular belief milk is actually depleting calcium from your bones and increases fracture risk. It gets worse. Swedish researchers found drinking more than one glass of milk a day significantly increases risk of ovarian cancer. A Harvard research linked milk consumption to prostate cancer.
Kefir is different from any other dairy product. Unlike other dairy products, it is made from fermented milk and fermentation changes the chemical composition of food. It is unique in its properties and composition.
Kefir anntibacterial properties
There are many factors that contribute to our bodies ageing. One of them is that with age our immune system starts to overreact to any inflammatory processes like even a simple cold or flu that happen in your body. Typical signs of inflammation like fever or red skin are signs that your body is fighting and healing itself. Sometimes though, the immune system gets stuck in this fighting mode and does not go back to normal after the infection is gone. This is called Systemic Inflammation. Systemic inflammation is difficult to diagnose as the symptoms can be very varied, from allergies to skin conditions.
Probiotics and especially kefir are known to reduce symptoms of Systemic Inflammation and can be very effective in treating such skin conditions as acne, eczema, and rosacea.
Certain probiotics in kefir like lactobacillus kefiri are effective at preventing infection, including salmonella, helicobacter pylori and stomach flue. This makes kefir an invaluable diet addition to those who suffer with IBS, colitis or any digestive problems.
Other kefir benefits
There have been a lot of studies done on animals that have produced incredible results. We have to hope that further funding will one day be available to conduct studies on humans. Even if we assume that kefir will be less effective for humans, the findings are still incredibly promising.
protect against cancer
Probiotics in kefir have been shown to reduce growth of cancerous tumours by supressing formation of carcinogenic compounds. In animal studies regular consumption of kefir has shown reduction of breast cancer cells by 56%.
reduce allergies and asthma
People with sensitive immune system are more likely to develop allergies and asthma. Animal studies have shown that by reducing Systemic Inflammation, kefir is effective in reducing its symptoms like skin conditions, allergies and asthma.
lower risk of osteoporosis
Kefir is a great source of calcium, vitamin D and Vitamin K2. A combination of these nutrients play an important role in treatment and prevention of Osteoporosis. K2 increases calcium absorption rate, reducing risk of fractures by as much as 81%.
What makes kefir different from any other traditional fermented dairy products like yoghurt or Crème Fraiche is that it is made from kefir "grains". Kefir grains are unique and cannot be made or manufactured. They look like pieces of coral and are small clusters of healthy bacteria. They ferment the milk, changing its chemical composition and making it much easier to digest. This process also makes it suitable for those who are lactose intolerant.
Where To Buy Kefir?
As exotic as kefir sounds, it is actually widely available. It is not expensive to buy and even cheaper to make. The ready-made kefir is available in its natural form and in fruit and berry smoothies.
Ready-made natural kefir is available from Ocado and Amazon and comes in 390ml, 500ml or 1l bottles depending on the manufacturer. The 390ml bottles are handy for breakfast on the go and the 1l ones are great for keeping in the fridge and making your own smoothies.
I have also often come across kefir in Health Shops or Turkish, Polish and Russian corner shops.
You might find natural kefir too tart for your palette at first. If this is the case, smoothies might be a better option for you.
Where to buy kefir smoothie
You might have heard about Bio-tiful Dairy Kefir Drink thanks to Natasha Bowes’ confident pitch on Dragon’s Den last year. Bio-tiful kefir drinks made kefir main stream by offering different flavour combinations such as Honey & Mint. Available from Amazon, these smoothies make a perfect breakfast drink.
You can read more about Natasha Bowes or watch the video from Bio-tiful website.
How To Make Kefir?
If you would like to have a go at making kefir yourself, it is really not hard. The hardest part is sourcing the good quality grains. The good news is that once you have mastered the art of growing the kefir grains you can share them with friends and family. The children normally love this part, as there is something magical about the kefir grains growing.
Step by step guide to making kefir
Source kefir grains. If you don’t know anyone who can share the grains with you, there is a variety of kefir grains available on Amazon.
- Find a large jar with a lid. A Classic Airtight Lever Arm Storage Jar (950ml) is perfect, but really any jar with a tight lid will do.
- Add the grains to milk. You don’t need to stir or mix anything, just pour the milk over the grains.
- Leave the jar overnight at room temperature. The colder the room, the longer the process will take, but as a guideline, 12-24hrs is sufficient for milk to ferment.
- Strain the fermented kefir milk through a sieve. Store the finished kefir milk in the fridge.
- Place the kefir grains back into the jar and repeat the process. Important: do not rinse the kefir grains.
- Enjoy the kefir milk and don’t forget to share.
Making kefir smoothie
Kefir smoothies are incredibly easy to make and will cost you a fraction of the price of shop bought ones. Blend 250ml of shop bought or home-made kefir and blend it with fruit of your choice.
My favourite smoothie is kefir, banana and strawberry. Banana makes the consistency smoother and thicker, whilst taking away the tartness. Strawberries add a lovely fruity taste, making the smoothie refreshing and summery. If you have run out of fruit, a teaspoon of honey or vanilla are a great option too. The choice of fruit and berry combinations are endless.
For more ideas please read my post on Kefir smoothies .