The Champagne of Dairy
Kefir is derived from the Turkish word “keif” which means “good-feeling.” It has been around for centuries, originating in the Russian Caucasian mountains.
Kefir gets the nickname, “champagne of dairy”, due to the fact that it foams and fizzes when you shake it up. Kefir looks like drinkable yogurt however its nutritional profile varies from yogurt and its beneficial bacteria (e.g. probiotic) content is much more robust.
Plain kefir has a near 1:1 ratio of protein: carbohydrates. Making it a great all purpose drink, base for a smoothie, or milk substitute in granola or oats.
10 Billion Bugs!!
Yogurt is well known for its good bacteria but the amount of probiotics in kefir dwarfs that found in yogurt. Yogurt is generally cultured for 2-3 hours while kefir is cultured for upwards of 16 hours! This yields 7-10 billion CFUs (the units used to measure probiotic bacteria).
What are these good bacteria going to do for you? More research is showing that the bacteria in your digestive tract can not only communicate with your body, but it can actually influence how your body functions – impacting things like stress and inflammatory responses.
Coating your digestive track with good bacteria, like that found in kefir, is a simple way to keep your front lines of defense against disease and infection working the best it can. Other research shows that kefir can actually have antibacterial and antimicrobial effects. These effects can even impact your teeth.
Kefir and Dental Health
When you think about fermented dairy products, you probably don’t think about dental health, but a recent study published in the Journal of Contemporary Dental Practices found that drinking kefir was just as effective as fluoride mouthwash at removing bacteria that cause cavities.
Kefir and Immune Function
A study from Turkey found that after just 2 weeks of drinking kefir daily, study participants experienced improvements in multiple facets of their immune system.
Readily Available Nutrients
The beneficial bacteria in kefir start working for you before you even drink it. During the fermentation process and in the bottle on the supermarket shelves they are hard at work breaking down the dairy sugar lactose and partially digesting the proteins found in kefir. 1 cup of kefir has only 2g of lactose compared to 11g in regular milk.
This is great news if you have issues digesting lactose (e.g. lactose intolerant). A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that kefir can help people with lactose intolerance digest lactose better.
Kefir’s Nutrient Package
In addition to the protein and probiotics that we’ve already discussed, kefir contains several other key nutrients such as vitamin D, K, a variety of B vitamins, and calcium.
Ultimate Kefir Smoothie
This snack sized smoothie is a great way to add kefir to your diet. It contains blueberries which are rich in a particular type of antioxidant called anthocyanins. Anthocyanin can be both absorbed by your body, or used by the good bacteria in your digestive tract for fuel. This smoothie is designed to not only provide your body with the probiotics it needs for good digestion, but also the fuel needed to support them.
Super Kefir Smoothie
1 cup low fat plain kefir
2/3 cup wild blueberries
1 Tbsp flaxseed meal
2-3 ice cubes
Up to 1 cup additional water (optional add based on consistency preference)
Add ingredients to blender and blend until smooth.