With so many of us looking after our immune systems amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, we’re doing our best to eat the right foods. Experts say that the gut microbiome is particularly important for immunity, as microbes in our gut called probiotics help to prevent harmful bacteria from entering our blood stream and making us sick. So, we’ve been on the lookout for probiotic-rich foods that can help us fend off an infection, and we stumbled upon kefir — a gut-healing superfood that will boost your health in more ways than one.
What is Kefir?
Kefir is a fermented beverage typically made from cow’s milk. Kefir “starter” grains are fermented and added to milk. It tastes pretty similar to yogurt with a slight tartness to it, but it has a thinner consistency.
Kefir is often tolerated by people with lactose intolerance because the fermentation process turns the lactose in cow’s milk into lactic acid, which is more easily digested. Kefir has been consumed traditionally in parts of Eastern Europe and Southwest Asia, and it’s said to improve digestion. In fact, the name “kefir” actually comes from the Turkish word “keyif,” which translates to “feeling good” — as in after eating.
That being said, if you tend to stay away from dairy, there are plenty of non-dairy kefir alternatives available that are made using goat’s milk, coconut milk, and rice milk.
Health Benefits of Kefir
Kefir is being touted by health experts as one of the healthiest superfoods to add to your diet. Kefir made from cow’s milk is a great source of nutrients like protein, calcium, phosphorus, B vitamins, riboflavin, magnesium and, as mentioned, probiotics. Not only is it a low-calorie, nutrient-dense food, but it’s also shown to have some impressive benefits when it comes to gut health, immunity, and bone health.
Kefir is a better source of probiotics than yogurt and may therefore be more beneficial for gut health. In the gut, a diverse array of “good” bacteria is optimal to protect against different harmful strains. Kefir contains more probiotic bacteria than yogurt and as much as 61 different strains of bacteria and yeasts, though the bacterial diversity will depend on which brand you purchase.
Certain probiotic strains in kefir may improve immune function and protect against infection and disease. Specifically, one type of bacteria called Lactobacillus kefiri, which is unique to kefir, has shown to protect against harmful bacteria like E.coli and salmonella. Some studies suggest that the bacteria in kefir can even help destroy cancer cells and relieve symptoms of asthma and allergies!
Adding kefir to your diet can also help you protect your bones from damage over time. As women get older and estrogen production slows down, our risk of fractures and bone issues like osteoporosis goes up. Consuming calcium-rich foods like kefir can help mitigate some of these risks. Full-fat kefir is also high in another important vitamin — vitamin K2. This essential nutrient helps metabolize calcium for strong, sturdy bones. In fact, consuming kefir has shown to improve bone density in postmenopausal subjects.
All in all, drinking kefir can benefit your health in so many ways. Probiotic-rich foods can help with digestion, weight management, blood sugar issues, and so much more. Kefir can be added to smoothies, made into chia pudding, or consumed as a drink on its own. You can find kefir at your local supermarket or health food store in the dairy section.
Need some tummy-healing recipe ideas? Try kefir in any of these smoothies.