In the Caucasus Mountains of Europe, kefir is the stuff of legend. Kefir is made from cauliflower-like white-yellow particles called “grains” that impart their properties to milk by the process of fermentation. The mountain tribal hung kefir sacks out in the sun during the day and brought them back into the house at night, where they were hung near the door. Any person who entered or left the house was expected to stir the sack to mix the contents. As kefir was removed, more fresh milk was added; making the fermentation process nearly continuous. For many centuries the tribals of ancient Europe held on the secret of Kefir, reaping its benefits in isolation. Strange tales spread of the sour beverage, said to have ‘magical’ properties.
In 2017, we know more about kefir than we ever have. Does it live up to the hype? Let’s find out!
What is kefir?
Packed with nearly 4 billion live gut-friendly bacteria per bottle, kefir is your friendly neighborhood yogurt’s bigger brother. The word “kefir” in Russian means “foam”; a reference to its foam-like appearance and consistency. The naturally occurring bacteria and yeast in kefir work synergistically to give superior health benefits when consumed on a regular basis.
Commercial kefir is loaded not just with vitamins, but also with bacterial byproducts that help the human body function better. Kefir works even if you’re lactose intolerant – the bacteria in the drink digest the lactose in milk and produce “lactase”, which makes drinking it a breeze even for individuals who don’t produce enough of their own lactase (the milk-digesting enzyme that your body produces, allowing you to drink milk and milk products).
Why is kefir awesome?
Kefir is a nutrient powerhouse
When it comes to nutritional superfoods, kefir is a straight up beast. The name comes from the Turkish word keyif, which means “feel good”. A 200ml serving of kefir contains, on average:
• 160 calories, with under 10 grams of carbohydrates and 5 grams of fat
• 7.5 grams of Protein
• 25% of the RDA for Calcium
• 25% of the RDA for Vitamin B12
• 22% of the RDA for Vitamin B2
• 8% of the RDA for magnesium
Kefir also contains a barrage of essentials like zinc, molybdenum, B6, and amino acids; but the values of these dietary components vary significantly from bottle to bottle. B vitamins are essential to keep the human body running in tip-top shape, both physically and mentally. They help convert food into fuel, keeping you energized. Tryptophan, a precursor to the mood-enhancing chemical serotonin, is found specifically in milk kefir and is responsible for better sleep and cognition.
Kefir puts yogurt to shame
Know that cousin of yours that’s super athletic, always comes out top of the class and gets all the girls? Well, that’s what plain old yogurt thinks of his superior cousin, kefir. To draw out a comparison, here’s a table:
Has 1-5 strains of bacteria
Has 20+ strains of bacteria
Has no anti-inflammatory or anti-allergic
Has anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic properties
Does not colonize the intestine (you need to keep taking it every day for the benefits)
Colonizes the intestine (keeps working for a while even after you’ve stopped consuming kefir)