Expand your probiotic repertoire with kefir

Kefir1Kefir isn’t just watery yogurt.

I admit I’d never thought much about kefir until I reviewed Molly Morgan’s latest book.  I was looking for foods to improve my own digestive health, and kefir sounded do-able (as opposed to kombucha).

First off, kefir isn’t simply a yogurt drink.  The probiotic profile is distinctly different from that of yogurt.  The kefir starter culture, or “grains”, contains bacteria and yeasts, while yogurt is all about bacteria, especially lactobacillus varieties.  These grains ferment milk and break down almost all the lactose, so kefir is a virtually lactose-free beverage.  Yogurt, on the other hand, typically contains significant lactose, although the amounts can vary from one brand to another.  So people with lactose intolerance (inability to digest lactose) can tolerate kefir.

Aside from the probiotic cultures, the nutritional profile of kefir is very similar to that of the milk it was made from.  Kefir made from low fat cow’s milk contains:

  • 110 calories
  • 2 grams fat
  • 11 grams protein
  • about 300 mg calcium

But the key question for people unfamiliar with kefir is this: what does it taste like?  Plain unsweetened kefir tastes a lot like plain yogurt, except it’s liquid.  You can buy fruit-flavored varieties or use plain to make your own fresh fruit smoothies.  It’s got a nice thick, drinkable texture, so you don’t have to add juice.   Bananas, berries, pineapple, mango and peaches would be delicious blended with kefir.

Kefir has been consumed for hundreds of years, and is believed to have lots of health benefits, perhaps all owing to the unique probiotic properties.  But if you start drinking kefir, don’t expect overnight miracles.  And keep in mind, gut health is not a one-time thing; you need to promote it everyday with healthful probiotic foods and a plant-based diet of whole foods.

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