Is kefir good for our health?
Kefir has become very popular in the past few years due to attributions on nutrition and therapeutic benefits (Arslan, 2014). Kefir is a fermented dairy product similar to yogurt but the main difference is that kefir contains a larger variety of probiotics (Bourrie, Willing, & Cotter et al., 2016). For more than a hundred years, communities of the Caucasian mountains have consumed kefir and believed it helps prevent diarrhea, reduces cholesterol, prevents cancer, boosts the immune system, reduces inflammation, helps with allergies, asthma, kills microbes if applied directly on a wound and promotes wound healing (Oliveira, Lemos & Silva et al., 2013; John & Deeseenthum, 2015; Bourrie et al., 2016). Moreover, there are different ways of preparing kefir (using dried starter cultures, kefir grains, different types of milk and even juice) making the end product different amongst different brands or countries (Pogacic, Sinko & Zamberlin et al., 2013; Gao & Li, 2016). These differences may be the cause of contradictory findings resulting from studies concluding with positive results, whereas others found no effect or improvements when analyzing the above attributions (John et al., 2015; Bourrie et al., 2016).
Experiments have been conducted with kefir on mice to determine if the above statements are true, but few studies have been performed on humans. More research is still needed to clarify these points of interest, but don’t give up on kefir just yet!
Our gut contains a huge number of microorganisms, from those, the ones which help improve our health are the good bacteria, also known as probiotics (Rupa & Mine, 2012). The recent increase in studies related to probiotics and the number of microorganism has identified that there may be less of these organisms in people with inflammatory diseases (ex. allergies, asthma, diarrhea, gastritis, irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease) (Rupa & Mine, 2012). This could mean that a sufficient amount of good bacteria in the gut may help keep us healthy.
Kefir is made up of more than four varieties of probiotics, therefore drinking kefir on a regular basis may help increase the variety and number of good bacteria in our gut. Not only does kefir contain probiotics, but it also contains vitamin C, and vitamins from the B complex (Arslan, 2014). Additionally, since it is a fermented dairy product, many lactose intolerant people can drink and tolerate it well (Oliveira et al., 2013; Arslan, 2014; John et al., 2015).
To improve the sour taste of kefir, try adding a few tablespoons of plain kefir to shakes or smoothies, mix it up with fruit and granola, make popsicles, or why not use it on rice, to prepare sauces or dips.
by Johanna Battle
Arslan, S. (2014). A review: Chemical, microbiological and nutritional characteristics of kefir. CyTA - Journal of Food, 1-6.
Bourrie, B., Willing, B., & Cotter, P. (2016). The Microbiota and Health Promoting Characteristics of the Fermented Beverage Kefir. Frontiers In Microbiology, 7: 647.
de Oliveira Leite, A.M, Miguel, M.A.L, Peixoto, R.S., Rosado, A.S., Silva, J.T., & Paschoalin, V.M.F. (2013). Microbiological, technological and therapeutic properties of kefir: A natural probiotic beverage. Brazilian Journal of Microbiology, 44(2), 341-349.
Gao, X., & Li, B. (2016). Chemical and microbiological characteristics of kefir grains and their fermented dairy products: A review. Cogent Food & Agriculture, 2(1).
John, S. M., & Deeseenthum, S. (2015). Properties and benefits of kefir - A review. Songklanakarin Journal of Science and Technology, 37(3), 275-282.
Pogacic, T., Sinko, S., Zamberlin, S., & Samarzija, D. (2013). Microbiota of kefir grains. Mljekarstvo, 63(1), 3-14.
Rupa, P., & Mine, Y. (2012). Recent advances in the role of probiotics in human inflammation and gut
health. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 60(34), 8249-56.
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