In Eastern Europe, almost everyone knows about the benefits of kefir for the human body. Many people like to drink kefir in the morning on an empty stomach, some drink kefir at night. Kefir is really very good for health. This unique dairy product which is one of the most probiotic products on the planet, and yogurt incredible advantages for treating problems such as leaky bowel syndrome or increased intestinal permeability syndrome (leaky gut).
The name “kefir” comes from the Turkish “keif”, which means “well-being.” For centuries, kefir has been used in European and Asian traditional medicine, due to its healing properties.
The whole benefit of kefir is that kefir is a powerful probiotic, which means real superfood for the intestine, and therefore for immunity (immune cells are formed precisely in the intestine) and the entire digestion process. Kefir is called the most healthy and healthy drink of the 21st century. Kefir is a probiotic product containing many biologically active compounds, including as many as 30 strains of beneficial bacteria that help fight tumors, harmful bacteria, carcinogens, and so on.
Kefir is made using kefir starter culture – a combination of bacteria and yeast that interact with milk to make a slightly fermented drink that even people with lactose intolerance can drink ( 1 ). Kefir can be made from any dairy product – goat and cow milk, soy and rice milk, as well as coconut milk . It can even be made using coconut water. From a scientific point of view, kefir yeast contains a complex microbial symbiotic mixture of lactic acid bacteria and yeast in a polysaccharide-protein matrix.
In the article we will consider in detail: what constitutes kefir, health benefits and harms, when it is better to drink kefir – in the morning or at night.
The benefits of kefir for the body
Absolutely all probiotic products, including kefir, are very healthy. The benefits of kefir range from solving narrow health problems to treating systemic diseases, which can seriously affect your overall health. Below we will consider in detail the best beneficial properties of kefir, which are proven by scientific research.
1. Kefir boosts immunity
Kefir contains many compounds and nutrients, such as biotin and folic acid, which help strengthen the immune system and protect the letka. It contains a large number of probiotics – very good and useful microbes. One kefir-specific species is called Lactobacillus Kefiri, and it helps protect the body from harmful bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli (E. Coli). This bacterial strain, along with other bacteria, helps modulate the immune system and inhibit the growth of many bad bacteria ( 2 ).
Kefir also contains another powerful compound found only in this probiotic drink – an insoluble polysaccharide called kefiran, which has been shown to be antimicrobial and helps fight fungal diseases of the genus Candida ( 3 ). Kefiran has also shown the ability to lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
2. Kefir strengthens bones
Osteoporosis is a serious problem for many people today. A disease that worsens the condition of bones and cartilage is thriving among women and men who do not get enough calcium from their diet, which is important for bone health.
Kefir from the dairy industry has a high level of calcium from milk. However, more importantly, it contains biologically active compounds that help absorb calcium in the body and stop bone degeneration ( 4 ). Kefir also contains vitamin K2, which has been proven to be vital for improving bone health, calcium density and absorption, while vitamin K deficiency can lead to bone problems. Kefir probiotics improve the absorption of nutrients, and the dairy complex itself contains all the most important nutrients to improve bone density, including phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, vitamin D and vitamin K2.
3. Kefir has antitumor properties.
Cancer is a serious disease that is affecting our world today. Kefir can play a big role in helping the body fight this unpleasant disease. Kefir is considered a serious and effective weapon against the spread of cancer cells. The study showed that compounds found in kefir can stop the growth of cancer cells in the stomach ( 5 ).
The benefits of kefir in the fight against cancer are associated with its large anti-carcinogenic role in the body. It can slow down the growth of early tumors and their enzymatic transformations from benign to malignant ( 6 ). An in vitro study by the School of Dietetics and Nutrition at McGill University in Canada showed that kefir reduced breast cancer cells by 56% (unlike yogurt strains that reduced cell number by 14%) ( 7 ).
4. Kefir is good for digestion and especially for the intestines.
When it comes to bacteria in the gut, we are talking about a complex bacterial balance – gut microbiome. Kefir helps restore this balance, if it is disturbed, and fight gastrointestinal diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis ( 8 ).
A known benefit of kefir for the body is to restore the intestinal microflora and the balance of bacteria after taking antibiotics. Probiotic compounds help restore lost flora that fights pathogens. Probiotics also help fight diarrhea and other gastrointestinal side effects caused by antibiotics and similar medications.
5. Kefir helps with allergies
Various forms of allergies and asthma are associated with inflammatory processes in the body. In some studies in mice, it was found that kefir reduces the number of inflamed cells in the lungs and throat, and also reduces the accumulation of mucus ( 9 ).
The living microorganisms present in kefir help the immune system naturally suppress allergic reactions and help in changing the body’s response to the systemic foci of allergies. Some scientists believe that these allergic reactions are the result of a lack of good bacteria in the gut. Researchers from the Vanderbilt University Medical Center conducted 23 different studies involving nearly 2,000 people, and in 17 of these studies, probiotic-tested individuals showed an improvement in negative symptoms in allergies and an improvement in overall quality of life ( 10 ).
6. Kefir heals the skin
When the bowel function is disturbed: food is not digested well, beneficial minerals are not absorbed and the body is not properly disposed of from waste, the skin immediately responds to it – its natural balance and microflora change and all kinds of problems appear, such as acne, psoriasis, rash and eczema. By the way, acne on the forehead means nothing but bowel problems. Kefir helps to enrich the intestines with good bacteria and establish balance, which will undoubtedly eliminate the skin manifestations of these disorders.
Kefir not only helps to resolve systemic skin problems, but it also benefits when applied topically to treat wounds and burns. The carbohydrate found in kefir, known as kefir, in addition to helping the immune system, has also been tested and shown to improve the quality of healing of skin wounds ( 11 ).
7. Improves lactose intolerance symptoms.
The good lactobacillus and bifidobacteria found in many dairy products are essential for a healthy intestine and the whole body. However, there are many people who cannot consume dairy products because they have an adverse reaction to the digestion of lactose – milk sugar. The active ingredient in kefir helps break down lactose into lactic acid, which facilitates its digestion ( 12 ). In addition, kefir has a wider range of bacterial strains and nutrients, some of which are specific to kefir only, and which help to remove almost all lactose from milk.
Studies published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics showed that “kefir improves lactose digestion and tolerance in adults with lactose malabsorption” ( 13 ). For information, almost all people perfectly tolerate kefir from goat milk, although there is a small percentage of people who do not tolerate kefir from cow’s milk.
If you had lactose intolerance, do a sensitivity test before the first use – place a small drop of kefir on your hand or wrist and let it dry. Then wait 24 hours and see if you have inflammation. If so, do not drink kefir. But if not, try adding only a drop or two to some food and see if you have any reaction. Then you can increase the amount until you are sure that you are not responding to it. As with any food or diet, be sure to listen to your body.
Nutrition Facts and Nutrients in Kefir
Kefir is a fermented dairy product (cow, goat or sheep’s milk) that tastes like drinking yogurt.
What is the nutritional value of kefir? Firstly, it contains a large amount of vitamin B12, calcium, magnesium, vitamin K2, biotin, folic acid, enzymes and probiotics. Since kefir does not have a standardized nutrient content, their values may vary depending on the cows, crops and the region where it is produced. But even with a range of values, kefir has an excellent profile of beneficial vitamins and minerals.
For example, one glass of whole milk kefir contains approximately:
Calories : 160 kcal
Fat : 8 gr.
Carbohydrates: 12 gr.
Protein : 10 gr.
Sugar : 12 gr.
Cholesterol : 30 mg
Sodium : 125 mg
Vitamin A : 90 mcg (10%)
Vitamin D : 5 mcg (25%)
Calcium : 391 mg (30%)
In addition, kefir contains many probiotics, on which all the health benefits and harms of kefir are based. Kefir is one of the most probiotic-rich foods with several important probiotic strains that you can eat, and home-made kefir is far superior to any variety purchased at the store.
Useful bacteria and yeast in kefir may include the following: Kluyveromyces marxianus / Candida kefyr, Lactococcus lactis subsp., Lactococcus lactis subsp., Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus, Lactobacillus casei, Kazachstania unispora, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium lactis, Leuconostoc mesenteroides subsp., Saccaromyces unisporus and others.
In a 2015 study published in Frontiers in Microbiology , kefir was recognized as a potential source of probiotics and molecules with several health benefits. According to the authors, “its biological properties suggest its use as an antioxidant, antitumor agent, antimicrobial agent and immunomodulator among other roles” ( 14 ).
Types of Kefir
If for one reason or another you can not use kefir in milk of animal origin, there are other types of kefir that are also rich in probiotics and have the same beneficial properties for the body. Such kefir will not contain lactose and milk proteins.
So, in essence, there are two main types of kefir, and they differ in different ways of cooking. The first type is milk kefir (made from cow, sheep or goat milk, as well as coconut milk) and kefir in water (from sweet water or coconut water, both of which do not contain any dairy products).
While the basic liquid used in different types of kefir is different, the process of preparing kefir is still unchanged, and it is believed that the benefits of kefir are present in both types. All kefirs are made using kefir starter culture, which contains yeast / bacterial fermentation starters. All types of kefir are like kombucha – kombucha (another healthy drink rich in probiotics) in that they must have sugar naturally present or added to allow healthy bacteria to grow and ferment.
However, the final product will contain much less sugar from the initial. Because live, active yeast essentially “eats” most of the added sugar during the fermentation process.
Here is more detailed information on how different types of kefirs are created and how their tastes and benefits differ:
Milk kefir is the type that is the most famous and widely available, usually sold in most large supermarkets and in almost all health food stores. Milk kefir is most often made from goat milk, cow’s milk or sheep’s milk, but in some stores you can also find kefir from coconut milk, which also means that it does not contain any lactose and animal milk proteins.
When buying milk kefir from goat milk, cow or sheep’s milk, you should always look for a high-quality organic brand to ensure maximum benefits of kefir and avoid any harmful substances found in regular dairy products.
Traditionally, milk kefir is produced using a starter culture, which ultimately allows probiotics to form in order to obtain a healthy sour-milk drink. All probiotic-rich drinks use the starter kit of “live” active yeast, which is responsible for the cultivation of beneficial bacteria.
After fermentation, milk kefir has a tart taste, which is somewhat similar to the taste of Greek yogurt. How strong the taste will be depends on how long the kefir wandered; a longer fermentation process usually leads to a stronger taste.
Milk kefir in itself is not naturally sweet, but other additives can be added to it to improve the taste and make it more attractive. While some people prefer kefir in its purest form, many people like to use kefir with a vanilla or berry flavor like yogurt.
Most kefirs bought at the store are flavored with additives such as fruit or cane sugar, but you can sweeten kefir at home by adding pure raw honey, maple syrup, vanilla extract, or organic stevia extract. Also try adding fruit puree to your plain yogurt (like banana or blueberry) to increase your nutrient content even more.
In addition to the simple use of milk kefir, there are other ways to skillfully use it in recipes. Milk kefir can be an excellent base for soups and stews that would otherwise require sour cream, cream or yogurt. You can replace the plain or flavored kefir for any of these ingredients in your favorite recipes for baking, mashed potatoes, soups, etc., to increase the nutrient content and get all the wonderful benefits of kefir.
Coconut kefir can be prepared using either coconut milk or coconut water. Coconut milk is found directly in coconuts and is produced by mixing the pulp of a coconut (white, thick part of a coconut) with water, and then chopping it, so only milk liquid remains.
Coconut water is a clear liquid that is contained inside coconuts and that will spill if you open the coconut.
Both types of kefir on coconut do not contain any dairy products. Coconut water and coconut milk are considered the ideal basis for creating fermented kefir, because they contain carbohydrates, including sugars, which are necessary for consumption by the yeast during the fermentation process to create healthy bacteria.
Coconut kefir is made in the same way as milk kefir. It contains live active yeast and bacteria that combine to make a traditional starter bacterial culture. It becomes more tart, as well as carbonated after fermentation and usually tastes sweeter than milk kefir.
Both types of coconut kefir are very tasty and resemble the taste of natural coconut, and also retain all the nutritional benefits of unfermented coconut milk and water (for example, potassium and electrolytes).
Kefir on the water
Kefir on water tends to have a finer taste and lighter texture than milk kefir, and is usually used using sugar water or fruit juice.
Kefir on water is made in the same way as milk and coconut kefir. Just like milk kefir, kefir on water can be cooked at home using a regular kefir fungus.
Kefir on water can be added to smoothies, healthy desserts, oatmeal, as a salad dressing, or just to drink in pure form. However, since it has a less creamy texture and less tart taste, it is not worth replacing dairy products in recipes – the taste will be slightly different.
How to make kefir at home
Perhaps you are now wondering: how exactly do you make homemade kefir to get all these benefits of kefir? It is easier than you think! Goat milk is one of the original ways to make kefir, and I highly recommend goat milk, which is naturally homogenized and contains less casein than cow milk. Goat milk is also easier to digest even before the fermentation process begins. This will result in a thinner kefir than cow’s milk.
- Place the kefir fungus (also called kefir grains) in a transparent glass jar, large enough, with a volume of at least 1 liter. The proportion is as follows: for every 2 cups of milk, put 2 tablespoons of the fungus.
- Cover the jar with a cotton cloth and secure with rubber tape.
- Place the jar in a dark room at room temperature.
- Leave to roam for 1-3 days depending on the level of fermentation and acidity that you prefer. Temperature also affects fermentation. A cooler climate will take longer to ferment, so adjust it accordingly. Shorter fermentation results in a softer aroma, and the longer it grows, the better it will be. Ideally, leave for 24 hours.
- Strain the kefir using a plastic filter or strainer. Immediately place the kefir fungus in a new batch of milk so that it does not deteriorate. So you will begin to prepare a new portion of kefir.
Dairy-free versions of kefir can be made with coconut water, coconut milk or other sweet liquids. They will not have the same nutrient profile as milk-based kefir and will not contain calcium to improve bone health, but they still have the same intestinal benefits as they contain most of the same bacterial strains.
Also note an important point. When milk kefir is fermented, it is divided into cottage cheese and whey. Whey is also a very valuable and useful product and can be used to make cheese, soups or as a starting culture for other fermenting products.
If you want to take a break from the production of kefir, you can also store kefir grain in the refrigerator or in a cool place covered with sugar water or fresh milk. Change milk every two weeks. It is important not to squeeze the grains out and do not wash them with soap or detergent. Transport and store them using non-metallic surfaces, utensils and containers. You can also rinse the grain if it starts to smell bad, but use only cold water. If you plan to store them and then use them, please note that you will have to spend several days “waking them up” to support the sugar supply process.
Kefir or yogurt – which is better
Number of bacteria
Yogurt contains two to seven types of probiotics, good strains of bacteria.
Kefir contains 10-34 probiotic strains, and also contains beneficial yeast strains.
Yogurt contains transient bacteria to help cleanse and level the intestines, providing food for good bacteria. They enter the intestines and do not remain.
Kefir bacteria can actually attach to the walls and colonize to stay and regulate the intestines and the entire body. They are also aggressive in nature and can actually go out and attack pathogens and bad bacteria in the gut.
Potential harm to kefir for the body
There are not many side effects from the use of kefir, as it is considered very safe and actually helps the body recover from many things. Some possible side effects of kefir include problems with starting to use kefir, such as constipation and intestinal cramps, especially if you have a diseased intestine where there are very few beneficial types of yeast and bacterial strains. In any case, kefir will not cause harm to the body, but it will take some time to get used to it. But in a few days your body will get used to it and you will feel better.
Final thoughts on the benefits of kefir
So, we learned that such a kefir, which is kefir, is the benefit and harm to the body. To summarize some of the results:
- More and more people are studying and love the amazing qualities of healthy fermented milk products, especially kefir – an excellent source of probiotics.
- Kefir is more beneficial than yogurt, and has the ability to stay in the intestines to heal and attack pathogens.
- Kefir has existed for many centuries, and it is very easy to make at home. The success and power of your kefir depends on the quality of kefir grains (kefir fungus), so the search for reputable producers selling first-class fresh kefir grains is of paramount importance to optimize the benefits of kefir.
- The integrating effect of kefir on bacteria and flora in the intestine has a systemic effect and can significantly improve the health of the digestive system, allergies, and also fight against carcinogens and pathogens.
- The benefits of kefir for the body are manifested in its ability to increase the immune system, improve bone density, fight cancer, improve digestion, fight intestinal problems, improve skin health and improve lactose intolerance symptoms.
There is practically no harm from kefir. One good! Drink to health!