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Have you gone off dairy? Not so fast. There’s still one dairy product with the power to make you feel good.
The good bacteria and yeast in kefir grains predigest the milk proteins, making milk kefir nutrient-dense and easy to assimilate. To receive kefir's many health benefits, fermenting dairy at home with the Body Ecology Kefir Starter Culture is easy.
Kefir is a traditional fermented dairy food. In Turkish, the name “kefir” is derived from a word that translates into “good feeling.” Kefir is traditionally made with kefir grains, which are not grains at all. The pearly, gummy kefir beads are a mixture of beneficial bacteria and yeast. These beneficial bacteria and yeast feed on milk sugars and grow within the matrix of the dairy.
The first known use of kefir was in Turkey, and the Russians were jealous of this wonderful Turkish food. As the story goes, the Turks wouldn’t share their secret of kefir and how they made it. Back in those days, the Turks told the Russians that this food was given to them by a messenger god, who said not to change it in any way.
You could say kefir was “heaven sent.”
The Russians wanted kefir so badly that, according to the story, they sent a beautiful Russian woman to Turkey to entice the prince. He saw her and was mesmerized -- he fell in love. She said she would marry him if he gave the kefir grains to Russia, but he refused. The woman left, and the prince missed her so much he sent his guards to bring her back. This caused a huge uproar between the two countries, and so, the prince’s father finally shared the grains with Russia. Today, the Russians are now the number one kefir consumer in the world — they drink more kefir than anyone.
Here’s what’s truly fascinating about the legend behind kefir. Russia children now grow up drinking kefir their whole life. Children in Russia start drinking kefir at four months old. With babies, they dilute kefir and put it in bottles or cups. This gut support from an early age makes it easier for the children to digest milk. They’ve always had an inner ecosystem with healthy bacteria that’s used to digesting dairy. Research supports these findings too. Drinking fermented kefir has been proven to reduce or drastically eliminate symptoms of lactose intolerance.1
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When we make yogurt, we heat the dairy, and it’s no longer raw. This means that enzymes — which can help in the digestion of dairy — are no longer intact. Heat also denatures (or changes) the structure of milk proteins.
Kefir is much better for you than yogurt because it’s much more alive. Freshly made kefir is teeming with lively, beneficial microbes, and you won’t get that benefit from store-bought yogurt. Yogurt is also pasteurized, so the beneficial microbes from the milk (if it’s a grass-fed cow) are lost to you. Yogurt is a popular food many believe can nourish young children. But instead of giving your child a pasteurized milk, you’re better off to ferment the milk and give them kefir like they do in Russia.
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Consume kefir, and you also consume good bacteria and yeast. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Dairy Science found that these beneficial microbes can regulate inflammation in the gut.2 And a 2010 study in the Journal of Food Science noted that the bacteria in kefir can balance the immune response system — meaning, they can help to control allergies.3
You might feel good, when drinking kefir, to know your heart is protected. In 2016, Journal of Dairy Science investigators reviewed research on a rising fermented foods star: fermented dairy. Kefir, researchers say, may be considered as an alternative to antihypertensive drugs with the potential to lower blood pressure and heart rate. More research is needed, but scientists view kefir’s heart-protective benefits as a “great opportunity.”4
You might also feel good to get relief from your chronic gastritis, all made possible by the therapeutic effects of fermented milk.5
You might also feel good to see your skin noticeably improve, just by making the switch from commercial yogurt to kefir.6
And you’ll be feeling good to know that your favorite fermented dairy product has the power to fight off cancer.7
skill level: easy | yield: about 12 servings (yield depends on the size of your popsicle molds) | time: 5 minutes (active), 12 hours (freezing)
skill level: easy | yield: about 1 qt | time: 5 minutes (active), 8 to 12 hours (fermentation), 24 hours (freezer)
There are many more delicious Body Ecology recipes where these came from. Start here first.
You can think of kefir as a rich microbial soup. It contains both bacteria and yeast. While the word “yeast” may scare people, beneficial yeast can be just as valuable as beneficial bacteria in healing the inner ecosystem.
Talk about feeling good: Many countries in Eastern Europe, like Poland, drink more kefir in the summertime. Kefir is cooling to the body and easy to digest in the summer months. And it’s the only fermented dairy food that has yeast in it — an important inhabitant of the inner ecosystem, as we discussed. In a healthy inner ecosystem, about 5 percent of its good microbes are yeast. They help to hold the inner ecosystem in place.
But, if you find that you don't tolerate fermented dairy, it's best to listen to your gut. As we've learned from the Body Ecology Principle of Uniqueness, every gut is different. Try to eliminate any food causing irritation for a time to see what your body agrees with.
Summer’s the perfect time to introduce yourself to fermented dairy, if you haven’t already. It’s also the perfect time to reinvent your approach to fermented foods. Kefir is cooling, refreshing, and restorative, and we’re loving it in popsicle form. You can enjoy kefir on its own -- tart and tangy -- or mix it up and freeze it as a sweet, creamy treat. On a hot day, a kefir pop is what your kids (and their guts) will go crazy for.
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