Kefir is a cultured, fermented beverage that tastes a great deal like a yogurt drink. It's made using “starter” grains, just as sourdough bread has a “starter.” This starter is a combination of yeasts, milk proteins, and bacteria. It has a tart, creamy flavor, and it's loaded with probiotic health benefits.
Because kefir is fermented, most people who are lactose intolerant can actually drink kefir.
Kefir Vs Yogurt
Kefir has 12 different strains of live and active cultures and 25-30 billion Colony Forming Units (CFU), while the average yogurt can have anywhere from 1 to 5 strains with 6 billion CFU. That's more than double the amount of probiotics! Plus, it's also up to 99% lactose-free.
Side Effects of Kefir
While kefir has plenty of great health benefits, it also has some side effects. These include constipation and abdominal cramping. These side effects are most common when you first start taking kefir.Kefir is considered to be safe for children between 1 and 5 years of age, but ask their pediatrician first if you have concerns. Children under 1 year of age should not have cows’ milk products, but breast milk is high in natural probiotics.You should consult your doctor before drinking kefir if you have AIDS or other conditions that weaken the immune system. People with autoimmune diseases should also talk to their doctor before using kefir. While the bacteria in kefir is beneficial for people with strong immune systems, it may increase infections or exacerbations of conditions in those whose immune systems are out of balance.Kefir is made with caseins, which some people eliminate from their diet. If you have eliminated caseins from your diet, it may be best to skip kefir and try another probiotic instead.
Anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties
Research has shown that kefir possesses a range of antibacterial and antifungal properties. When tested against a series of pathogenic fungal and bacterial species, kefir was found to be as efficacious as several antibiotics in hindering microbial growth.Some species of bacteria found within kefir, such as L. acidophilus and L. kefiranofaciens, have been found to show independent antimicrobial activity against a range of pathogenic organisms such as E. coli and salmonella.Research suggests that due to these properties, kefir may be beneficial not only in combating food-borne pathogens but also in preventing and treating gastroenteritis and vaginal infections.Impact on cholesterolCoronary heart disease is one of the most common causes of death in the western world, with high cholesterol levels being a prime contributor. A healthy diet and lifestyle is important to reduce the risk of developing the condition. Research has shown that milk, and by extension fermented milk products such as kefir, can reduce cholesterol levels. During the fermentation process, kefir grains can also reduce the overall cholesterol levels in milk itself by approximately 41 to 84%.
Probiotics are living microorganisms which can exert several health benefits on consumption. Lactobacillus is a strain of kefir which is typically used as a probiotic due to its ability to regulate the body’s immune system and inhibit the growth of bacteria and parasites which are pathogenic in nature. Its use as a probiotic is generally considered safe. However, certain strains have been linked to the onset of sepsis and endocarditis, though this is mostly seen in individuals who have severe underlying medical illnesses.
Kefir is a good source of calcium and vitamin K, which are thought to play a role in bone health. Research has demonstrated that adequate calcium intake can reduce the risk of developing fractures and osteoporosis. Lactase deficiency is a common cause of low calcium intake. For those with this condition, kefir consumption may allow them to reach their recommended daily calcium intake.
Research has found that kefir has anti-carcinogenic properties that prevent and suppress early stage tumors. This is thought to be achieved by the inhibition of enzymes that typically convert pro-carcinogenic compounds to carcinogens. The role of kefir in the onset of apoptotic cell lysis in tumors and inhibition of tumor growth is established at present.