Kefir and its benefits
There are many healthcare practitioners that advise people with gastrointestinal symptoms to consume kefir due to its probiotic content. Some people like the taste, others do not due to its slightly carbonated and tart taste but there is no doubt that this yoghurt-like drink can have some positive effect on our gut health.
The aim of this article is to quickly summarise its health benefits, and to inform all those of you that want to know a bit more about kefir.
In fact, its name is translated “good feeling” from Turkish (“keyif”), possibly because it has been used as a cure to many diseases in the past. It is essentially a fermented beverage with symbiotic properties because bacteria and yeast both ferment for approximately 24 hours and result in the so-called “kefir”.
Some people may worry that this drink contains the kefir grain (and grains usually contain gluten) but during fermentation the grains turn the lactose in milk into lactic acid which leads to a lactose-free and gluten-free gut-friendly beverage.
Let’s now dive into the benefits of consuming kefir.
Benefits of consuming kefir
High nutritional value (Price 2017)
- Contains protein, calcium, potassium as well as organic acids and peptides.
- Symbiotic content:
- Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis
- Lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris
- Streptococcus thermophilus
- Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Bifidobacterium lactic
- Since the bacteria break down most of the lactose content of the milk in kefir, it is considered 99% lactose-free (Ware 2017) and people with lactose intolerance may consume it without any issues.
- It is even believed that its regular consumption may adverse the symptoms. (Hertzler et al. 2003)
- The probiotic content of the drink, 61 strains of bacteria and yeasts (Leech 2018), may improve digestion and thus help with any gastrointestinal issues that may be present.
- Moreover, when people take antibiotics due to different reasons, they are usually advised to take a probiotic capsule as well. Therefore, kefir can be consumed as an additional “remedy” for the disrupted microflora.
May improve bone health
- Kefir is made from milk and as mentioned above - it contains calcium. It also contains vitamin K2 in small amounts which is known to positively affect the skeletomuscular system since it helps to absorb calcium into the bones.
- Although kefir won’t “cure” bone issues, it may be a good addition to one’s diet if such issues are present.
- One of the probiotic strains in kefir - Lactobacillus kefiri, has been widely researched and a study by Leech (2018) found that this strain can inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria such as Salmonella, Helicobacter pylori and E. Coli (Leech 2018).
Of course, there are more properties of kefir that can be discussed and further researched but this article gives a quick overview of the main ones. As a registered dietitian, I would like to note that the consumption of this drink will not cure any health issues on its own. However, it may have a beneficial effect on some people, and it is worth trying adding it to your diet.
HERTZLER, SR., CLANCY, SM., 2003. Kefir improves lactose digestion and tolerance in adults with lactose maldigestion. [online]. Ohio: Medical Dietetics Division, School of Allied Medical Professions. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12728216 [Accessed 14 January 2019].
LEECH, J., 2018. 9 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Kefir. [online]. San Francisco: Healthline. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/9-health-benefits-of-kefir#section10 [Accessed 14 January 2019].
PRICE, A., 2017. 7 Kefir Benefits and Nutrition Facts that Boost Immunity & Heal the Gut. [online]. Nashville: Dr. Axe. Available from: https://draxe.com/kefir-benefits/ [Accessed 14 January 2019].
WARE, M., 2017. Seven benefits of kefir. [online]. United Kingdom: Medical News Today. Available from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318353.php [Accessed 14 January 2019].