Health Benefits of Kefir
Kefir is a thick drink made by fermenting milk with kefir grains composed of lactic acid bacteria, yeast and polysaccharides. The grains culture the milk, infusing it with healthy organisms. The result is a tangy, slightly effervescent drink similar to yogurt that supports a healthy gut and offers numerous other purported health benefits. Although not all of the health claims surrounding kefir are scientifically proven, it is a healthy addition to any diet.
One cup of kefir is a source of protein, with 8 to 11 g per cup. Kefir also provides 10 percent of the recommended daily value for vitamin A and 25 percent of the value for vitamin D. Kefir is also a source of calcium, with 30 percent of the daily value per cup, based on a 2,000 calorie diet.
Kefir contains certain healthy bacteria that is not available in yogurt, including Lactobacillus Caucasus, Leuconostoc, Acetobacter species, Streptococcus species, Saccharomyces kefir and Torula kefir. These beneficial microorganisms help support digestive health and prevent the growth of harmful bacteria in the intestines. Vitamins, such as vitamin K and B-12, are produced in the gut and the probiotics in kefir facilitate this production.
Help with Lactose Intolerance
Although it is made from milk, the fermenting process used to create kefir makes it nearly lactose-free, note kefir manufacturers. In a study in the “Journal of the American Dietetic Association” published in May 2003, researchers from Ohio State University tested 15 people with lactose intolerance and found that kefir reduced symptoms such as gas, abdominal pain and diarrhea related to the consumption of lactose. The curds in kefir are smaller than those in yogurt, making it easier to digest. Although this study is promising, if you suffer from severe lactose intolerance, you should check with your physician before adding kefir to your diet.
One cup of plain kefir contains 150 calories and 8 g of fat, 5 g of which are saturated. Choose low-fat kefir if you are watching your weight, because 1 cup of low-fat kefir contains just 110 calories and 2 g of fat, with 1.5 g saturated. Researchers from Curtin University in Australia found in an October 2009 study that dieters who consumed five servings of dairy daily, in addition to a low-calorie diet, lost more weight and belly fat than dieters who consumed just three servings daily. One cup of kefir counts as a serving of dairy.
Possible Disease Prevention
Although more research is needed, preliminary studies show that kefir may have an effect on cancer cells. A study in the journal “Cancer Management and Research,” published in February 2011, found that kefir effectively prohibited the growth of malignant T-cells, which play a role in certain types of cellular cancer. Another study, published in “BioFactors” in December 2004, found that compounds in kefir can help control blood pressure and cholesterol levels in rats. More thorough studies on the effects of kefir on cancer and other chronic conditions are necessary to draw any significant conclusions, however.