You’ve probably spotted kefir on the supermarket shelves by now – produced by various companies and available in many flavours; this beverage is being sold for its gut friendly properties and the UK has finally come to embrace this fermented product that has been available in other countries for several decades.
It is believed that kefir originates from the Caucasus and is characterised by its tart, thickened liquid texture, much like a drinking yogurt. The beverage is made using kefir grains, which are clusters of different strains of bacteria and yeasts including lactobacilli, lactococci, yeasts and vinegar bacteria.
Kefir is a probiotic – the live bacteria and yeasts provide health benefits that can help restore the natural balance of bacteria in your gut. There's evidence that probiotics may be helpful in preventing diarrhoea and can help to ease some symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, as well as inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria.
In addition, kefir:
is a source of calcium and vitamin K2 but also low in lactose, which means it is good for bone health and can generally be consumed by people who are lactose intolerant
is a source of protein – 225ml contains approximately 10g of protein
is associated with improved digestion
can help to lower bad cholesterol levels
can help lower fasting blood sugar levels
has anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic effects, such as atopic asthma
I always advocate consuming foods and drinks that are available as close to how we find them in nature, so I tend to steer clear of products that have been flavoured. I really enjoy kefir as does the rest of my family, including my children. Give it a chance and let your tastebuds adjust to this tart, but refreshing drink that is so beneficial to health.
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NHS (2018) Probiotics [Online]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/probiotics/
Bourrie, B. et al. (2016) The Microbiota and Health Promoting Characteristics of the Fermented Beverage Kefir. Frontiers in Microbiology, pp. 647. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4854945/
Vinderola et al. (2005) Immunomodulating capacity of kefir. The Journal of Dairy Research, pp. 195-202.
Rosa et al. (2017) Milk kefir: nutritional, microbiological and health benefits. Nutrition Research Reviews, 30(1). Available from: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/nutrition-research-reviews/article/milk-kefir-nutritional-microbiological-and-health-benefits/1393DC2B8E5F08B0BE7BD58F030D387B
Lee, M. (2007) Anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic effects of kefir in a mouse asthma model. Immunobiology, 212(8), pp.647-54. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17869642/