Kefir has become an increasingly popular health food in recent years due to its health benefits, but it has actually been around for hundreds of years. It was traditionally made in the Caucasus Mountains by letting grains ferment in the milk of a cow or goat.
It later became a common food in the USSR. Only recently has it been common to find kefir on the shelves of grocery stores outside of Slavic countries.
What exactly is kefir today? It is a fermented dairy beverage with a taste similar to yogurt. It has probiotics in it, which are bacteria that are healthy for the digestive system. Kefir can be bought plain or flavored with fruit and added sugar.
Health Benefits of Kefir
Drinking a serving of kefir every day has many powerful health benefits. Learn about them now.
1. Aids in Weight Management
Kefir aids in weight management for several reasons. One reason is because it is high in protein. One cup of kefir can have up to fourteen grams of protein.
Protein usually helps individuals feel full longer than fat and carbohydrates do. Plain kefir is also very low in sugar, which helps with weight management. Kefir also tends to be fairly low in calories. It can have as few as 120 calories per cup.
However, the calorie count depends on the type of kefir. Plain, unflavored low-fat kefir is the best option. Flavored kefir sometimes has a lot of sugar added to it, which increases the calorie count.
Full-fat kefir is not incredibly calorie-dense, but low-fat kefir is a better option for individuals looking to harness its weight management benefits.
2. Inhibits Growth of Harmful Bacteria
Kefir contains healthy gut bacteria. These bacteria help with digestion and promote good intestinal health. By adding to the population of good bacteria in the gut, kefir inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria.
The probiotics in kefir are great for individuals who have recently gone through a course of antibiotics. This is because antibiotics, while they are sometimes necessary to treat infections, can wreak havoc in the gut by killing off the good bacteria that live there.
Drinking kefir can help replace those bacteria. Probiotics are also beneficial to individuals who suffer from frequent diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome. These conditions can sometimes be caused or worsened by an overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the intestines.
Consuming probiotics could also be helpful in treating or preventing yeast infections and urinary tract infections.
3. Lowers Risk of Osteoporosis
One of the main health benefits of kefir is that lowers an individual’s risk of osteoporosis because it contains a large amount of calcium and vitamin D. Calcium is essential for bone health, and vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and to use it effectively.
Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bone density becomes very low, causing the bones to be very fragile, which can lead to pain, bad posture and bone fractures.
Women who have gone through menopause are at a higher risk than other groups of developing osteoporosis. Drinking a serving of kefir daily provides a large portion of the daily recommended amount of calcium and vitamin D.
Thus, it is clear drinking kefir and consuming other good sources of calcium is a great step towards preventing osteoporosis.
4. May Improve Lactose Intolerance
Some individuals may be wary of drinking kefir because it is a dairy product, since countless individuals around the globe are lactose intolerant.
However, kefir actually may improve lactose intolerance in individuals who drink it regularly. Kefir, while it contains dairy, is full of probiotics, which are bacteria that help the digestive system process food.
Among the bacteria found in kefir are bacteria that help the body digest lactose. Because of this, many individuals with lactose intolerance can enjoy kefir without experiencing negative effects like bloating and diarrhea.
If drinking kefir is still a problem for an individual because of the dairy content, they should note that dairy-free kefir is available on the market today. Kefir made from coconut milk and rice milk may be difficult to find, but it does exist.
5. Helps Control Blood Sugar
In addition to all of its other powerful health benefits, kefir helps control blood sugar. This makes it a great dietary addition for patients living with diabetes. It is important to note some of the kefir at the grocery store has a lot of sugar added.
Plain, unflavored kefir tends not to be sweetened, but it is important to check the label just to make sure. Kefir is good for regulating blood sugar because of its probiotic content.
According to the National Institutes of Health, probiotic foods can be described as having ‘anti-diabetic properties.’ Some studies have demonstrated consuming kefir on a regular basis can cause individuals’ fasting glucose levels to go down over time.
Consuming kefir also lowers HbA1c levels. HbA1c is an indicator of someone’s average blood sugar levels over a period of time. This finding indicates kefir has long-term positive effects on blood sugar.