Kefir contains live probiotic organisms and rich in nutrients required by the body. It's made from gelatinous white or yellow particles called "grains." This makes kefir unique, as no other milk culture forms grains. These grains contain the bacteria/yeast mixture clumped together with casein (milk proteins) and complex sugars. They look like pieces of coral or small clumps of cauliflower.
Kefir, originated with shepherds of the North Caucasus region, the northern part of Russia between the Black and Caspian Seas. They discovered that fresh milk carried in leather pouches would occasionally ferment into an effervescent beverage. Traditional kefir was made in skin bags that were hung near a doorway. The bag would be bumped or moved by anyone passing through the doorway. This would help to keep the milk and kefir grains well mixed. Smart right! For most of recorded history, kefir was scarcely known outside the Caucasian Mountain region. Even Marco Polo mentioned it, when recounting his travels. In the 1980's, Kefir was a symbolic gift exchanged between superpowers at the end of the cold war. Today it is prepared by inoculating cow, goat, or sheep's milk with kefir grains. Kefier is a pro-biotic food, it will remarkably boost your immune system especially if you compare it to commercially prepared yogurt. Traditional kefir is fermented at ambient temperatures, generally overnight. Fermentation of the lactose yields a sour, carbonated, slightly alcoholic beverage, with a consistency similar to thin yogurt. Some of the health benefits Kefir include:
- Stimulates the immune system
- Cleanses the colon
- Increases energy
- Treats depression
- Nourishes the hair and skin
- Provides the body with complete proteins
- Provides many essential vitamins, including A, B2, B12, K and D
- Provides minerals such as calcium, phosphorus and magnesium
- It’s rich in antioxidants and anti-aging properties
- Treats IBD (inflammatory bowel disease)
- Relieves gas, bloating, indigestion
- Treats pancreatitis, eczema, stomach ulcers, psoriasis, rheumatism, arthritis and gout, osteoporosis and anemia
- Can reduce the risk for certain cancers including, colon cancer, by preventing the growth of cancerous cells
- Calms the nerves to maintain a healthy nervous system
- Helps control acne, sleep disorders, asthma, bronchitis, hypertension, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, allergies, colitis and diarrhea
- Assists patients who are suffering from AIDS, by bolstering the immune system and helps with chronic fatigue syndrome and sleep disorders
- Its tranquilizing effect on the nervous system has benefited many who suffer from sleep disorders, and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).
In addition to beneficial bacteria, Kefir contains minerals and essential amino acids that help the body with healing and maintenance functions. The complete proteins in Kefir are partially digested and therefore more easily utilized by the body. Tryptophan, one of the essential amino acids abundant in Kefir, is well known for its relaxing effect on the nervous system. Because Kefir also offers an abundance of calcium and magnesium, which are also important minerals for a healthy nervous system, Kefir in the diet can have a calming effect on the nerves. Kefir's ample supply of phosphorus, the second most abundant mineral in our bodies, helps utilize carbohydrates, fats, and proteins for cell growth, maintenance and energy. Kefir is rich in Vitamin B12, B1, and Vitamin K. It is an excellent source of biotin, a B Vitamin which aids the body's assimilation of other B Vitamins, such as folic acid, pantothenic acid, and B12. The numerous benefits of maintaining adequate B vitamin intake range from regulation of the kidneys, liver and nervous system to helping relieve skin disorders, boost energy and promote longevity. One study showed that Kefir also may aid in lactose digestion as a catalyst. Researcher Steven Hertzler stated, "Both Kefir and yogurt improve lactose digestion simply because some of the bacterial cells give up their lives in the intestinal tract, release their enzymes and digest the lactose. It's a one-shot deal. However, Kefir has additional microorganisms, that are able to colonize the intestines and benefit health further by protecting the intestine against disease-causing bacteria."
Production of traditional kefir requires a starter community of kefir grains which are added to the liquid one wishes to ferment. Kefir grains cannot be produced from scratch, but the grains grow during fermentation, and additional grains are produced. Kefir grains can be bought or donated by other growers. Without refrigeration the shelf life of Kefir is two to three days. Grains can be dried at room temperature or lyophilized (freeze-dried) or frozen. Kefir can be produced using lyophilized cultures commonly available as a powder from health food shops. A portion of the resulting kefir can be saved to be used a number of times to propagate further fermentations but ultimately does not form grains, and a fresh culture must be obtained. The benefits of consuming kefir regularly in the diet are numerous. Easily digested, it cleanses the intestines, provides beneficial bacteria and yeast, vitamins and minerals, and complete proteins.
You can buy it ready made or simply make it yourself. Some find Kefir too sour on its own and prefer to add flavors or sweeteners like Stevia. Fruits or honey can be mixed with Kefir to make a smoothie. Kefir is sold with different varieties of fruit and flavors already added, both in the organic and non-organic varieties. I suggest the organic types. I drink a tall glass twice a week Kefir would be a welcome addition to any athletes training table or any families diet regimen or for anyone suffering from any of the maladies listed above. Good Luck...
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