What’s good with kefir?

Kefir, aside from being a delicious yogurt-like smoothie you can buy in a variety of flavors and brands, also offers a slew of health benefits to support a healthy immune system.

Looks yummy! Photo from Creative Commons.

Kefir is a fermented beverage that originated in the Caucasus Mountains hundreds of years ago.  Although it’s typically produced and sold with cow’s milk, it can be made with any type of milk. It’s slightly sour because of the fermentation activity but when mixed with strawberries or peaches it makes for a tasty beverage. There are many different types of beneficial microbiota in kefir that make it one of the best probiotic foods available.

Probiotic foods are foods that contain living bacteria that is beneficial to humans. Most probiotic foods are at least partially fermented.

Kefir is a rich source of many different vitamins and essential amino acids that promote healing and well-being. Kefir contains high levels of thiamin, B12, calcium, folates and vitamin K2. It’s a great source of biotin, a B vitamin that assists the body in producing other B vitamins. It provides a great source of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus which help the body utilize carbohydrates, proteins and fats for cell growth and energy.

There may be certain compounds in kefir that play a pivotal role in maintaining immune function, allergic response and inflammation. One study found that kefiran, a sugar byproduct of the kefir culture, may reduce allergic inflammation by suppressing mast cell degranulation and cytokine production.

If you’re thinking you can purchase kefir at  Wal-Mart, forget it. Wal-Mart and natural health products don’t really mesh. Kefir can be purchased at the Kroger in Pulaski, roughly a five minute drive away from campus, and most always at your local co-op or health store. The price of kefir might make you think twice about purchasing it, but it’s about the same you would pay for yogurt or milk and the health benefits it offers are well worth the price.