Health/Fitness

Kefir, A Healthy Alternative to Yogurt

by Kyle Washburn
Health & Fitness Editor
Wednesday May 16, 2012
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Almost everyone wants to eat well and live healthy lives. People also know that nutrition plays a huge part in our overall health. However, it is hard to know all the best foods, and it seems there are continually new products on the market touting some health benefit.

Yogurt and probiotics offer great health benefits for most people, but have you heard about Kefir?

Kefir is a cultured, enzyme-rich food comprised of a combination of bacteria and yeasts that help balance your "inner ecosystem." More nutritious and therapeutic than yogurt, it supplies complete protein, essential minerals, and valuable B vitamins.

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 may be able to colonize the intestines and benefit health further by protecting the intestine against disease-causing bacteria."

Both Kefir and yogurt are cultured milk products, but they contain different types of beneficial bacteria. Yogurt contains transient beneficial bacteria that keep the digestive system clean and provide food for the friendly bacteria that reside there. But kefir can actually colonize the intestinal tract, a feat that yogurt cannot match. Kefir’s active yeast and bacteria provide more nutritive value than yogurt by helping digest the foods that you eat and by keeping the colon environment clean and healthy.

Researcher Steven Hertzler stated: "Kefir has additional microorganisms (over yogurt) that may be able to colonize the intestines and benefit health further by protecting the intestine against disease-causing bacteria."

Kefir contains several major strains of friendly bacteria not commonly found in yogurt, Lactobacillus Caucasus, Leuconostoc, Acetobacter species, and Streptococcus species. It also contains beneficial yeasts, such as Saccharomyces kefir and Torula kefir.

Now if you are lactose intolerant, don’t do dairy or digest milk products well, you can still consume kefir products. The beneficial yeast and friendly bacteria in the kefir culture consume most of the lactose. Eat kefir on an empty stomach first thing in the morning before or for breakfast and you will find it can be easily digested.

Some people thrive on kefir right from the start and others may need to proceed more slowly. Remember that people with candidiasis lack milk-digesting bacteria, so you may have to build up your tolerance of kefir. Start with about four ounces in the morning on an empty stomach. Every second day increase the amount until you are able to drink a full eight-ounce glass.

An even better method to consume kefir is through a frozen product. It resembles a healthy, frozen treat. Lifeway’s Frozen Kefir is a creamy, delicious dessert that packs 10 live and active probiotic cultures. This tart and tangy treat is high in protein and calcium, and it’s made from all natural ingredients. The frozen Kefir is only 90 calories per serving, gluten free, and 99% lactose free and is available in seven fun flavors: mango, pomegranate, original, strawberry, pumpkin, chocolate and dulce de leche.

Check out the product at www.lifeway.net or your local Whole Foods. If you are in Boston it will be available at the EarthFest festival Saturday May 26th.

Kyle Washburn is the National Health and Fitness Editor at Edge Publications, Inc. He earned a BS in Physiology, M.Ed in Sport Psychology and Counseling and an MBA. He is a certified personal trainer through NASM and ACE and has been training for over ten years. He is an avid triathlete, softball and tennis player, runner, hiker and enjoys the outdoors.

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