What is kefir?

Kefir has been around for years but is just recently beginning to become popular.

Kefir, pronounced kee-feer, is a fermented milk product or drink that can be made out of cow, goat or sheep milk. Like yogurt, the taste of kefir is slightly sour and carbonated due to the fermentation activity. A main difference between kefir and yogurt is the type of bacteria they contain. Kefir originated centuries ago in the Caucasus Mountains in Eastern Europe. The origin of the word is Turkish and it is derived from the word “keif,” which means good feeling. In many cultures, kefir is believed to have healing properties, but only recently it has been studied and researched to determine its true therapeutic values.

So why has kefir become so popular among health food experts? It was found that kefir contains various types of beneficial bacteria and yeast that makes kefir one of the most potent probiotic foods.

Kefir is also rich in many other vitamins, minerals and essential amino acids such as thiamin, B12, calcium, foliate, vitamin K2, calcium, magnesium and phosphorous. Kefir also contains complete proteins that are partially digested. This allows kefir to be easily utilized by the body.

More research studies are needed in studying the many health benefits kefir is believed to offer; however, so far we know that kefir can help with digestion problems and that kefir contains tryptophan. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that has a relaxing effect on the nervous system. To enjoy kefir, use it in place of yogurt in your smoothies. In many cultures, kefir is enjoyed in its plain form as a tangy drink. If you decide to go for the fruit flavored kefir drinks available in your stores, make sure you pay attention to its sugar content. Some can contain a lot of sugar just like fruit-flavored yogurts.

Michigan State University Extension offers various educational programs that focus on lifestyle changes to promote healthy eating. For more health and nutrition tips visit www.msue.msu.edu.

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