Doctors often need to give patients advice on their diets. I have talked with countless patients who are confused about the huge amount of information on what will keep you healthy, what will keep you thin, and what will keep you young. Furthermore, the latest news about healthy eating often changes from year to year and even month to month.
To make life easier for my patients, I follow the latest research in nutrition and healthy eating. One food that consistently makes headlines has actually been around for hundreds of years. I am talking about kefir, the cultured milk beverage.
This yogurt-like drink is more than a healthy and delicious beverage – it is as close to a miracle food as you can get! I want to share with you what I’ve learned about kefir so you can make a smart choice about incorporating it into your diet.
Bring on the “Good” Bacteria
At this very moment, trillions of beneficial bacteria are at work in your intestines, digesting food and fighting off the “bad” bacteria that can cause disease. These good bacteria are essential for healthy digestion keeping you free of infection. Sometimes, the good bacteria get depleted, and the balance shifts in favor of the harmful bacteria. This often occurs when you take antibiotics to fight infection. The medication cannot distinguish between good and bad bacteria, so it wipes out both kinds, leaving you vulnerable to more trouble in the future.
That is where kefir comes in.
Kefir contains probiotics, which are simply friendly bacteria that result from the fermentation process. Like yogurt, kefir is an excellent source of probiotics. Both contain live cultures like Lactobacillus, and both provide an ideal mechanism for delivering probiotics to the digestive system.
These nutrients protect the probiotic bacteria from acid and bile in the body and contain compounds that help probiotics flourish in the intestines. Kefir, however, has a feature that yogurt lacks. It is more efficient at creating new colonies of friendly bacteria in the intestines, as opposed to just bolstering existing colonies.
Kefir originated in the Caucasus Mountains where it has been used for centuries to increase longevity and treat diseases like atherosclerosis, allergies, tuberculosis and digestive disorders. Kefir has a very pleasant and mild taste that is both slightly sweet and tangy. It has a fizzy texture too, thanks to the self-carbonating properties of the yeast it contains.
Western countries have finally caught onto this delicious and healing food, and it is now readily available in health food stores and many supermarkets.
Drink to Your Health
Kefir can aid in the treatment of many conditions. Here are the ways you can use kefir to boost your health and stay young:
1) Treat Digestive Disorders – Kefir has been shown to benefit people who suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It may reduce abdominal pain, bloating and constipation. It also assists with normal digestive function in healthy people.
2) Fend Off Inflammation – Long used by Russian doctors to treat allergies, it may also improve eczema.
3) Fight Ulcers – Kefir may inhibit the growth of bad bacteria like H. Pylori, which has been shown to cause ulcers.
4) Keep the Body Young – Kefir contains a healthy dose of calcium, which keeps bones strong and fights osteoporosis. It also keeps your teeth healthy.
5) Assist in Weight Loss – Researchers think that dairy products such as kefir help dieters lose fat more rapidly than dieters who do not regularly eat dairy.
To get the most benefit from adding kefir to your diet, I recommend drinking at least one serving (about 1 cup) per day. Look for plain, unsweetened kefir, instead of a product loaded with sugar and artificial flavors. You can flavor kefir naturally with pure fruit juices, berries or honey. It is an excellent base for smoothies. I enjoy the flavor and creamy texture of kefir so much; I would drink it even if it were not a superfood!
I hope you will give it a try and see for yourself.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.