Why all the buzz about Kefir?

Because it's about your health.

  Most kefir sold in the U.S. is made from cow's milk, but kefir can be made by fermenting any kind of milk (cow, sheep, goat, and even coconut and soy) with kefir "grains," which no, are not actual grains—but they provide the beneficial yeast and bacteria that are so great for your digestive system. Kefir contains several strands of probiotic bacteria, including some not found in yogurt. Also awesome: Cow's milk kefir is high in protein and calcium and very low in lactose, so people who aren't usually able to tolerate other dairy products may find that their stomachs handle kefir just fine. Health pros recommend plain over flavored varieties to skip drinking added sugar. Ready to try it? Enjoy a glass straight up or use it in one of these smart recipe ideas. (P.S. Here's the real deal with probiotic drinks.)  

Is Kefir new?

Kefir is an ancient drink that’s made a strong comeback in popular  culture. A fermented dairy drink that’s thinner than yogurt so you can  drink it out of a glass, kefir is filling the shelves of health food  stores and has become a buzzword in the health blogosphere. Kefir is typically made by fermenting milk using kefir grains, which  are not actually grains like wheat or oats, but are cultures of bacteria  and yeast held together by a polysaccharide produced by the beneficial  bacteria Lactobacillus higarii. Fermented and cultured foods provide your body with billions of  beneficial of bacteria to cultivate your “gut garden,” the microbiome,  where trillions of bacteria regulate your immune system, hormones, brain  and genetics. The ways your microbiome controls your health are truly fascinating. So is all the hype around kefir warranted, or is this another health fad? Let’s check out the health facts about this drink: 1. It’s rich in vitamin K2. Through the fermentation process of kefir, vitamin K2 is produced. Low levels of vitamin K2 are linked to  all kinds of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Optimal  vitamin K2 levels mean a better chance at a longer, healthier life. 2. It gives you B vitamins. Kefir is a source of several B vitamins, which are needed for a wide  variety of health purposes. Your brain, nerves, mood and energy levels all need B vitamins to function properly. B vitamins are also the key players in a biochemical process call methylation, which is needed for optimal immune function. 3. It contains tryptophan. You know that sleepy, relaxed feeling you get after a big turkey  dinner? That’s thanks to tryptophan. This amino acid is also found in  kefir. The word kefir actually stems from the Turkish word “keif” which  id translated as “good feeling”! 4. It improves digestive health. Lactobacillus kefiranofaciens M1, a specific bacteria strain from the kefir grain culture, has been shown to help in colitis cases by balancing the immune system and calming inflammation in the body. Research has also shown  that kefir improves lactose intolerance. Kefir has a larger variety of  beneficial probiotics compared to yogurt, so this will help promote  healthy digestion and microbiome health. 5. It has antitumor properties. Cancer beware. Kefir was shown in one study to reduce tumor growth and increase the body’s ability to fight cancer. 6. Reduces cholesterol and blood pressure. Kefiran, a unique sugar produced by kefir grains, was shown in a study out of the UK to reduce cholesterol and blood pressure. 7. It balances the immune system. Kefiran, the kefir sugar I just mentioned, also demonstrated the ability to decrease allergic inflammation and calm the immune system. See, not all sugar is bad! OK, it’s healthy, but which kefir should you get? There are so many varieties of kefir on the market today, it can be  confusing to pick the best one for you. As with most mass-produced food  items, many kefir brands are made low in fat and high in sugar for broad  appeal. This can make a healthy drink an unhealthy one. Avoid the added sugars, as this will work against your motives for  drinking kefir in the first place. Skip the low-fat kefir because, as  with any dairy, the bulk of the nutrients are found in the fat, which is  why they synthetically add them back in when it is labeled “low fat.” I  also suggest opting for grass-fed and organic kefir for higher levels  of nutrients. You also can skip buying kefir in a store altogether and make your  own! Quality kefir grain cultures and starting kits are sold online, and  come with simple instructions to start your own personal kefir at home! If you’re looking to get creative with kefir, here are five fun ways to incorporate it into your daily life: Smoothies Blend your kefir with berries, greens and some ice for a yummy kefir smoothie! Popsicles Freeze your kefir smoothie in a Popsicle mold for an icy treat that  kids will enjoy. Keep in mind that the freezing may damage the  beneficial bacteria, but the other health benefits will still be in  effect. Salad Dressings Any dressing recipe where you would use yogurt as an ingredient will be great if you substitute kefir! Kefir Cheese If you like cheese, many health food stores sell kefir cheeses, which gives you another form of this healthy food. Nondairy Kefir Even though fermentation makes regular kefir tolerable for most  people, not everyone can or wants to have dairy. You can use the kefir  grains to make your own water, coconut water or coconut milk kefir, all  of which have benefits similar to the regular variety. By Dr. Will Cole