Try Kefir – Your Gut Will Thank You
Aug 5, 2013 - 12:03:00 AM
Both are cultured milk foods rich in protein, calcium, B vitamins and potassium. Unflavored they have a slightly tangy flavor. When flavored they both are sweeter and less tart tasting. The prime difference is in consistency, kefir is thinner and normally used as a drink. Kefir almost always contains more strains of friendly bacteria (probiotics) than yogurt which normally contains only a few. Kefir is also lower in lactose (milk sugar) than milk, so it is a good option for those with lactose intolerance.
Regularly eating foods, like kefir, that contain probiotics protects your immune system and digestive health and may protect against many serious health problems such as heart disease and colon cancer. The friendly bacteria that live in your digestive tract outnumber your human cells by more than 10 to 1 - we live with these microbes as partners. Gut microbes are essential to your immune system, they extract nutrients from our food, and protect us from infectious diseases.
There is speculation that over the last 50 years as we have become more conscious about hygiene and have shifted our diets away from naturally containing probiotic foods, the make-up of our gut bacteria may have changed. This could explain, in some part, why autoimmune and inflammatory diseases have increased and may even have implications for our obesity epidemic. Researchers at the University of Arizona recently showed that children with autism have fewer types of gut bacteria when compared to children without autism. And, children who grow up on farms have fewer allergies and immune-related conditions.
Kefir, which is rich in a wide array of probiotics, can be used as a drink or over cereal or fruit, or even blended into a smoothie. It can be substituted in any dish that calls for yogurt. It is a good, healthy substitute for milk, on occasion, and a pleasant, filling snack for kids. I recently tried 3 brands.
Plain is a tangy traditional kefir. A 1 cup serving has 140 calories and 400 milligrams of calcium (40% of the daily recommendation). When the kefir is flavored as in Vanilla Honey (220 calories in 1 cup), Honey Strawberry (220 calories in 1 cup) or Honey (230 calories in 1 cup) it has a milder, sweeter taste with no tangy aftertaste but it has more calories. These are a good choice for those that don't like traditional kefir.
Next time you go to the supermarket, look for kefir in the yogurt section and give it a try.
© NRH Nutrition Consultants, Inc.
Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN is a registered dietitian and the author of the nutrition counter series for Pocket Books with sales of more than 8.5 million books.
The Most Complete Food Counter, 3rd ed., 2013
The Calorie Counter, 6th Ed., 2013
The Complete Food Counter, 4th ed., 2012
The Diabetes Counter, 4th Ed., 2011
The Protein Counter, 3rd Ed., 2011
The Ultimate Carbohydrate Counter, 3rd Ed., 2010
The Fat Counter, 7th ed., 2009
The Healthy Wholefoods Counter, 2008
The Cholesterol Counter, 7th Ed., 2008
Your Complete Food Counter App: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/your-complete-food-counter/id444558777?mt=8
For more information on Jo-Ann and her books, go to: www.TheNutritionExperts.com.
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