Kefir is a fermented dairy product that has been around for centuries. The exact origins of kefir are not well-documented, but it is believed to have originated in the Caucasus Mountains, a region that spans the modern-day countries of Russia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan. According to history, kefir was first discovered by nomadic shepherds who noticed that their milk had fermented and preserved during their long travels after being carried in leather pouches made from animal hides. Over time, these shepherds discovered that the fermented milk had a pleasing taste and could be stored for very long periods of time without ever spoiling. They began to use kefir as a staple food, and eventually, the knowledge of how to make kefir spread throughout the region.
Kefir grains are a combination of lactic acid bacteria and yeast, and they look like small, rubbery cauliflower florets. When added to milk, they feed on the lactose and convert it into lactic acid, which gives kefir its pleasing tangy flavor, and carbon dioxide, which makes it slightly effervescent. One of the main benefits of kefir is its ability to improve digestion. The lactic acid bacteria and yeast in kefir help break down lactose, making it easier for lactose intolerant people to digest dairy products. Kefir also contains a variety of other beneficial bacteria, including Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum, which can help balance the gut microbiome and reduce inflammation. Kefir also contains a variety of essential vitamins and minerals, including calcium, magnesium, and vitamin B12. These nutrients are important for maintaining strong bones, healthy nerves, and overall vitality.
The Differences Between Kefir and Yogurt
While kefir and yogurt are both fermented dairy products, there are some key differences between them. For one, kefir typically contains more bacterial strains than yogurt. While the exact number can vary depending on the specific kefir or yogurt product, kefir generally contains anywhere from 10 to 20 different strains of bacteria and yeast, whereas yogurt typically contains only a few strains of bacteria, usually two to three. The greater variety of bacterial strains found in kefir is one reason why it is often considered to be a more beneficial food for gut health than yogurt. This variety of bacteria can help to populate the gut with a diverse range of beneficial microbes, which can have positive effects on digestion, immune function, and overall health. The bacteria in kefir are also known to be more resilient and longer-lasting than those in yogurt, which means they can survive better in the harsh environment of the digestive system. The yogurt bacteria is typically flushed out of the system within 24-48 hours, whereas the Kefir bacteria strains actually stay for a much longer time and begin to populate and grow in the gut. This is important because these bacteria can lead to better digestion and better overall health.
You Can Make Kefir at Home!
One of the great things about kefir is that it is very easy to make at home. You can purchase kefir grains online (here’s where I get mine: yemoos.com) or at a health food store, and then use them to ferment milk for 24-48 hours. Once the milk has been fermented, you can strain out the kefir grains and use them to make another batch of kefir and keep repeating the process. With each batch the grains multiply and you have more. I usually give my extra away to family and friends. It's a simple and sustainable way to incorporate this beneficial food into your diet.
Kefir is Good for the Skin too!
Kefir can be a great addition to your skincare routine, whether used topically or consumed internally. When applied topically, kefir can provide a number of benefits to the skin. The probiotics found in kefir can help improve the skin's natural barrier function, which can reduce inflammation and irritation, and improve skin hydration. Kefir also contains lactic acid, which is a gentle exfoliant that can help brighten and smooth the skin.
Face Mask: One way to use kefir topically is to apply it as a face mask. To do this, simply apply a thin layer of kefir to your face and leave it on for 10-15 minutes, then rinse off with warm water. Mix kefir with other ingredients, such as honey or oatmeal, for an even more nourishing mask.
Cleanser: Kefir can also be used as a gentle cleanser. Simply apply a small amount of kefir to a cotton pad and use it to cleanse your face. The probiotics in kefir help remove impurities from the skin, while the lactic acid can gently exfoliate and brighten the complexion.
Bath: Add kefir to your bath. Simply pour a cup or two of kefir into your bathwater and soak in it for 15-20 minutes. This can help to soothe dry or irritated skin, and leave skin feeling so soft and hydrated.
Kefir’s probiotic and nutrient-rich properties can help promote a healthy body and healthy skin from the inside out. You should give it a try!