Kefir – complete health in a glass

If you grew up on a farm, you will be familiar with “amasi” or sour milk and its health benefits, especially its probiotic (beneficial bacteria) content. But hold onto your hat, because this new kid on the block is sour milk with a difference. Called kefir (pronounced kuh-feer) , its benefits far outweigh any other probiotic foods such as amasi or yoghurt.

Kefir grains after straining
Kefir grains

The word “kefir” is derived from the Turkish word “keif”, which literally translates to the “good feeling” one has after drinking it. (No it is not alcoholic). Kefir originated thousands of years ago amongst the tribes of the Caucasus Mountains of the former USSR and for centuries traditional cultures have attributed healing powers to this beverage but it is only recently that much scientific research has determined its true benefits.

What is Kefir?

Kefir is the fermented milk beverage that results from the fermentation activity of bacteria and yeast that make up the “grains” used to culture the milk (not actual grains, but a grain-like matrix of proteins, lipids, and sugars that feed the microbes in the milk). If you have made amasi you will know how to make kefir.

Straining kefir

It can be made from the milk of any ruminant animal – cow, goat, or sheep. Simply add milk to the grains (raw is ideal however pasteurised also fine), strain after 1-3 days, and repeat the process. Kefir, the beverage, is slightly sour and becomes more so the longer you leave it.

Once you have kefir grains you have them for life and when they multiply you can share with friends.

What are the health benefits?

  • Besides containing highly beneficial bacteria and yeasts, kefir is a rich source of many different vitamins, minerals and essential amino acids that promote healing and repair, as well as general health maintenance.
  • By providing the gut with many types of beneficial microbiota, kefir helps in preventing diarrhea or reducing its duration. This includes conditions like infant’s diarrhea, colitis, IBS, Crohn’s disease and gastroenteritis. Kefir consumption can also alleviate chronic constipation and re-establish intestinal microflora after a course of antibiotics. It has also shown efficacy against Helicobacter pylori associated with peptic ulcers, gastritis, and gastric cancer.
  • Kefir is a great source of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin K2, hence highly beneficial to bone health.
  • Kefir consumption has been found to be effective in reducing the symptoms of food allergies, because it has the ability to reduce intestinal permeation of food antigens, whilst suppressing IgE and IgG1 responses. Even those with lactose intolerance may find they can drink kefir as the lactic acid bacteria improve lactose digestion as well as increase immune function.
  • Research has also demonstrated that kefir may have an anti-tumour effect, inhibiting tumour growth, and suggesting that it may play a role in cancer prevention.
  • Studies have also concluded that kefir could play a role in the prevention of certain heart diseases due to its anti-inflammatory properties. A lowering of the systolic and the diastolic blood pressures as well as of heart rate have been recorded in hypertensive patients. A significant lowering effect on levels of LDL cholesterol have also been recorded.
  • It is a good source of most B vitamins including biotin.
  • It also contains the amino acid tryptophan, making it is a great beverage to drink just before bedtime to induce a restful sleep.
  • When applied topically, kefir is an effective antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory agent for improved wound healing.
Use kefir in smoothies

Kefir can greatly contribute to your overall health and well-being and I highly recommend including this nutritious superfood in your diet.  

Because kefir has become so popular of late it should not be too difficult to find someone who is able to share a few starter grains with you. Then culture your own kefir and drink it by the glass, use it in the place of yoghurt in your smoothies or to make sourdough bread or as a substitute for buttermilk in baking.

The LCHF Diet – are there risks?

 

Although I am in favour of the LCHF Diet, that also goes by the names Banting, Paleo and Ketogenic Diets, and see it as a fundamentally healthy way of eating that mirrors the diet we evolved to eat and is in accordance with our innate physiology, I do harbour some reservations. This diet (which I prefer to refer to as an eating plan) in the hands of followers who have scant knowledge of nutritional needs of the body or harm that can be done by toxic chemicals, can become risky. Balancing proteins and fats with fresh fruit and vegetables and sourcing organic and grass-fed produce are fundamental to the success of this LCHF plan. I see people losing unwanted kilograms but at what cost?

Acid-alkaline balance goes

Eating only protein and fat and totally avoiding vegetables – any man’s dream!  I hear of people eating just eggs, bacon and more bacon for breakfast. Some may even have a 400g steak for breakfast – nothing else! So what’s the problem with this? A huge one: No acid-alkaline balance. Vegetables and fruits are alkaline-forming and meat, dairy and fats are acid-forming. You need a balance or else disease will prevail. Cancer thrives in an acidic environment. High protein diets can lead to acidosis setting the stage for osteoporosis, hormonal imbalances and gut dysbiosis and can potentially lead to kidney stones, arthritis and gout.

Nutrient deficiencies

If you’re not eating enough fruits and vegetables you’re missing out on many essential nutrients and anti-oxidants. Without them you are putting yourself at risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies as well as oxidised or rancid cholesterol which can result in arterial plaque and inflammation. By not following the LCHF diet correctly you are losing out on potential good health and vitality.

Exposure to more toxins

Processed meats such as bacon are known to be potentially carcinogenic (cancer-forming) due to the nitrosamines formed during frying. Even non-processed meats, if from commercial sources and not from grass-fed animals, are full of toxins such as xenoestogens, antibiotics and growth hormones.  Remember too that toxins are stored mainly in fat cells so the more fat you are eating from feedlot animals, and not those reared on grass, the more toxins you are taking in.

Not all cheeses are good

Then there’s the matter of “eat all the cheese you want” claim that is bandied about by some followers who have lost the plot. There are good cheeses and bad and the bad ones from feedlot animals are just as high in the toxins mentioned for meat. Processed cheese is also high in sodium and eating too much of it can result in magnesium and potassium imbalances, never mind that cheese is also highly mucous-forming and constipating!

Vitamin B deficiency

Finally, this diet is also devoid of all grains so if you’re not eating organ meats, nuts and seeds then watch out for vitamin B deficiencies including biotin. If hair-loss occurs or your stress levels rise, a vitamin B supplement would be advisable. Also have your homocysteine levels checked. High levels can cause hardening of the arteries and to reduce these levels you need most of the B vitamins which are abundant in whole grains, which you are no longer eating!

LCHF not working so well for you?

Perhaps you are one of the unlucky ones for whom this eating plan does not result in weight-loss but rather makes you feel unwell. There is a very probable reason for this: As mentioned before, toxins are stored in fat cells, hence overweight people tend to carry more toxins because there is more “space” so to say. Fat is much more difficult to move in a toxic body so it is essential to start your weight-loss program with a detoxification program  that includes a digestive tract and lymphatic system cleanse and liver support. Continue with this throughout your weight-loss program so that the toxins move out and don’t get stuck.

LCHF no longer working so well for you?healthy

Perhaps you found that you were but are no longer losing weight on this diet? Could it be that you are eating too much protein?  Most people don’t realise that a significant percentage of excess protein will ultimately be converted to sugar and stored as fat.  You simply have to stick to the rules: protein portions should be no bigger than the area and thickness of the palm of you hand, minus fingers. And you simply have to include 5-7 cups of fresh vegetables and fruits daily to benefit from this type of eating plan. Without the fibre provided by these foods a clogged digestive system will be the order of the day. These foods are also your anti-oxidants, neutralising free radicals, keeping you healthy and slowing down ageing.

On the positive side

My intention is not to throw cold water on an eating plan that is working for you, all I ask is that you do not compromise your health for the sake of weight-loss. If followed correctly the LCHF diet can be very beneficial for most people as an every day eating plan.

The best news is that two positives have come out of everyone “banting” these days: the harmful refined carbs like sugar and flour are out and secondly, the no-fat and low-fat myths have been busted! Cheers to that!

For supplement advice you are welcome to email lynne@orchardsnutrition.co.za

 

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