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Kefir: The Cultured Dairy Beverage You Should Be Drinking

Confused about the buzz around dairy and whether you should consume it or not? With concerns about lactose intolerance and claims that dairy can increase inflammation, it’s no wonder people are advocating against it. But it’s not always so black and white – in fact, cultured (or fermented) dairy is particularly beneficial. It can often be consumed by those who are lactose intolerant and the probiotics can help reduce inflammation and improve digestion. With all of the misinformation floating around, we’ve decided to help break down some of the confusion and explain what you need to know about kefir: the fermented, probiotic-rich dairy drink you should be drinking.

Kefir topped with granola and blueberries

Kefir vs. Plain Dairy Milk

Not all dairy is made equal: there’s a huge difference between just plain milk and kefir. Although kefir is a dairy product and is made from milk, the most important thing to consider is how it’s made. The process of fermenting milk to produce kefir provides probiotics – the healthy kind of bacteria. The fermentation process also consumes most of the sugar – specifically, lactose, which makes it an option suitable for those who are lactose intolerant. The probiotics found in fermented dairy drinks completely changes the nutritional properties and are particularly important for a healthy gut and body. The misconception that dairy leads to inflammation stems from the belief that consumption of milk with genetically modified growth hormone has the potential to change human hormone levels, but the latest research in 2017 from a study reviewing clinical evidence between dairy products and inflammation could not find sufficient evidence to support the validity of this claim. The claims between inflammation and dairy did not account for poor diet choices, lack of exercise, and stress – which are all potential contributors that may be associated with inflammation-related diseases.

Cultured Dairy: The Nutrition Benefits You Actually Need to Know

With increasing research linking the correlation between probiotics, gut health, and immunity, it’s no secret that the integrity of our gut is vital to our health. Although additional factors such as stress, antibiotic usage, and individual health conditions can contribute to the condition of our gut, a focus on healthy food choices is one of the easiest ways to support the microbiome.

Several studies have shown a strong association between the gut-brain-microbiota. Probiotics introduced to the gut have been found to support immunity, improve allergies, and improve digestion.

One cup of low-fat plain Lifeway Kefir has 110 calories and 11 grams of protein, making it a great option for any lifestyle. It’s easy and convenient enough to consume on its own, but versatile enough for cooking and baking. Lifeway’s kefir is gluten-free and contains 12 live and active probiotic cultures (more than DOUBLE of traditional yogurt and milk), which may help increase the diversity of your gut microbiota.

Studies have shown that reduced diversity of healthy gut bacteria during early years is associated with an increase in food allergies during school age years. In addition, kefir made from whole fat milk helps absorb key nutrients such as Vitamins A, D, E, and K. Vitamin K is important because it helps your bones absorb calcium. It’s important to know that kefir contains a special trio: vitamin D, K, and calcium – all three crucial elements to support bone health.

Probiotics and Skin Health

Studies indicating a correlation between dairy consumption and acne did not account for fermented dairy, which may contribute to different results due to the presence of probiotics. Skin issues such as acne may be an indicator of internal imbalances. Because the skin is our largest organ, poor nutrition choices may show up there first. Kefir contains a diverse count of probiotics that may help restore a natural balance of good vs. bad bacteria in the gut. Restoring the balance of intestinal microflora can help tame issues related to the stomach that result in skin problems. A balanced gut microflora can also help the body absorb more nutrients from food.

Check out these recipes: Healthy Skin Smoothie, Clear Skin Tonic, and a DIY Kefir Facemask.

Bottom Line: Get Cultured!

A healthy diet is one that is sustainable and full of real ingredients you can pronounce. As always, it’s important to be mindful of how foods react with your individual body but when it comes to selecting which dairy products to consume, going the fermented route is one of the best choices for your health. Kefir can be a beneficial way to incorporate more probiotics into your microbiota. Lifeway Kefir, in particular, may be an appropriate option for those who are lactose-intolerant – it’s up to 99% lactose (a naturally occurring milk sugar) free. Check out our recipe page for versatile ways to use it in the kitchen!

Sources:

Zubillaga, Marcela, et al. “Effect of probiotics and functional foods and their use in different diseases.” Nutrition Research21.3 (2001): 569-579.
Todorov, Svetoslav D., and Leon MT Dicks. “Evaluation of lactic acid bacteria from kefir, molasses and olive brine as possible probiotics based on physiological properties.” Annals of microbiology 58.4 (2008): 661.
Leite, Analy Machado de Oliveira, et al. “Microbiological, technological and therapeutic properties of kefir: a natural probiotic beverage.” Brazilian Journal of Microbiology 44.2 (2013): 341-349.
Farnworth, Edward R. “Kefir–a complex probiotic.” Food Science and Technology Bulletin: Fu 2.1 (2006): 1-17.
Sharifi, Mohammadreza, et al. “Kefir: a powerful probiotics with anticancer properties.” Medical Oncology 34.11 (2017): 183.
Czinn, Steven J., and Samra Sarigol Blanchard. “Probiotics in foods and supplements.” Probiotics in Pediatric Medicine. Humana Press, 2009. 299-306.
Isolauri, Erika, et al. “Probiotics: effects on immunity–.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 73.2 (2001): 444s-450s
Hertzler, Steven R., and Shannon M. Clancy. “Kefir improves lactose digestion and tolerance in adults with lactose maldigestion.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association103.5 (2003): 582-587.
Marie-Ève Labonté, Patrick Couture, Caroline Richard, Sophie Desroches, Benoît Lamarche; Impact of dairy products on biomarkers of inflammation: a systematic review of randomized controlled nutritional intervention studies in overweight and obese adults, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 97, Issue 4, 1 April 2013, Pages 706–717, https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.112.052217