Shepherds in the Caucasus Mountains discovered that when they carried fresh milk in leather pouches, it would sometimes transform into an effervescent liquid. According to Islamic legend, “kefir grains” were a gift from Mohammed to those Orthodox Christians living in the Caucasus Mountains.
Kefir was a secret among the people of the Caucasus region for a very long time until its magical properties started to spread. It was used for treating stomach disorders, tuberculosis and intestinal distress. This fermented milk product was believed to be so healing that scientists started studying kefir late in the 19th century.
To this day, people of Caucasus still enjoy this carbonated beverage-as do those in Russia, southwestern Asia and western Europe.
So what is kefir?
Essentially, kefir is a drinkable yogurt for grownups. It’s not quite milk and it’s not quite yogurt. That pretty much sums it up, but for a more scientific definition, kefir is a fermented milk drink made with kefir grains and it is believed by many, including myself, to be a superfood.
Kefir grains act like sour dough starter. You need a starter community of kefir grains to introduce to new milk that will be fermented and transformed into a carbonated beverage. You can try making your own kefir (if you can get your hands on some kefir grains). Just do some Googling and you’ll find people sharing their own methods.
Health benefits of kefir
Like all fermented foods, kefir is extremely good for you. Kefir is actually used in hospitals in the former Soviet Union to treat digestive disorders, tuberculosis, cancer, atherosclerosis and many other disorders, especially when there is no modern medical treatment available.
It’s believed that the long life span enjoyed by the people of Caucasus can be attributed to their history with consuming this beverage.
Studies have proven that kefir may:
• enhance lactose digestion
• prevent the development of ulcers
• stimulate the immune system
• inhibit the growth of tumors, fungi and other pathogens
Because of kefir’s ability to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria, it may help protect against inflammatory disease triggered by bacteria.
Add kefir to your diet!
You can find kefir in the US, but you may have to look a bit harder for it. It’s mostly available in natural food stores and Whole Foods.
Look for plain, unsweetened kefir. It’s somewhat of an acquired taste, but the same rules apply as with yogurt. When you start buying the sugary sweetened varieties, the health benefits dwindle. To make it more palatable, add some berries or a bit of honey.
Some people take it straight up; others take it in their smoothies. Either way, kefir is amazing!
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