Whether you put it in your smoothies or drink it straight up, kefir is a great way to get your probiotic fix. Get to know why it does your body good!
BY: DIANNA SINNI DILLON, RDN, LD
You are a living science lab. Yes, you read that right. Your body is made up of trillions upon trillions of microorganisms; bacteria, yeast, and living cultures that are also your best friends.
Didn’t know your BFF was a colony of bacteria, did you?!
These beneficial buddies help digest your food, supercharge your immune system, and assimilate nutrients. However, most of us don’t realize the vital role microorganisms play in our health and sadly, don’t take proper care of them.
They’re healthy when you’re healthy.
A diet lacking in nourishing foods, antibiotic use, poorly managed stress, and general feelings of sickness can all contribute to your friendly flora’s decline. As the good bacteria numbers decrease, bad bacteria begins to creep up and can cause gastrointestinal issues, urinary tract infections, and a weakened immune system.
To keep your friendly flora population high, it’s helpful to eat and drink fermented foods a few times a week (ideally daily). These foods and beverages contain health-promoting living microorganisms which will continue to populate inside your gastrointestinal tract. Sounds a little creepy, yes, but without them you’ll have a crappy immune system and have to work harder to manufacture nutrients, especially B-complex vitamins. Probiotic supplements can work too, but they don’t offer other nutritional benefits as a mouthful of fermented food does.
Don’t let the mad scientist sounding name scare you.
Fermentation is a natural metabolic process in which live microorganisms feed off the natural sugars and carbohydrates in food, creating lactic acid as a by-product. Fermented food and drinks provide enhanced vitamin and mineral content that is more readily available for our body to absorb and utilize.
As a probiotic-rich drink, kefir is like a drinkable tangy yogurt. The name is derived from the Turkish word keif meaning “good feeling”, which basically means you should definitely go get some. Who doesn’t want to cheers to good feelings?
Luckily, kefir has become more mainstream and can be found in the dairy section of most grocery stores now. Choose an organic, unsweetened version if you plan to drink it on the regular and enjoy it over cereal with a drizzle of honey or as a base for your fruit smoothies.
Dairy free? Don’t worry, kefir can be cultured in sugar water and dairy milk alternatives like almond or coconut milk. Water kefir is reminiscent of a dry champagne, much fizzier and thinner than dairy kefir – liken to a bubbly dry champagne!
You can even take ‘shots’ of kefir every morning before you start your day. Or you can try it in this simple berry compote kefir parfait recipe, which can be either a delicious breakfast, snack, or probiotic-rich dessert.
Whatever floats your boat!
- 1 cup frozen or fresh berries (mulberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, or any combo)
- 2 Tablespoons water, as needed
- 1 cup plain kefir, divided
- 4 teaspoons your favorite granola, divided
IMAGES: DIANNA SINNI DILLON
Dianna Sinni Dillon, RDN, LD is a Registered Dietitian based in Kansas City, MO with a passion for all things whole grain, green, and homegrown. She focuses on empowering and inspiring others to take charge of their wellness through simple plant-based recipes and science-powered advice.