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9 Health Benefits of Kefir

Kefir is all the rage in the natural health community.

It is high in nutrients and probiotics, and is incredibly beneficial for digestion and gut health.

Many people consider it to be a healthier and more powerful version of yogurt.

Here are 9 health benefits of kefir that are supported by research.

1. Kefir is a Fantastic Source of Many Nutrients

Kefir is a fermented drink, traditionally made using cow’s milk or goat’s milk.

It is made by adding kefir “grains” to milk.

These are not grains in the conventional sense, but cultures of yeast and lactic acid bacteria that resemble a cauliflower in appearance.

Over a period of 24 hours or so, the microorganisms in the kefir grains multiply and ferment the sugars in the milk, turning it into kefir.

Then the grains are removed from the liquid, and can be used again.

So basically, kefir is the drink, but kefir grains are the “starter kit” that you use to produce the drink.

Kefir originated from parts of Eastern Europe and Southwest Asia. The name is derived from the Turkish word keyif, which means “feeling good” after eating.

The lactic acid bacteria turn the lactose in the milk into lactic acid, so kefir tastes sour like yogurt, but has a thinner consistency.

A 175 ml (6 oz) serving of milk kefir contains:

  • Protein: 6 grams.
  • Calcium: 20% of the RDA.
  • Phosphorus: 20% of the RDA.
  • Vitamin B12: 14% of the RDA.
  • Riboflavin (B2): 19% of the RDA.
  • Magnesium: 5% of the RDA.
  • A decent amount of vitamin D.

This is coming with about 100 calories, 7-8 grams of carbs and 3-6 grams of fat, depending on the type of milk that is used.

Kefir also contains a wide variety of bioactive compounds, including organic acids and peptides that contribute to its health benefits.

Dairy-free versions of kefir can be made with coconut water, coconut milk or other sweet liquids. These will not have the same nutrient profile as dairy-based kefir.

Bottom Line: Kefir is a fermented milk drink, cultured from kefir grains. It is a rich source of calcium, protein and B-vitamins.

2. Kefir is a More Powerful Probiotic Than Yogurt

Some microorganisms can have beneficial effects on health when ingested.

Known as probiotics, these microorganisms can influence health in numerous ways, including digestion, weight management and mental health .

Yogurt is the best known probiotic food in the Western diet, but kefir is actually a much more potent source.

Kefir grains contain about 30 strains of bacteria and yeasts, making it a very rich and diverse probiotic source.

Other fermented dairy products are made from far fewer strains, and don’t contain any yeasts.

Bottom Line: Kefir contains about 30 different microorganisms, making it a much more potent source of probiotics than other fermented dairy products.

3. Kefir Has Potent Antibacterial Properties

Certain probiotics in kefir are believed to protect against infections.

This includes the probiotic Lactobacillus kefiri, which is unique to kefir.

Studies show that this probiotic can inhibit the growth of various harmful bacteria, including Salmonella, Helicobacter Pylori and E. coli.

Kefiran, a type of carbohydrate present in kefir, also has antibacterial properties.

Bottom Line: Kefir contains the probiotic Lactobacillus kefiri, and the carbohydrate kefiran, both of which can protect against harmful bacteria.

4. Kefir Can Improve Bone Health and Lower The Risk of Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis (“porous” bones) is characterized by deterioration of bone tissue, and is a massive problem in Western countries.

It is especially common among elderly women, and dramatically raises the risk of fractures.

Ensuring an adequate calcium intake is one of the most effective ways to improve bone health, and slow the progression of osteoporosis.

Kefir made from full-fat dairy is not only a great source of calcium, but also vitamin K2. This nutrient plays a central role in calcium metabolism, and supplementing with it has been shown to reduce the risk of fractures by as much as 81% .

Recent animal studies have shown that kefir can increase calcium absorption by bone cells. This leads to improved bone density, which should help prevent fractures.

Bottom Line: Kefir made from dairy is an excellent source of calcium. In the case of full-fat dairy, it also contains vitamin K2. These nutrients have major benefits for bone health.

5. Kefir May be Protective Against Cancer

Cancer is one of the world’s leading causes of death.

It occurs when there is an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body, such as a tumor.

The probiotics in fermented dairy products are believed to inhibit tumor growth by reducing formation of carcinogenic compounds, as well as by stimulating the immune system.

This protective role has been demonstrated in several test tube studies.

One study found that kefir extract reduced the number of human breast cancer cells by 56%, compared with only 14% for yogurt extract.

However, take all of this with a grain of salt, as this is far from being proven in living, breathing humans.

Bottom Line: Some test tube and animal studies have shown that kefir can inhibit the growth of cancer cells. This has not been studied in people.

6. The Probiotics in it May Help With Various Digestive Problems

Probiotics such as kefir can help restore the balance of friendly bacteria in the gut.

This is why they are highly effective for many forms of diarrhea.

There is also a lot of evidence that probiotics and probiotic foods can help with all sorts of digestive problems

This includes irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcers caused by H. pylori infection, and various others.

For this reason, kefir may be useful if you have problems with digestion.

Bottom Line: Probiotics like kefir can treat several forms of diarrhea. They can also lead to major improvements in various digestive diseases.

7. Kefir is Generally Well Tolerated by People Who Are Lactose Intolerant

Regular dairy foods contain a natural sugar called lactose.

Many people, especially adults, are unable to break down and digest lactose properly. This condition is called lactose intolerance.

The lactic acid bacteria in fermented dairy foods (like kefir and yogurt) turn the lactose into lactic acid, so these foods are much lower in lactose than milk.

They also contain enzymes that can help break down the lactose even further.

Because of this, kefir is generally well tolerated by people with lactose intolerance, at least when compared to regular milk.

Also keep in mind that it is possible to make kefir that is 100% lactose free, by using coconut water, fruit juice or some other non-dairy fluid.

Bottom Line: The lactic acid bacteria have already pre-digested the lactose in kefir. People with lactose intolerance can often eat kefir without problems.

8. Kefir May Improve Symptoms of Allergy and Asthma

Allergic reactions are caused by inflammatory responses against harmless environmental substances.

People with an over-sensitive immune system are more prone to allergies, which can provoke conditions like asthma.

In animal studies, kefir has been shown to suppress inflammatory responses related to allergy and asthma.

Human studies are need to better explore these effects.

9. Kefir is Easy to Make at Home

The last one is not a health benefit, but important nonetheless.

If you are unsure about the quality of store-bought kefir, then you can easily make it at home yourself.

Combined with some fresh fruit, it makes one of the healthiest and tastiest desserts I have ever come across.

You can buy kefir grains in some health food stores and supermarkets, as well as online.

There are some good blog posts and videos on how to make kefir, but the process is very simple:

  • Put 1-2 tablespoons of kefir grains into a small jar. The more you use, the faster it will culture.
  • Add around 2 cups of milk, preferably organic or even raw. Milk from grass-fed cows is healthiest. Leave one inch of room at the top of the jar.
  • You can add some full-fat cream if you want the kefir to be thicker.
  • Put the lid on and leave it for 12-36 hours, at room temperature. That’s it.

Once it starts to look clumpy, it is ready. Then you gently strain out the liquid, which leaves behind the original kefir grains.

Now put the grains in a new jar with some milk, and the process starts all over again.

Delicious, nutritious and highly sustainable.

By Joe Leech, Dietitian 
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Is Milk Your Friend or Foe?

Instead of reduction in fractures, study suggests higher risk of heart disease, cancer

WebMD News from HealthDay      By Dennis Thompson     HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 29, 2014 (HealthDay News) – Drinking lots of milk could be bad for your health, a new study reports.

Previous research has shown that the calcium in milk can help strengthen bones and prevent osteoporosis. These benefits to bone health have led U.S. health officials to recommend milk as part of a healthy diet.

But this new study found that drinking large amounts of milk did not protect men or women from bone fractures, and was linked to an overall higher risk of death during the study period.

However, the researchers said the results should be viewed with caution.

Women who drank three glasses of milk or more every day had a nearly doubled risk of death and cardiovascular disease, and a 44 percent increased risk of cancer compared to women who drank less than one glass per day, the researchers found.

Men’s overall risk of death increased about 10 percent when they drank three or more glasses of milk daily, said the study, published online Oct. 28 in BMJ.

“The study findings have, for myself, been strong enough to cut down on my milk consumption,” said lead author Karl Michaelsson, a professor in the department of surgical sciences at Uppsala University in Sweden.

Still, the findings only suggest an association and not a direct link, said Mary Schooling, a professor at the City University of New York School of Public Health, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study.

People should not change their diet based on these findings, Schooling said.

“We can’t draw conclusions at this point,” she said. “We need a study involving people who genetically can and can’t digest milk easily, and compare whether those who can digest milk have a difference in cardiovascular disease, death and fractures from those who can’t.”

The study involved more than 61,000 women and 45,000 men in Sweden who previously filled out dietary questionnaires for other research projects, the women in the late 1980s and the men in 1997. All were over 39 years of age.

milk

Researchers compared their reported milk-drinking habits to health data kept by Swedish officials, to see whether milk consumption could be linked to risk of death or health problems.

The investigators found that a large amount of milk in a daily diet did appear to be linked to an increased risk of death in both men and women during the study period.

In addition, excessive milk drinking appeared to actually increase a woman’s risk of broken bones, compared with women who drank little milk.

The risk of any bone fracture increased 16 percent in women who drank three or more glasses daily, and the risk of a broken hip increased 60 percent, the findings indicated.

Lots of milk did not appear to either protect against or promote broken bones in men.

Michaelsson and his colleagues said the increased risk of death they observed could be explained by the high levels of sugars contained in milk, specifically lactose and galactose.

Galactose has been shown to prematurely age mice in the laboratory, Michaelsson said, noting that the milk sugar promotes inflammation.

By contrast, a high intake of fermented milk products with low lactose content – such as yogurt and cheese – was associated with reduced rates of death and fracture, particularly in women, the researchers reported.

While interesting, these findings are too preliminary to warrant a change in nutritional guidelines, said Isabel Maples, a registered dietitian in Haymarket, Va., and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

About 55 percent of older adults – 44 million Americans – either have osteoporosis or are at high risk for brittle bones, Maples said. She added that the U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend three servings of dairy per day, not just for bone health, but also to reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

“They don’t base the guidelines on fads. They don’t base it on trends. They don’t base it on what has been the traditional advice. They look at the scientific evidence,” she said.

Efforts by HealthDay to reach the National Dairy Council for comment on the study were unsuccessful.

source: www.webmd.com


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7 Ridiculously Easy Ways To Protect Your Bones At Any Age

These methods will help you lower your risk of breaking a bone and avoid osteoporosis.

June 5, 2014   

Here’s a stunning fact: According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF), where I am honored to serve as Bone Health Ambassador, 54 million Americans have osteoporosis. And thanks to an aging population, the numbers are rising.

By 2020, half of all Americans over age 50 are expected to be affected by osteoporosis.

May was National Osteoporosis Month but right now is the best time to figure out how to lower your risk of breaking a bone and avoid osteoporosis down the road.

The good news is it’s ridiculously easy to put yourself on the right path. The best defense against low bone mass, which can lead to osteoporosis, is to do a few simple things, and get started doing them as early as possible. But, keep this in mind, too: it’s never too late to take control of your own health and well-being.

Here are seven easy ways to protect your bones, starting today:

GO GREEN: Dark leafy greens-like kale, collard greens, spinach, and romaine-are loaded with calcium, an essential nutrient for building stronger bones. And, the NOF suggests getting calcium from food first, supplements if needed. Use the NOF calcium calculator to determine how much calcium you need (they recommend at least 1200 mg/day) and how much calcium you’re currently getting from the foods you eat.

GRAB THE ALMONDS: Nuts are an important food for good health, but almonds in particular offer the added bonus of delivering lots of calcium. Aim for two servings of almonds a day. A portion size is about 12 almonds. Almonds also stop you from getting hungry, so grab a few in the afternoon when hunger usually strikes. Tip: instead of cow’s milk, switch to unsweetened almond milk. It has fewer calories and more calcium.

almonds

LEARN TO LOVE PLAIN YOGURT: Strained Greek yogurt is particularly high in calcium and many people prefer its thicker texture. Start with 1/4 cup non-fat, plain yogurt, add some fruit, a dot of honey, and a few sliced almonds and you’ve got yourself a calcium-packed breakfast, lunch, or mid-afternoon snack. It’s great in a smoothie, too.

KNOW YOUR VITAMIN D LEVELS: Doctors don’t automatically check your vitamin D levels at the annual exam, so ask for this simple test to be added on to your regular blood work. Vitamin D is essential because it enables your body to absorb calcium. If you’re not getting enough vitamin D, you’re at a much greater risk for developing osteoporosis. Most of us need supplements, so discuss with your doctor. The NOF, for one, recommends that people over 50 get at least 1,000 milligrams of vitamin D per day. Tip: If your number is under 34, you’re considered vitamin D deficient.

WALK OR RUN EVERY DAY: A daily fast walk or a run will help build muscle mass in your lower body, giving you the strength you need to be mobile for many years to come. Doing this will help you burn calories and, according to a new study, might contribute to a healthier, longer life.

DO PUSH-UPS: You don’t need to go to a gym or have a personal trainer to strengthen your upper body. Doing push-ups every day will keep you fit and strong and osteoporosis far away. But, doing them right is essential. Check out the short video-which is part of my ongoing series for the AARP YouTube Channel-on how to do them so they really work.

TAKE IT SERIOUSLY: A broken bone can wreak havoc with your physical, mental, emotional and financial health. Not only can it cause someone to be immobilized, it can be fatal.

Barbara Hannah Grufferman is author of “The Best of Everything After 50”; host, AARP YouTube Channel; contributor, AARP; Positive Living Advocate