Kefir. Is it Kuh-FEER? Or maybe KEE-fur? Turns out you can say it either way, but no matter how you choose to say it, it’s an awesome Paleo food, and you should be including more of this carbonated dairy product in your Paleo regimen! This is a beverage that’s been around for a very long time, and people have relied on the benefits of kefir over many centuries.
In fact, the history of kefir follows that of other fermented drinks, originating in an age quite distant from ours—the Babylonians, around 5000 BC. But what on earth is kefir, anyway? This carbonated beverage is milk-based and deliciously fermented; any ruminant animal (one that doesn’t completely chew the greens it eats) can produce the milk used in making kefir. This makes it a popular source of nutrients in many parts of the world, because lots of creatures provide the ingredients necessary—cows, goats, and sheep, to name a few. If you’re brave, hippopotamus milk works too….
Kefir has seen most of its popularity in Europe and Asia, where it is acknowledged for its healing properties. Because bacteria are used to culture the milk (which causes the carbonation), and because these bacteria form a special type of symbiotic colony, kefir is widely praised as one of the world’s most effective probiotics. However, kefir is, after all, fermented milk; that means that it’s going to be a little sour to the taste. But try it if you haven’t yet done so! Its health benefits are well worth learning to love the taste.
What’s in Kefir?
- Probiotics. The bacteria in our gut is crucial for us to remain healthy (it can heal us from the inside and help prevent allergies, among other things), and so we need to make sure that we keep those bacteria healthy too. Because kefir is one of the world’s best probiotics, we can be sure we’re taking care of ourselves on the bacterial level!
- Vitamin K12. This vitamin is often deficient in the average American’s diet, but it’s so important for our physical wellbeing. K12 makes sure that important minerals like calcium end up where they belong—in our bones, not in our arteries. That’s a big deal, and adding kefir to the diet delivers a hearty dose of this essential vitamin to our bodies.
- Lactobacilli. What on earth are lactobacilli? You can think of it like little rod-shaped bacteria, and they go through your body calming down your immune system. That’s actually a good thing! Studies have shown that kefir’s lactobacilli know when your system is overreacting to things that aren’t dangerous (like pollen), and it tells your immune system to calm down. That means that you deal with a lot less inflammation.
How do I use it?
- Salad Dressings. You can use kefir on top of any type of salad, but try it with fruit salads to experience the complimentary sweet and bitter tastes. This is a great substitute for non-Paleo dressings.
- Soups. Kefir is a great addition to a hearty soup, and it can add a different taste that contributes a truly robust flavor. Or you can just make an actual kefir soup. Get creative!
- In Smoothies. The same unique tastes that make kefir great as a dressing for fruit salad also make it a wonderful addition to a smoothie. Kefir will contribute to a creamy texture and great taste, and you’ll be getting all those great health benefits, too!
Adding kefir to your Paleo lifestyle is a great decision, but do be conscious of your tolerance to dairy. Kefir, for all its benefits, is still a dairy product, and if you have shown previous sensitivity to dairy, you may want to reconsider kefir’s role in your diet. If you are dairy-intolerant, the inflammation you will cause by consuming itoutweighs the nutritional benefits. But if your body doesn’t mind kefir, get creative and start adding it to your recipes! Your gut will love you for it.