Fermented foods are enjoying a renaissance of sorts. They have massive amounts of probiotics that boost the immune system which in turn enhances the enjoyment of everyday living. So before I talk about our featured “K,” kefir, allow me to refresh our knowledge base of the human microbiome. This may seem strange but think of your body like a doughnut with the “hole” being the part from your open mouth to the end of rectum. Although we think of the esophagus, stomach and intestines as internal organs because they are not visible to us, they are covered with mucus membrane much like the mouth. And the surface of this mucus membrane is teeming with flora and fauna that keeps the unhealthy bad actors from taking over and making us sick.
For an even more detailed and intriguing read, pick up Mary Roach’s Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal.
So now meet kefir. No, it’s not the name of Disney movie villain, but a lip-smacking fermented milk product similar to yogurt.
I learned from www.kefir.net that it is actually made from gelatinous white or yellow particles called “grains.” No other milk culture forms grains. These grains contain the bacteria/yeast mixture clumped together with casein (milk proteins) and complex sugars. They look like pieces of coral or small clumps of cauliflower. Some of the grains have been known to grow in large flat sheets that can be big enough to cover your hand! The grains ferment the milk, incorporating their friendly organisms to create the cultured product. The grains are then removed with a strainer before consumption of the kefir and added to a new batch of milk.
Like yogurt, kefir is a powerhouse that will populate your gut with prodigious numbers of probiotics designed to turn the good actors of your microbiome into mucosal superheroes. You could even say they help move the bad guys right out of the neighborhood.
You can find kefir in the diary case at your local supermarket or natural food store. You can also experiment with some other ethnic varieties of drinkable yogurt like Siggi’s Swedish filmjölk. Visit Siggis.com to learn about this and their other delicious products. I’ve tried the vanilla filmjölk myself – as both a drink on its own and mixed into a smoothie. It is thick – thicker than buttermilk, even, so if you aren’t used to that type of beverage it is an adjustment. Or try to think of it as a milkshake – one teaming with Lactococcus goodness!