Beyond the Jamie Lee Curtis yogurt–the power of kefir!

kefir grains

Among the super-foods that have gained mainstream recognition, nothing beats probiotics. Twenty years ago no one knew what a probiotic was. Now everyone knows, thanks to Jamie Lee Curtis, that good bacteria can help your gut, even if they aren’t exactly sure why.

In spite of the inroads that probiotics have made into American culture, many people still do not realize that these good bacteria have other homes outside of name-brand yogurts or in those cloudy capsules of lactobacillus found in refrigerated section of the local vitamin store.

They don’t know, for example, about the tradition of fermenting special grains called kefir–and the probiotics that result. And that’s something that Jose and Flory Castillo want to change.

The Castillos are owners of  Great Lakes Probiotics. With the launch of their new kefir-containing  super-foods, they are hoping to spread the knowledge of what kefir can offer to those who are struggling with chronic illness, or those who want to maintain their health.

Here is what they have to tell us about the power of kefir.

First off, what is kefir?

Castillo: Kefir is a grain, but it is more than that. Kefir is an ancient, enzyme-rich food filled with friendly microorganisms that help balance your inner ecosystem to regain health and rebuild immunity. Kefir is similar to a drinking style yogurt, but it contains beneficial yeast as well as an array of probiotic bacteria.

What makes it desirable to support human health?

Castillo: When used regularly, the naturally occurring bacteria and yeast in kefir combine symbiotically to replenish our intestinal flora and boost our immunity. More than just beneficial bacteria, kefir contains minerals and essential amino acids that help the body with healing and health maintenance functions. The complete proteins in kefir are partially digested and therefore more easily used by the body.

Kefir is also rich in Tryptophan (which is known for a relaxing effect on the nervous system), calcium, magnesium, and vitamins B-12, B-1 and K. The many advantages of maintaining adequate B vitamin intake range from regulation of the kidneys, liver and nervous system to helping relieve skin disorders, boosting energy and promoting longevity. Kefir has also been found to contain an ample supply of phosphorus which helps utilize carbohydrates, fats and proteins for cell growth, maintenance and energy

What are the three most important things to know about Kefir?

Castillo: The authentic kefir is the one made from the original kefir grains which originated in the Caucasus Mountains. Kefir that is produced commercially has been altered to increase shelf life, flavor and production. It does not contain the beneficial microflora found in kefir grains. In other words the commercial kefir microflora has been isolated or separated from the kefiran symbiotic life and in some cases genetically modified. Most commercial kefir is made from powder starters and not from kefir grains.

Kefir can be consumed by people who are lactose intolerant.By virtue of the large number of probiotic bacteria and yeasts present in Kefir, lactose is usually broken down and presented to the body in a way that does not cause the usual symptoms of lactose intolerance.

Kefir is not the same as yogurt. While yogurt can readily be made from the lactic acid bacteria present in fresh yogurt, kefir can only be made from kefir grains and mother cultures prepared from grains. The grains contain a relatively stable and specific balance of microorganisms which exist in a complex symbiotic relationship. The distinctive organoleptic properties differ from yogurt in that small amounts of CO2, alcohol, and aromatic molecules are produced as a result of a dual fermentation of lactic acid bacteria and yeasts.

Kefir presents superior nutrition compared to yogurt in that during the process of fermentation the large number of microorganisms generates vitamins, minerals, aminoacids and proteins not present in yogurt.

How are products cultured with kefir different from other probiotics?

Castillo: The products that we culture with kefir grains such as butter, sour cream, buttermilk, raw milk cheese and of course kefir are different in that:

  • They undergo a slow process of fermentation, which helps to preserve the original symbiotic relationship between probiotic bacteria and beneficial yeasts.
  • They are never heated to alter their molecular structure. The kefir grains contain the original microflora in its entirety, nothing has been changed or genetically modified other than perhaps what has evolved in the kefiran matrix over the years.
  • They are made with the best organically produced ingredients and milk from pastured cows. They are not synthetically made and therefore they are metabolized by our cells in ways that are beneficial to our overall health. In other words, our probiotics qualify as functional foods in that they have physiologically active food components that provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition.

If someone wants to contact you about kefir what is the best way to do that?

Castillo: They can contact me at fcastillo {at} greatlakesprobiotics.com or by calling 248-906-5508.

Written by Dr. Ward

Father. Foodie. And dedicated upper cervical chiropractor. Find me practicing gentle upper cervical care in Oakland County, Michigan. Have a question or comment? I'm at your service. Reach me at my Auburn Hills chiropractic practice: (248) 598-4002. Or on Google +, Facebook, or Twitter.

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