Join the Kefir Culture Club
By Ashley Gartland
“What’s kefir?” you may be wondering. One sip of this tangy yogurt-like drink—superrich in probiotics—and you are likely to become a fan.

Cool, creamy, and smooth as silk, the tangy-tart cultured milk known as kefir has existed for more than 3,000 years. But only recently have consumers come to realize that kefir is as pleasing to the palate as it is beneficial to health.

Best described as a drinkable yogurt, kefir belongs to the family of cultured dairy products and provides nutritious amounts of calcium, vitamin D, and protein in every serving. And kefir brings further benefits to individual health because it also contains natural, friendly bacteria known as probiotics. In fact, some kefir manufacturers say their kefir products contain more probiotics per serving than a serving of yogurt. These bacteria offer a host of health benefits, including easing digestive troubles, reducing lactose-intolerance symptoms, and protecting against other disease-causing bacteria that might enter the digestive system.

Incorporating kefir into a daily diet is an easy and proven way to get probiotics. “Probiotic cultures are only beneficial if they are able to safely pass the harsh environment of the stomach to ultimately settle in the intestines. Milk helps buffer the acidic environment of the stomach, giving probiotic cultures a greater chance of survival,” says Garrett Berdan, nutrition educator and chef for the Oregon Dairy Council. “Dairy foods, like kefir, are the perfect vehicle for probiotics to safely reach their destination.”

But not all kefirs are created equal. Kefir producers can select the specific culture strains they want to include in their products, thus making label reading an important part of the purchasing process. “I recommend finding a kefir that lists a combination of cultures for a wide array of bacterial benefits. Also, look for the ingredients inulin or FOS [fructooligosaccharide], which are two different kinds of carbohydrates that feed healthy bacteria,” Berdan says. You can find kefir that meets these criteria in natural foods stores.

Our Favorite Kefirs Our favorite kefir products are Evolve Kefir Probiotic Smoothie (try the Peach or Strawberry flavors); Lifeway Organic Lowfat Kefir Cultured Milk; Nancy’s Lowfat Organic Blueberry Kefir; and Redwood Hill Farm Naturally Cultured Goat Milk Kefir Traditional Plain. The latter is a great choice if you are sensitive to cow’s milk.




Mango Kefir Lassi
Serves 2

This tangy smoothie takes its name from a lassi, which is traditionally made in India with yogurt or buttermilk. Use frozen mango slices for a thicker drink.

1½ cups fresh mango

1½ cups plain kefir

1 Tbs. agave nectar (or honey)

Blend all ingredients together in a blender on high, until smooth and no visible chunks of mango remain. Pour into glasses, and serve.

PER SERVING: 193 CAL; 11 G PROT; 3 G TOTAL FAT (2 G SAT FAT); 35 G CARB; 8 MG CHOL; 96 MG SOD; 2 G FIBER; 32 G SUGARS

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