Thursday, 20 October 2011

Kefir Madness

Kefir--a liquid yogurt drink made from fermented cow milk, coconut milk, coconut water, or whatever you want if you choose to make it at home. It's different than yogurt because it has even more beneficial bacteria and yeasts growing inside of it. In milk these little critters ferment the sugars contained in lactose with the same enzymes that would work on milk in our stomach, making it easier for us to digest. I have read that even people who are lactose intolerance may be able to drink kefir easily. You can use kefir to make cheese, cream cheese, cheese cake, ice cream, smoothies and lot of other things in place of milk for a healthy dose of vitamins, enzymes, and probiotics.

Awesome right? Kefir originated in the Northern Caucacus Moutains. Kefir grains, which look like little cauliflowers, start off each kefir batch and can carry on to make another. These were highly protected and other cultures were not able to access these grains until the end of the 19th century, although the first grains were thought to have been created 5000 years ago.

You can buy kefir at Whole Foods but for the most powerful benefit it is best to make your own. I'm anxiously awaiting my own starters which I got from Body Ecology, but many other brands exist.

Kefir benefits us by balancing the flora and fauna in our intestines, including reestablishing probiotics if there has been antibiotic use or a yeast infection. It can help strengthen the walls of your gut and sooth inflammation. These both will result in an immune system boost and help prevent infection. It is more easily digested than other foods because the job is already partway done. It contains vitamin B-12, K, and biotin as well as the amino acid tryptophan that promotes relaxation and sleep--which would help with sleeping problems or stressful living. It has the minerals calcium and magnesium allowing you to support healthy bones even if you can't drink regular milk.

There are some rumblings that it may help with breast cancer, but hard evidence is still needed.

Health Guidance-- Kefir Health Benefits

Why We Need Probiotics and the Benefits of Kefir
The Health Benefits of Kefir by Steve Jones on Helium

Kefir Manual

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Did you know?

Did you know there are two different kinds of reactions we can have to food when it affects us negatively? Lately I have been reading up about food intolerance and allergies, as well as trying to test my own response to different foods to determine if I have any. First thing I learned is allergies aren’t what I thought they were!

Food allergy and food intolerance are very different. Food allergies occur when our immune system reacts adversely to even a small bit of a certain kind of food. Basically it’s an overreaction, but it can be very serious, even fatal. We’ve all heard the horror stories of those who are so allergic to peanuts that they may die from exposure, even a very small amount.

Food intolerance is much more common. Was it Something You Ate? Food Intolerance: What Causes it and How to Avoid it by John Emsley and Peter Fell describe intolerance as caused “by the body’s inability to detoxify certain components in food.” The immune system is not involved. This book focuses on non-nutrients such as additives, and components of food that are naturally occurring. For example, MSG is a concentrated sodium salt version of a chemical that is found in some foods and is also produced by our own bodies. It is only when the amount in our system reaches certain threshold levels that our body reacts negatively.

It isn’t the focus of the book above, but food intolerance can actually be of nutrients as well that we are unable to digest. The level to which we have a reaction will relate to the amount of that food that we eat. Examples of this are eggs, milk, corn, wheat, seafood, peanuts, and the list goes on. All one can do is learn what the problem foods are and avoid them. But the consequences of eating a little of one of these is far less serious than allergy!

Was it Something You Ate? Food Intolerance: What Causes it and How to Avoid it by John Emsley and Peter Fell is available in the Anne Arundel County Public Library System and on Amazon.