I must’ve been primed from my recent posts about public radio programs featuring fermentation and the helpful bacteria that live in our guts. Last night when I made a quick stop at the Willy Street Co-op, I found myself lingering near the dairy case, which I often ignore—my dairy intake lately has been limited mostly to Sassy Cow ice cream and Wisconsin’s own SarVecchio Parmesan. This evening, though, I picked up a quart of Nancy’s Organic Raspberry Lowfat Kefir. I’ve had it before and really enjoyed it, though my favorite flavor (blackberry) wasn’t in stock at the Co-op.
Kefir—which I learned recently is, depending on whom you ask, properly pronounced keh-FEER, not KEE-fur—is, like yogurt, a cultured-milk product. The difference is described by Katie Powderly in the Willy Street Co-op newsletter:
Kefir and yogurt are very similar in the sense that they are both cultured dairy products that contain bacteria that is beneficial to our body’s ecology. However, when compared side-by-side, kefir emerges as the victor of the most-nutritious award. Though they both contain beneficial bacteria, they contain different types and kefir just contains more. Yogurt has bacteria that act as food for the beneficial bacteria that already reside in our digestive tract. But kefir, on the other hand, can repopulate our digestive tract with the critical bacteria we need.
Also, kefir contains some strains of yeast. Yeast in the body has a negative connotation due to yeast infections and candida, but the truth is our bodies need yeast in order to maintain a balanced internal ecology. The varieties of yeast found in kefir help the body to rid itself of other, toxic varieties that create infection and keep our mucous membranes vulnerable to pathogens.
Finally, kefir is fermented, which lengthens its shelf life while also discouraging the growth of harmful molds and bacteria.
If you don’t know the Nancy’s brand, the Eugene, Oregon-based company makes cultured dairy and soy products. For more info, check out their website, along with this extended interview in 2010 from Diane Dietz at the Eugene newspaper, The Register-Guard.