Food Highlight: Kefir
Kefir is a fermented drink, traditionally made from cow’s milk or goat’s milk. It is known for its probiotics, making it incredibly beneficial for gastrointestinal health and digestion. Some say kefir is a more powerful probiotic than yogurt. Though yogurt and kefir are both dairy products, they do differ in taste and texture. For gastric sleeve, gastric band, and gastric bypass patients who are experiencing gastrointestinal issues despite following their proper post bariatric surgery diet, kefir may be a way to improve digestion.
While kefir can be made at home using milk and adding purchased kefir grains, many kefir drinkers prefer to purchase their kefir from the supermarket, where it can be found in the refrigerated dairy case usually in close to the yogurts. To make kefir at home, you would add specially purchased yeast cultures and lactic acid bacteria to milk and let it set up for 24 hours to ferment. The fermentation process allows the cultures or “grains” to multiply and ferment the sugar naturally present in milk, turning it into kefir. With the lactose in milk turning into lactic acid, the milk product takes on a sour taste, similar to yogurt but thinner like milk. Then, the cauliflower-looking grains can be removed and used again for the next batch.
A 6 oz portion of kefir contains about 100 calories depending on the type of milk used, and also 6g protein, 20% RDA for calcium, 20% RDA for phosphorus, 14% RDA B 12, as well as vitamin D. But the real draw is the amount of probiotics. Yogurt may be the most widely known source of probiotics in the Western Diet, but kefir is actually a much more potent source. Yogurt typically contains under ten types of beneficial bacteria, however kefir can contain up to 30 different strains of beneficial bacteria and yeast.
These 30 types of beneficial microorganisms have been shown to help improve health in a number of ways, including digestion, weight, and mental health. Lactobacillus kefiri, which is unique to kefir, has been shown to limit the growth of Salmonella, Helicobacter pylori, and E. Coli. Probiotics can help restore balance between good bacteria and bad bacteria in the gut, and can help resolve digestive problems, including diarrhea and IBS.
Since kefir is a dairy product, drinking it offers the benefit of additional calcium to promote strong bones. Many people do not get enough calcium in their diet, but kefir can help. Since it is normally made with cow’s milk, it provides 20% of the daily requirement for calcium. It is also a good source of phosphorus, which is also needed for healthy bones.
For people who have a hard time digesting lactose, also known as lactose intolerance, kefir may be better tolerated than cow’s milk. Since the kefir grains ferment much of the milk’s lactose into lactic acid, kefir is naturally lower in lactose than traditional cow’s milk, but it is not 100% lactose free. For those who must avoid all lactose, kefir may also be made using coconut water or coconut milk if you follow a slightly different method.
Kefir can be consumed just as you would drink regular milk, or you may substitute kefir for the liquid in a smoothie. You may add a flavor, but keep in mind that by adding sugar you will increase the calories of the kefir. For gastric sleeve, lap band, and gastric bypass patients, substituting kefir for another drink of similar calories, such as milk, is better than adding it into your diet in addition to your regular calories. By substituting instead of adding, you can keep your caloric intake at the proper amount to promote weight loss or maintain the weight you have lost.
This food highlight is offered by Dr. Shillingford, M.D., P.A., a board certified surgeon specializing in adjustable lap band, gastric sleeve, and gastric bypass surgeries. Dr. Shillingford’s bariatric weight loss practice is located in Boca Raton, Florida and serves patients from all over South Florida including Coral Springs, Delray Beach, Miami, Wellington, Orlando, and Fort Lauderdale. Dr. Shillingford’s bariatric patients often ask about healthy foods that are nutrient dense and help support improved digestion, healthy bones, and weight.