Kefir: Ancient Elixir of the Caucasus
I start every morning by pouring myself a glass of unsweetened whole milk kefir and add to it 2 tablespoons of POM Wonderful (pure pomegranate extract). I stir it up and it looks and tastes like a rich and beautiful berry smoothie. It is the perfect way to start the day.
Kefir (kee-fer) is a fermented, probiotic milk drink from the Caucasus Mountains in the former Soviet Union. The name kefir loosely translated means "pleasure" or "good feeling." Due to its health-promoting properties, kefir was once considered a gift from the gods. Fortunately it is being rediscovered and recognized for its many health and beauty benefits.
Kefir can best be described as a sort of liquid, sparkling yogurt, with its own distinct and deliciously mild, naturally sweet, yet tangy flavor—with a refreshing hint of natural carbonation. Its unique taste and almost mystical reputation as a longevity elixir explains why people all over Europe are making kefir (along with similar fermented drinks) their beverage of choice. Sales are even beginning to rival top soft drink brands.
Unlike yogurt, which is created from milk by adding certain lactic acid bacteria, kefir is made by combining milk with a pinch of "kefir grains"—the folk term coined to describe a complex mixture of yeasts and lactobacillus bacteria. The small amount of carbon dioxide, alcohol and aromatic compounds produced by the cultures give kefir its distinct fizzy, tangy taste.
Kefir also contains unique polysaccharides (long chain sugars) called kefiran, which may be responsible for some of its health benefits. Much of the Russian research on its health benefits remains untranslated, and Western research is in its early stages—but the results to date support kefir's impressive folk reputation.
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