As a teenager and college student, I spent much of my time battling digestive issues. Constipation, bloating, intense gas pains, unending cravings leading to weight gain, and even a trip to the ER because my intestines shut down (called “ileus”). These annoying and scary symptoms motivated me to try anything to regain my health. Around that time, veganism/plant-based diets were becoming more popular, and because they have been falsely touted as “cure alls” by individuals wearing lab coats and trendy women on Instagram, I was willing to give it a try. After all, I could afford to lose some weight.
Unfortunately, my naivety and desperateness to be healthy and feel better about myself only came with more problems. My plant-based diet did not work and I was left with all of my former issues, except that I was (and I’m still working to correct this) very nutrient deficient. My body was dying for real nutrition. My teeth were turning grey and becoming translucent, my once strong and athletic body had turned weak and bony, my mental health was extremely unstable, I had insomnia, back pain, fatigue, and countless other issues. Thankfully, I gave in to my cravings for meat during my first pregnancy and my digestion went uphill from there. One of the most healing things I did for my digestion (besides allowing myself to eat as many animal products as I wanted!) was adding raw milk and milk kefir to my diet. Nothing, out of all the supplements and pills and “superfoods” that I tried, healed me like milk kefir!
But, what is milk kefir, exactly? Why is it different than yogurt, and what makes loaded with probiotics and bioavailable B vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and protein? All of the nutrients in milk kefir are actually absorbable and usable by our bodies, which isn’t always the case with the plant foods I was consuming. Though milk kefir is a lot like yogurt and both are fermented dairy products, there are some major differences. What are they?
In this article, you’ll learn the top 3 differences between yogurt and milk kefir:
1. Kefir contains yeasts, but yogurt does not.
It is widely known that some yeasts can be pathogenic like those involved in yeast infections, but not all strains of yeast are bad. In fact, many of them are good–they naturally occur on and inside our bodies and help us maintain a natural state of wellness. Yeast can be pathogenic if given the right strain and environment, but when they inhabit kefir, they are beneficial. According to this scientific paper, some of the benefits of probiotic yeasts found in milk kefir (especially S. cerevisiae) include prevention and treatment of intestinal diseases, immunomodulatory effects, improvement of bioavailability of minerals through the hydrolysis of phytate, folate biofortification, and detoxification of mycotoxins due to surface binding to the yeast cell wall. A compilation of potential strains of both yeast and bacteria can be found here and here, but it is important to note that kefir contains far more strains of beneficial probiotics and yeasts than yogurt does.
2. Kefir is more colonizing to the gut and yogurt is more transient.
Though both yogurt and milk kefir impact the composition of gut flora, studies have shown that kefir actually has longer-lasting benefits than yogurt. As stated in this scientific article, a bacteria specific to milk kefir (L. kefiri) has been shown to actually colonize the gut, meaning take hold and reproduce itself over and over, whereas yogurt bacteria are only beneficial for the time that the strains are present in your digestive system. It is clear that the strains found in both fermented drinks are beneficial, but those in kefir long outlast those in yogurt.
3. Kefir has a drinkable texture, but yogurt is thick.
The texture of kefir is a smooth, drinkable beverage. Yogurt, especially greek yogurt, is thicker and more edible with a spoon. Though the viscosity of kefir changes throughout its fermenting time, in general, kefir is on the thinner side. Usually, my kefir becomes so thick that I need to use a hand mixer in order to make it pourable. But once I mix my finished kefir and strain out my grains, it keeps a consistency like a thin yogurt. It’s ideal for smoothies!
Every day, I find myself contemplating the blessings I’ve received on this healing journey. Whether I’m pondering my past life, planning on how to best nourish my family each day, or how I can prepare my body for future events, this has all been a wild ride. Everything happens for a reason; I do not regret my poor decisions regarding nutrition because I now know the value of having healthy digestion, something I would have never learned without suffering.
On that note, big life changes take place with the incorporation of small life changes. Kefir can make all the difference in the pursuit of health, and it can be as simple as having a glass a day. Smoothies, whether they’re made out of yogurt or kefir, are a great way to potentially increase the quality of your life…however, kefir has a great texture and taste all by itself. So, go pour yourself a glass and enjoy immediate and long-lasting benefits. Cheers to good health!
-A blogger I respect: https://chriskresser.com/kefir-the-not-quite-paleo-superfood/
-A short and interesting scientific article on kefir: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4626640/
-A scientific paper emphasizing the benefits of probiotic yeasts: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257658/
Have you ever tried milk kefir? What benefits has it brought you? I love discussing fermented foods!
When we began working on mom’s autoimmune condition we started by clearing out our cupboards of trigger foods like gluten, sugar, and corn, soy (and of course, processed dairy), which are known for causing inflammation and a gut that isn’t able to heal. To replace these items, we stocked up on healthy vegetables, meats, bone broth, and fermented ingredients like kimchi as a way to avoid falling back into old (unhealthy) habits.
Maybe that’s you! Maybe you’ve been struggling to focus on what matters most and wondered where you needed to focus your energy to see the biggest improvement.
The problem is, most of us feel overwhelmed trying to source the perfect healthy options for every single part of our healthy diet. Organic food can be twice the price of conventional, and we struggle to focus on what will make the biggest difference for our family.
But it doesn’t have to be this way! By choosing to improve in one simple area you can make a big impact on your diet.
>> Grass-fed and pastured meats are key to a healing diet because they are nutrient-dense, contain no toxins, and provide building blocks for healing your gut and nourishing your body.
Let’s take a look at some reasons why this is the case.
- Grass-fed or pastured animals eat a better diet and live a more natural lifestyle. You’ve heard that grass-fed, free range, pastured are better, but do you realize why this is? When animals are raised in a natural habitat a symbiotic relationship occurs between animal, sunshine, grass, and all the other factors that interact with the animal making them healthier than their confinement cousins. Cows raised in a feedlot and fed grain, for example, don’t get a healthy amount of exercise and fresh air so their immune system is compromised and it becomes necessary to feed antibiotics to keep them from getting sick. Cows on pasture, however, have stronger immune systems that create healthy meats which in turn provide a tastier, more nutritious food that works to heal your body..
- Grass-fed and pastured meats are free of toxic substances like GMOs, hormones, and antibiotics making it less of a burden on your body. Did you know 80% of antibiotics manufactured in America are fed to animals? [1} And the leading grains fed to slaughter animals is genetically modified corn and soy? And hormone injections are routinely fed to beef and dairy cattle to boost performance?  As a result, people eating conventionally raised meats are exposed to higher amounts of toxic substances that can become a burden to your body hindering detoxification and clogging up signals your body is trying to tell itself about how to regain health. Eating cleaner meat removes the toxic burden and allows your body to achieve quicker healing results..
- Grass-fed and pastured meats provide nutrients like collagen, gelatin, amino acids, vitamins and minerals that are the building blocks for healing your gut and nourishing your body. By now you’ve heard that your gut health is where healing starts, but what you probably don’t know is that your entire body depends on nutrients like those found in grass-fed animals to build youthful skin, healthy hair, strong bones, and solid muscle mass. For example, omega 3s found in the fats of grass-fed animals helps your body fight inflammation which reduces stress and helps you feel more alive. Also, CLAs in grass-fed fats is a known cancer-fighting agent helping you stay healthy into older age. When you source better meats and animal products like bone broth, tallow, lard, and organ meats, you give your body the tools to regain health naturally..
I was talking to someone recently who was explaining what they were eating for breakfasts and snacks to avoid trigger foods that cause them sensitivities. Immediately my mind turned to the nutrient content of the food, and thought about the fact that while those foods were not causing reactions, they were also not nourishing the gut in order to restore a healthy balance.. A better recommendation would be to incorporate as many nutrient-dense foods as possible, starting with nourishing grass-fed and pastured meats, bone broth, organ meats and fats, since these provide the building blocks to truly heal the body and live a more thriving life.
What changes are you making to improve your diet? How does grass-fed and pastured meats play a role in creating a healing diet for your family’s gut health?
Last October, my fiancee Nicole and I completed the Whole30 challenge to see what foods we were sensitive to and reprogram our cravings.
During the 30 days, the biggest challenge for me was creating recipes that were compliant with the rules of the diet, without spending tons of time in the kitchen. If you’re not familiar with Whole30, it’s an elimination diet that restricts five major food categories including sugar, grains, legumes, and dairy (the hardest one for me as a dairy farmer!) in order to identify and personalize a diet to your body’s specific needs.
Long story short, all the fast and easy foods were off limits so I had to learn a new set of skills to keep myself full without spending all my time in the kitchen.
Sound familiar? You may not be doing an elimination diet but I’m sure you spend enough time in the kitchen and wish there was a way to cut back.
The problem all of us face is that eating healthy takes time. Junk food is called convenience food for a reason, and it’s because often real food meals are much more time-consuming to prepare.
But it doesn’t have to be this way!
Thankfully, a simple strategy for cooking saved me tons of time on Whole30 and can help you provide amazing healthy foods that nourish your family without being in the kitchen all the time.
It’s called batch cooking. I’m sure you’ve probably done it in some way before, but I’d like to encourage you to do more of it to save time.
>> Batch cooking saves time and makes healthy meals cheaper and more convenient.
Here’s how I like to think about batch cooking:
- Choose a day each week to plan your meals. It always takes time to set up for creating a recipe, including shopping for the ingredients and gathering your utensils. Batching all this into one day or evening of the week for certain items like bone broth, soups, and stews, or grass-fed meats can cut down the amount of time you take. Imagine having pre-made convenience foods available at your fingertips all week because you chose one day and planned ahead! While any day can work, many people find a weekend like Saturday works well. Choose what works for you and go for it! I found batch cooking worked best for me on Saturday afternoons for bone broth, tortillas, and homemade soup.
- Pick a recipe and double or triple it. You won’t be able to create every recipe in batch amounts, but for things like soups, stews, and chili, making a double or triple recipe can go a long way toward having a supply of ready-made meals in your freezer ready on short notice. Besides that, often the flavor is better the second time because spices have had time to mingle and mellow.
- Store in convenient containers for reheating on the go. You know how much you need for a meal, so do yourself a favor and freeze your extra batch in a container just right for your next meal. It’s best to use non-toxic containers for all food storage like glass, but if you don’t have that option be sure to let the food cool before adding to a plastic container for storage. More toxins are released when hot food is placed inside the plastic. Simply take a container out in the morning and thaw it while you’re busy during the day. It’ll be ready to heat up and serve for supper!
As I’ve mentioned before, my family has learned many real food tips and tricks due to a family member who struggles with hashimotos, a thyroid condition that is affected by food sensitivities, sleep patterns, exercise routines, and stress. As a result, tricks like batch cooking and sourcing real food that we grew on our farm has been a way to make healthy living a lifestyle for us, not just a dream.
Do you have a favorite food you like to batch cook? Do you have some time-saving tips? Let us know!
Some of the info from this post was sourced from the Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook by Mickey Trescott, NTP. Highly recommended!