I was speaking to my new friends at Great Island Crossfit about nutrition to fuel the body for performance a few nights ago. We got onto the subject of dairy, as you do, and I expressed my feelings on pasteurized milk.
Pasteurized dairy is acidic, pro- inflammatory, plays havoc on people’s sinuses and digestive health and is a common food intolerance. When being conscious of inflammation and wanting to keep an edge in fitness I wouldn’t be first to recommend it. Yet, milk in its raw form is a whole other story. Drinking raw milk does come with some potential danger. The reason we started to pasteurize milk was to reduce our risk of infection. Yet, research finds that we have a very small (about a 1 in 6 million) chance in developing a serious illness from drinking raw milk. You would have a greater chance of being struck by lightning.
Some of the benefits of switching include greater levels and increased bioavailability of fat soluble vitamins A, D & K, essential fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which has been shown to help burn fat, reduce risk of some cancers and lower insulin resistance levels. It is anti-inflammatory in nature and some research suggests that it has an antimicrobial element. Raw milk maintains all of its enzymes which are unfortunately killed in the pasteurization process. Many people diagnosed with lactose intolerance find that after switching to raw milk they no longer suffer from symptoms. The list of benefits goes on but it wouldn’t be right to not at least mention the superior taste.
I buy my raw milk from a local farmers market. The farmer even takes .50c off when you return the bottle. What I do with this milk when I bring it home is what makes it turn into something even more amazing. Kefir.
Kefir is a variety of fermented dairy made with “grains,” actually colonies of yeast and bacteria that look like curds and are then strained out of the milk after fermentation. Kefir has a vibrant and interesting history which I won’t go into here, but may be worth looking into if you feel inspired to make your own. Besides containing beneficial bacteria and yeasts, kefir is also an excellent source of vitamins, minerals and essential amino acids that promote healing, repair and general wellbeing. Some would consider it a super food. It plays a big role as an immune modulator as well as being useful for digestive health and bone health. Kefir remains one of the most potent probiotic foods available.
Making kefir is truly simple. You put approximately 2 teaspoons of kefir grains into a jar with about 4 cups of milk, set it in a cupboard or on a countertop for 18-24 hours and boom! You have kefir! Strain the grains, put the finished kefir in the fridge to use and put fresh milk on the grains and start the process again. You don’t have to worry about keeping a constant temperature, the warmer the room the faster the milk cultures, so if you want to slow the process down, put it in a cooler place or stick it in the fridge. The grains will continue to grow with each batch, so you will have plenty of grains to share with your friends.
We put kefir in our smoothies, make kefir ice-cream, kefir-garlic-cumin-lime sauce for our fish tacos or tzatziki for our falafel. The list goes on. It is just as versatile as yogurt.
If you are interested in making your own kefir at home ask around at your local health food shop. Someone in your community is bound to have grains they can share and you will be able to spread the health once you have kefir growing in your kitchen.