September 16, 2014
Kefir (pronounced “kih-FEAR”) is an extraordinary beverage that is consumed in many countries around the world, especially in the Middle East, Russia, and the Balkans. A fermented milk drink that resembles a liquid yogurt, kefir has been enjoyed for centuries as a tart refreshing treat that leaves you feeling full and satisfied.
Now we are beginning to realize that besides tasting delicious, kefir is also terrific for your health. Even better, it is a remarkable weight-loss food that has even been shown to reduce belly fat.
Kefir’s power comes from its ability to support the microbiome, a community of trillions of live bacteria that live within each of us. The bacteria in our microbiome govern our digestion, our metabolism, and, ultimately, our weight. Replenish the friendly bacteria within our microbiome, and you set yourself up for weight-loss success.
Kefir has been shown to contain at least 10 strains of friendly bacteria. It is also rich in B vitamins, vitamin A, vitamin D, calcium, iron, and iodine, all of which contribute to our health.
Kefir, yogurt, and other dairy products seem to have a beneficial effect on weight loss. In June 2011 the New England Journal of Medicine reported on research linking yogurt consumption with improved weight. “Intriguing evidence suggests that changes in colonic bacteria might influence weight gain,” the article noted. A year earlier, the British Journal of Nutrition reported that the kinds of bacteria found in yogurt produced improvements
in insulin sensitivity (related to metabalism and inflammation).
Other research confirms that dairy products might have weight-loss benefits. A 2004 study conducted at the University of Tennessee and published in Obesity Research found that adults on a reduced-calorie diet who consumed 3 or 4 servings of dairy each day lose more weight—and more belly fat—than two other groups of adults on reduced-calorie diets, one with calcium supplements but a low-dairy diet, and another with both low-dairy and low-calcium diets.
Although researchers never explained why dairy was helpful, I have my own theory. I believe it was specifically the yogurt that was the weight-loss aid—and even more specifically, the friendly bacteria in the yogurt. This points the way to my own Microbiome Diet, in which we support the microbiome to promote weight loss.
I personally don’t recommend that my weight-loss patients consume most dairy products because most overweight people also suffer from leaky gut, a condition in which partially digested food leaks through the intestinal walls and disrupts the immune system. Leaky gut contributes to a number of food sensitivities, particularly to dairy products and foods containing gluten, a group of proteins found in wheat, rye, barley, and many other grains.
As a result, I usually recommend that my weight-loss patients avoid both gluten (breads, pastas, baked goods) and dairy products—with one exception. I recommend yogurt and kefir because of their probiotic benefits. Consuming yogurt, kefir, and other fermented foods can help heal leaky gut, boost metabolism, and support the loss of both overall weight and belly fat.
What I find exciting about the benefits of yogurt and kefir is the way they spur us to rethink what diet is all about. I would never recommend eating just one single “weight-loss” food. Instead, I would suggest looking at this remarkable community of friendly bacteria that lives within us and asking ourselves, “What do they need?”
If you eat the foods that support your microbiome while avoiding the foods that endanger your microbiome, you will find that, almost effortlessly, your excess weight comes off while your health and vitality skyrocket.