A lot of people are interested in kefir and in fact drink this stuff for its health benefits. We know that the health benefits of kefir are a result of it being a probiotic beverage. Unfortunately, few realize just how this “probiotic” thing works.
The biggest misconception when it comes to probiotics is thinking that all probiotics, like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, are the same and even interchangeable. They’re not.
The term probiotics is simply a term coined for thousands of different bacteria. In fact, the FAO/WHO defines probiotics as “Live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host.” That’s any health benefit, not some magic cure for all.
There are simply thousands and thousands of strains of bacteria and each one may offer a variety of health benefits. Some may colonize the gut, others may live in the stomach, others may even have an affinity for your nose and each one may improve your health substantially. Other bacteria that are still considered “live and active cultures” may absolutely do nothing and moreover, others may even harm you to a certain degree.
Take for example your yogurt. Yogurt is very similar to kefir and even looks pretty darn close to it. But the health benefits you get from kefir are different from yogurt. This is because of the strains of bacteria in yogurt and kefir. Both may have lactobacillus bacteria, but not the same strain. Heck, even kimchi has lactobacillus bacteria in it.
So where am i going with this?
I think probiotics is a very complex topic, but I feel that we need to clear the shroud of misunderstanding even bit by bit. The more we understand how the food we eat can ultimately affect our well being, the better we can be in control of our health and our life.
My take on all this is simple. It’s hard, impossible even, to compare one fermented food from another. The best thing to do is to eat a variety of fermented foods, which provides a wider variety of bacterial strains, which may likely offer a wider range of health benefits.