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Living Longer on Yogurt and Kefir


Yogurt and Kefir

Living Longer on Cultured Foods


I love to eat and make kefir as well as yogurt. I’ve been having lots of fun making different types of yogurts made famous in different parts of the world.

High number of centenarians

I have discovered that in certain parts of the world, yogurt and kefir have been strongly linked with an unusually high number of centenarians. In the Caucasus Mountains, Kefir (called the “Miracle Food“) is a staple food. Many have lived over 100 years, and some claim to have lived to be over 150. Kefir is much stronger than yogurt because of the many different strains of bacteria in kefir. I don’t go many days without kefir. Since yogurt has some colonies, too, it’s always a good idea to add yogurt to your diet as it helps your gut microbes grow and thrive.


  I have done a lot of research on yogurt. Many of the world’s centenarians have consumed yogurt daily and often as a dessert or meal. For instance, Bulgarian yogurt has a rich history surrounding it. It dates back to the Thracians, ancient inhabitants of the Bulgarian lands. Stock breeders would place sheep’s milk in lambskin bags around their waists and would create fermented yogurt using their own body heat. They credit themselves with inventing Bulgaria’s only source of yogurt. They also produced the healthiest yogurt in Europe, thanks to a unique bacteria native to their country. Dr. Stamen Grigorov found the specific Lactobacillus bacteria responsible for Bulgarian yogurt fermentation. Grigorov went on to identify two more bacteria: Streptobacillus and Streptococcus thermophilus, which coexisted with Lactobacillus in perfect symbiosis. Interested in Dr. Grigorov’s discoveries, the Nobel prize-winning Russian scientist, Ilya Mechnikov, noted that more people lived to the age of 100 in Bulgaria than in any of the 36 other countries he studied. He directly linked this to Bulgaria’s consumption of yogurt.

bluezonesmap copyHave you heard of the Blue Zones?

Blue Zone is a concept used to identify a demographic and/or geographic area of the world where people live measurably longer lives, as described in Dan Buettner’s book, “The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest.” At the cornerstone of Blue Zone living is a  diet of whole grains, beans, vegetables, fruits, red wine, and dairy, especially yogurt. Meat is reserved as a side dish. Red wine and yogurt are both cultured foods – they have discovered that it is the prebiotics in the wine that protect and help your heart and not just the antioxidants in the grapes.


The Mediterranean region has recently become an area of interest for nutritionists, doctors, and conscious living experts all over the world. There, several cultures exist in which an unusually high number of people live to the age of one hundred or more. Greek yogurt has become a huge market as people gobble it up. Higher in protein than regular yogurt, it is a treat for me and I consider it a dessert food. Top it with some lemon zest, a fresh squeeze of lemon, some cherries, and a small dollop of honey and you have a treat for sure.

Yogurts eaten around the world keep people healthy

Over the last fifty years, much attention has been given to the Mediterranean diet, but what of the Nordic diet? Scandinavians are extremely healthy with very little obesity and heart disease.

Heirloom Yogurts Made on Your Counter - no yogurt maker required


Pima and Viili are cultured yogurts from Scandinavia. They are made much like kefir is made. You place a culture in milk, leave it on the counter, and after a day or two you have a creamy sustainable yogurt. You can use a little from this yogurt and make more yogurt again and again. Piimä yogurt  is very thin and drinkable with a mild flavor. Culture it with cream instead of milk to make a tasty sour cream-like topping. Viili yogurt is very mild and creamy, with a fairly thick consistency. It’s a versatile favorite that’s perfect on its own or in any yogurt recipe.

 Matsoni yogurt is from The Republic of Georgia. It has a thin, custard-like texture with notes of honey. Its flavor is the most “yogurty” and is a popular choice for frozen yogurt. It is very easy to make and doesn’t require a yogurt maker. Dr. Mori Yukio, Professor Emeritus of Tokyo University, brought matsoni yogurt to Japan. He was doing research in Georgia when he found a village of people who consumed this yogurt lived longer than other people who did not consume it. The Japanese have embraced matsoni and given it another name – Caspian Sea Yogurt. Today, the Japanese market has many products for matsoni including special yogurt makers called casupimeka.

 Filmjölk Yogurt is another Finnish variety. It’s been around since the time of the Vikings and has a tangy flavor reminiscent of cheese and has a custard-like texture. It’s great with fresh fruit or over pie. Kids love it!  Filmjölk Yogurt is used to enhance digestion and keep stomach ails to a minimum. It is served at breakfast, lunch, and as a side dish. You can try all of these yogurts, Pima, ViiliMatsoni, and Filmjölkin an Heirloom yogurt package. They are all made without a yogurt maker and are sustainable by using one small portion of the first batch to make another.

I hope you will try some of these cultured foods, be it kefir or yogurt. They will help you live longer and be healthier. I carry all kinds of yogurts and kefir in my store. Don’t worry if you’re a vegan, I have stuff for you, too! Check it out here.


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21 Responses to "Living Longer on Yogurt and Kefir"
  1. Have you tried culturing the thermophilic yogurt in an Instant Pot? I don’t have a yogurt maker, but I recently got a new Instant Pot with a yogurt setting and I’d like to try using it for that. I just wondered whether there were any special precautions or instructions for making yogurt in this appliance.

  2. Hi Donna,
    A while ago I noticed that my powdered yogurt starter was going to expire in a couple of months so I decided to use it. I made a batch which seemed ok and then another from that batch which seemed normal. After it had been in the fridge for a day or two it smelled very strange and tasted like it smelled. I ate some anyway with no apparent ill effects and the next morning the smell and taste had gone from the yogurt.
    I just wondered if you had any ideas regarding the temporary smell and flavour.

  3. hola Dona me alegro que usted sabe la historia de yogur soy de Bulgaria pero vivo en España desde ase 16 años y la jente aquí piensa que el yogur es de Grecia
    saludos I van

  4. Hi Donna,
    My milk kefir is very thin. After culturing for a day or less it is still milk thin and sour. It is not creamy. Could I have to many kefir grains in my milk? Could you please give me the amount of kefir grains per cup of milk please… Thanks!

    • Is it separating into whey and curds? It is usually 1 tbsp to one cup milk but in the summer it can ferment faster because it is warmer and you can also decrease the fermenting time.

  5. Hi! I am making kefir for the first time and am using organic, ultra-pasteurized non-fat milk. This is day 5, and I am now smelling a mild, fermented, yeasty smell — but I’m still not seeing any thickening. I called the company where I bought the grains, and the girl said it was probably because the milk is ultra-pasteurized, and the bacteria may not be growing. Does this sound right to you? (The milk is made by a local farm. I don’t even know if I can find milk that is just pasteurized and not ultra.) Also, if she is right, do I need to throw out these grains and start over?

    • You should never ferment kefir five days but rather 24 hours. This would harm or damage the grains. Is it sour and separating? This kefir should be very over fermented.

      • Directions that came with the grains said to change the milk every 24 hours. So the grains went into a fresh cup of milk every 24 hours. This morning, day six, the consistency was finally thick. But it was as thick as yogurt! Did I over ferment? Should I start over with new grains? And what kind of milk should I use — ultra pasteurized or pasteurized?

          • Great, thank you. Because of my IBS, I am introducing probiotics slowly into my system. I am currently up to 1/4 cup a day of store-bought kefir. Can I start off drinking this same amount with my own homemade kefir? Or does the homemade version have so many more probiotics, that I should take a few steps back and start with only a couple of tablespoons?

  6. Hi Donna!!! I so enjoy your website and all your recipes:) I have sent many of my friends from Canada, USA, and Mexico to your site already to do research of their own! This year I have started making my own kefir, kombucha, and cultured veggies. Kefir made from raw goats milk is the biggest hit so far:) Anyway, I have a few questions that I have pondered since I started this. Such as, does liquid iodine in our kefir smoothies kill any beneficial probiotics in the kefir? Does storing the kefir in the fridge kill probiotics, or adding frozen fruit for the second ferment? Also, does blending kefir in a powerful blender to make smoothies (which we drink every day) harm the probiotics in any way? I’ve read in the past that blending can “mess up the molecules” and wanted your opinion on it. I really appreciate your time and would love to hear from you on this, thanks so much!!!!

    • I really am not sure about the iodine and have never been asked this question before so i really don’t know. Good question.

      Storing in the fridge does not kill the kefir it just slows it down and actually helps preserve the probiotics and make them last longer.

      Frozen fruit nor blending will hurt the probiotic when you add them to the second ferment.I have been doing both for many years and receive a ton of benefits.

  7. Hi donna, is water kefir and kefir grain have different bacteria and strains because I want to start making water kefir as well

  8. I purchased the kefir starter (powder) and used one packet. I am continuing successful batches of kefir from the one packet, but I don’t have my instructions any more (for when I will need to use the remaining one packet from my order). Could you please refresh my memory?

    • Here are instructions on how to do this. Suggested Use: Into container (preferably glass with lid), mix together the entire contents of one foil packet of kefir starter and one quart of slightly warmed milk (about skin temperature or 92°F).

      Shake, stir, or whip with a whisk to mix well. Put lid on container.

      Let this mixture ferment at 72° to 75°F for 18 to 24 hours for milk, 24 to 48 hours for coconut water and some others. (You will notice it is ready if the milk has thickened and has a distinctive, sour fragrance. Final consistency is pourable but not “eat with a spoon” thick.) Coconut water will not thicken like milk, only become cloudy and much less sweet.
      Place into the refrigerator. Even in your refrigerator the fermentation process continues, but chilling will slow down the fermentation of the healthy bacteria and beneficial yeast.

      Reculturing the Kefir

      Kefir made with a direct-set style starter culture can often be recultured anywhere from 2 to 7 times. The exact number of successive reculturings will depend on the freshness of the kefir and hygienic practices employed. We recommend reculturing kefir within 7 days of making each batch. Longer periods between batches will decrease the likelihood the new batch will culture successfully.

      Pour 1 quart milk, coconut milk, coconut water, or fruit juice into a glass or plastic container
      If using a refrigerated liquid, heat to 70º-75ºF
      Add ¼ cup prepared kefir from the previous batch and stir gently.
      Cover the container with a lid, and place in a warm spot, for 12-16 hours.
      Place kefir with a tight lid and store in the refrigerator.

  9. I have read that the Mediterranean area now has the highest rate of Celiac disease in the world. I wonder if the younger population has changed their diet. Perhaps it was not just the food the older people ate, but the way it was prepared and the probiotics in the food. Do the Mediterranean people now take shortcuts eating commercial grains, fast food, and pasta no longer prepared properly? In the US, babies are given antibiotics in the hospital on the day they are born. If this is done in Italy as well, then they no longer start out life with good probiotics. It has been reported that Rome has a 90% rate of Caesarian births so they lose exposure to good bacteria from a natural birth. The kefir grains I purchased from you are happily bubbling away. Now I will try your yogurt. Thanks

  10. We live in Central America not too far from the Costa Rica spot on your map (in Panama.)

    Honestly I do not think that this is really paradise. Sure, we walk down the street (err, dirt road filled with potholes of muddy water with mosquitoes swirling about us), mangos and coconuts and papayas all around, dropping into our outstretched arms, but there are other things to consider:

    1. Power / internet — very unreliable, and I even live in an area where the rich Panamanians have their weekend “beach houses” and demand good service. (I live about 1 1/2 hours from Panama City in a little town called Nueva Gorgona which is basically a fishing village. Plenty of black and white sand beaches here).

    2. Service. Expect to wait in long lines… just because. Cashiers, waitresses, mechanics, etc take a LONG time. When I went to pay my cell phone bill (which was $44 for 3 months and I have a smart phone!) there were three sales ladies there, and no one else but me. I went to the first one and she pointed to the second one, who pointed to the third lady, who finally helped me, but stopped in the middle of the transaction to look at pictures on her friends phone, and then sent her own text message to someone.

    3. Any “health food” as we know it costs a LOT of money — if you are not willing to live on the local fare of beans and rice and chicken and fruits and vegetables — then be willing to pay a LOT of extortionist prices for health food — and anything gluten free? $9 for a loaf of Ezekial bread, even!

    Raw milk is cheap here, $4/gallon or thereabout – however it tastes like grass. I was so excited to find it here, but my kefir couldn’t even hide the taste (once cultured). They have the Boc Indicus breed of cows (A2 strain!).

    Anyway, also be prepared to be HOT ALL THE TIME. When you want to eat out at a restaurant, unless you are in the city (which is worse traffic than San Francisco and no street signs) restaurants may not be open, they may close unexpectedly, they may not have 9 out of the 10 items on the menu, etc.

    So, why am I here. My husband loves it. It is his dream! 🙂 I am along for the ride. The beach is getting old so in 2 weeks we are moving up to the mountains in El Valle, Panama (look it up on Google if you want). I am very excited — one of the largest farmers markets in Panama, about 10 degrees cooler, and I think 300 ex pats live in the small town. More English speakers.

    🙂 The local people here are nice, beautiful people, but they just have different customs and it is hard to get used to when you come from a fast paced society with fast internet, and now have to be ok with 5 mbps speeds!

    And, since I work remote, it is very difficult when power goes out (because then our water doesn’t work, either, we can’t even wash our hands or flush the toilet!)

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