MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Kimchee, kombucha, kefir. Have you seen some of these items at the grocery story lately and thought, what is that? They are all fermented foods — a group that is growing rapidly for their health benefits.

They all contain tons of live probiotics — that’s the healthy bacteria in your G.I. tract.

Researcher’s and people are discovering the health benefits to keeping that in balance.

We learn what kefir is, and how a local company is getting it to people in a dairy-free way.

The human body has a delicate balance of yeasts and good bacteria, mostly held in our guts.

“Seventy to ninety percent of the mechanics of the immune system reside in our guts,” said Michael Larsen, founder of Tula’s CocoKefir. “There’s about two and a half pounds of these bugs that confer a health benefit to us. They are involved with digestion. What is that? That’s nutrient absorption that feeds our brains and organs.”

When that ecosystem is out of balance, we suffer.

Consuming healthy bacteria, like the stuff found in kefir, can keep you in balance.

Kefir is a fermented food, typically found in dairy. But Larsen and his wife, Holly, of Edina, wanted a way to get the kefir without the dairy.

Enter: Tula’s CocoKefir.

“We thought, wouldn’t it be great to deliver these known healthful bacteria in a way that’s dairy-free? It turns out that those same bacteria that thrive in milk and have a 400 year history of doing so. They thrive in coconut water,” he said.

Though kefir originated in Eastern Europe and Russia nearly 400 years ago, it’s now gaining popularity in America for it’s health benefits.

“The latest researchers are finding a definitive link between gut microbia and brain chemistry and behavior. It has really profound implications for where our health can go and ways in which we can take care of ourselves,” Larsen said.

Studies have shown that fermented foods can help treat allergies, digestive issues, depression, anxiety and even more serious issues and diseases.

“I originally tried to show people how to make it. I learned pretty quickly that not everyone wants to take the time,” he said.

Tula’s CocoKefir is a little sparkling, with a mildly sweet, yet tangy flavor.

The American diet is heavy in yeast — think meats, cheeses and sugar. Eating fermented foods can help restore balance in your body.

“It really empowers people to take care of their health in the kitchen and grocery store before they get to a doctor’s office,” he said.

Tula’s CocoKefir is available in 26 different states. They are in most co-ops in the Twin Cities. You can find them in Moorhead, Rochester, St. Peter and Brainerd. And they sell and ship directly online.

It typically costs $11 and each bottle lasts about eight days. You can find it in the refrigerated areas, most likely near dairy.


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