It is believed that the origin of fermented foods and cultured milk products predates recorded history. Fermented and cultured foods may well represent our first experience with what scientists now call “functional” foods—foods that actively promote optimal health. One example is yogurt which is probably the most common of the fermented or “probiotic” dairy food found today in grocery stores and refrigerators throughout the world. That being said, our modern version of yogurt is a far cry from the powerful healing foods that were eaten for centuries by our ancestors.
What is Amasai?
Amasai is a cultured milk beverage with the consistency of liquid yogurt. It provides your body with high quality proteins, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, probiotics, and healthy fats. As we shall see, the benefits of Amasai, far outweighs the advertised benefits of the modern, commercial yogurt.
History of Amasai
Dr. Weston Price (1870-1948), a world renowned dentist and founder of the National Dental Association, traveled to the African continent and was impressed with the towering stature and physical prowess of the Maasai tribe. The average male stood over 7 feet tall, with perfect teeth, strong bones, and no intestinal disease. The tall women gave birth easily to robust babies. They herded their own cows and drank their milk and the meat with all the fat. They didn’t eat much of anything else but were in incredibly great shape, especially compared to the Europeans. The inspiration for Amasai came from Amasi, the traditional dairy beverage of this fearless Maasai tribe that inhabit southern Kenya and northern Tanzania.
How Amasai works?
In the year 2004, a Wisconsin Master’s student in Food and Nutrition Sciences by the name of Richard Mokua, was researching the benefits of a traditional food of his Kenyan Kenyan community, a fermented milk called “Amasi.” This was one of his favorite cultured foods that he grew up with in his childhood. He observed that children who consumed Amasi were less susceptible to diarrhoea. His observations paved way for his Master’s thesis, results of which, were nonetheless, intriguing: not only does Amasi kill E. coli bacteria, but does it much faster than cultured yogurt.
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As an experiment, Mokua used commercial milk, commercial yogurt and Amasi from his hometown in Kenya. He inoculated all three with the E Coli bacteria.
He found that regular milk was a fertilizer that allowed E Coli to grow stronger. The yogurt, on the other hand, with some active bacteria was able to slightly reduce the E Coli strains. Whereas, Amasi was able to dominate the E Coli and kill it very quickly. In this case, the primary difference between regular commercial yogurt and the Amasi was the amount of lactic acid bacteria. Lactic acid bacteria, including lactobacillus, is recognized as an important probiotic in human health and Amasi happens to be loaded with it. The lactic acid bacteria in Amasi helps protect the Amasi itself from an assault by pathogens. Likewise, it protects our gut.
Amasai vs. Commercial Yogurt and Kefir
There are 4 major differences: the cattle, what the cattle eat, the fat, and the culturing process
• Green Fed cattle – no grains.
• True Whole Milk is used with a higher level of fat soluble vitamins.
• Low temperature processing leaving the delicate proteins in their whole state.
• Over 30 probiotics cultures.
• Improved absorption of vitamins and minerals.
• Reduced level of cellular inflammation.
• Improved digestion.
• Better recovery after the use of antibiotics.
• Reduced rates of diarrhea.
• Improved immune response.
The Traditional Way
The original Amasai is traditionally made by placing raw, hormone-free cow’s milk into a gourd or other container, adding a bit of Amasai from a prior batch, and the combination is left to ferment. The process of making Amasai is similar to making yogurt. As the substance ferments, the whey portion of the milk is drained off, and what remains is a thick, curdled type of beverage called Amasai.
The “Beyond Organic Amasai” Way
In hopes of promoting the health benefits of this traditional African food, Beyond Organic, a company created by Jordan Rubin, author of “The Maker’s Diet”, has launched its own version of Amasai. One can read more about it, here and here
[Read: Ayurveda for Lactose Intolerance]
Friend to the Lactose Intolerant or Allergic to Milk
Normally, milk is pasteurized to kill off harmful bacteria. A problem with high temperature pasteurization is that heating the milk to elevated temperatures kills probiotics, destroys enzymes, and alters the proteins and fat in the milk making them carcinogenic and toxic. Yes, Amasai is pasteurized but with low heat of 145 degrees. This ensures product safety while not destroying what is good about milk (The company, “Beyond Organic” sought a different path, taking up to 180 times longer than high temperature or ultra-heat pasteurization. This allows the proteins and certain microbes to remain intact to be gently pre-digested by the probiotics).
This means that Amasai is safe and beneficial for everyone to consume, even those who know they are lactose intolerant or allergic to milk.
It’s worth noting that each mouthful of fermented food can provide trillions of beneficial bacteria—far more than you can get from a probiotics supplement, which will typically provide you with colony-forming units in the billions. Studies have shown that one serving of fermented dairy was equal to an entire bottle of a high potency probiotic! Fermented foods also give you a wider variety of beneficial bacteria, so all in all, it’s a more cost effective and longer lasting alternative then depending on the questionable potency and longevity of bottled probiotics.
Hence one should avoid as much as possible, processed, off-the-shelf probiotics, but make their own fermented foods, the traditional way, the way our ancestors did.
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