What is Amasai?
Amasai or Amasi is a traditional, fermented type of milk which closely resembles kefir. It has a consistency similar to liquid yogurt and a fermented flavor indicative of its valuable probiotic content. Amasai has been a staple part of the South African diet for many years but has recently become far more mainstream as the benefits of probiotic food gains increasing attention.
Like many probiotic foods, amasai is known for its digestive benefits but it also also as other benefits including its effect on the immune system.
Amasai is just one of many fermented probiotic food and drinks consumed across South Africa. Food has long been fermented on the African continent as a way of naturally preserving food in the absence of modern refrigeration or freezing.
By fermenting foods like yogurt, kefir or amasai, you produce beneficial bacteria known as probiotics. Probiotics help balance the gut’s bacteria and have a number of benefits especially when it comes to digestive health.
You could try to describe the taste of amasai as a cross between plain yogurt and cottage cheese. As is often the case when it comes to fermented foods, you will probably either love it or loathe it. I must admit that I am firmly on the love it side.
Richard Mokua, a South African has spent many years studying traditional African food, in particular those which originated in Kenya. People in Kenya continue to use fermentation as a way of preserving their food in spite of very hot weather and no modern cooling systems. When he was studying for his master’s degree, Mokua began to investigate the health effects of amasai on children.
Having grown up in Kenya himself, he had been struck by the fact children who drank amasai had noticeably fewer bouts of diarrhea than other children. He set out to examine whether there was any link between amasai and diarrhea and exactly how it helped.
When Mokua started his research, he was not aware of the link between probiotic consumption and improved digestive health. Since then, we have learned that consuming food high in probiotics helps protect against diarrhea.
Probiotics are often referred to as ‘good bacteria’. Amasai is chock full of various kinds including lactobacillus. Mokua had theorized that these probiotics were linked to the children’s health. He decided to test the theory by using amasai against an especially deadly bacterial strain – E.coli. He believed amasai could destroy a deadly bacteria like E.Coli meaning it could protect rural areas from numerous food-borne disease and he was absolutely right.
Year later, more and more research is revealing that probiotic food can have a significant effect on our health and well-being.
Probiotics help improve digestion and prevent many of the common systems of poor digestive health like constipation, diarrhea, bloating and gas. They can also boost the immune system and help protect against a range of disease including cancer, infection and allergies. Probiotics are also linked to brain health and protection against degenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Probiotics also help regulate hormones like those which control appetite and body weight.
Amasai Nutritional Facts
There are actually several different types of consumed in different parts of the world these days. However, they all appear to confer the same benefits to the traditional African beverage. When it comes to amasai, each individual strain varies a little depending on a few factors such as the container in which it was fermented, the duration of fermentation, the exact dairy used and the bacteria used as a ‘starter’ culture.
These factors will affect exactly how your amasai looks and tastes as well as the concentration of probiotic bacteria.
A cup of amasai made with normal cow’s milk contains the following:
- 170 calories
- 8 grams of proteins
- 7 grams of sugar
- 11 grams of fat
- 10 grams of carbs
It is a good source of the following nutrients:
- probiotic bacteria
- CLA and omega -3 fats
- vitamin A
- B vitamins
Health Benefits of Amasai
Probiotics like those offered by amasai are especially helpful for the gut’s health. It is especially useful if you have recently taken a course of antibiotics or are prone to digestive complaints like diarrhea and bloating. The following are the main benefits of amasai:
1) Digestive Health
Amasai can supply you with various probiotics which can have a very positive impact on a number of common digestive complaints. According to research, probiotics can help treat constipation, diarrhea, bloating and even acid reflux. (1)
Amasai contains Lactobacilli – a probitoic which can effectively convert the carbohydrates that you eat into other acids. These acids improve your overall metabolism and your digestive health.
When the carbs in your diet are not broken down properly they may least to various common symptoms like bloating, gas and stomach upset. This is why people with food intolerance and conditions like SIBO or IBS can benefit from getting more probiotics into their system.
2) Improved Immune Function
The positive effects of probiotic amasai on the digestive tract has knock on effects on other aspects of your heath. Probiotics of the type found in amasai help to control inflammation and hormone production.
Probiotics help to improve your overall health in several ways. They help produce butyrate, vitamin B-12 and vitamin K2, create enzymes that can destroy the harmful bacteria and regulate T cells which can reduce inflammation.
There is evidence that probiotics helps to improve immune system function and help your health in many ways including the following:
- Fewer colds and flu
- Fewer allergies
- Prevent gum disease and cavities
- Treating kidney and liver illness
- Battling cancer
- Treating inflammatory skin conditions
- Reducing cholesterol
3) Inflammation and Brain Health
According to research, probiotic foods like amasai can help improve your cognitive health and protect against degenerative diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s. They do this by lowering inflammation and boosting nutrient absorption as well as aiding the production of important nerotransmitters. (2)
How to Make Amasai
Amasai is becoming more readily available in stores but if you can not find it, we suggest you try making your own. For anybody that has ever made their own yogurt, the process is quite similar and fairly straightforward.
It is traditionally made through a process of dairy milk fermentation. You put some cow’s milk into a container, add a little amasai from a previous batch and let it ferment.
All you need is some cow’s milk and a ‘starter’ that contains the necessary bacteria. The most convenient use is a little amasai from a previously fermented batch but you may also find starter kits online.
Combine your milk with a starter in a bowl or pot and then allow it to sit for at least 10 hours at a room temperature. Once it has fermented, you can store your finished amasai in the fridge for between two and three weeks.
You can then use a little of the old amasai to produce your next batch. Bacteria gets passed on to the next batch and repopulates by feeding on substances in the milk.
Once your amasai is finished, you can add some good quality honey for taste or add some of your favorite fruit in the same way that you would eat yogurt.
Making Traditional Amasai