The ultimate guide to making the healthy drink
If you’ve read our beginner’s guide to gut health, you’ll know what a phenomenal impact it has on our well-being. Research shows a link between having a large variety of bacteria in the gut and a decreased risk of conditions such as diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and psoriatic arthritis.
Interest in bacteria as healthful functional ingredients kicked off in 1907 when Russian scientist and Nobel Prize winner Elie Metchnikoff, then living in Bulgaria, discovered that many villagers lived beyond 100 years – and that they regularly drank a fermented milk beverage called kefir.
What is Kefir?
Kefir is a mildly acidic fermented milk product with a tart, sour taste and creamy consistency. It originated in the Caucasus and its neighboring areas thousands of years ago. It’s cultured from a mix of lactic acid bacteria and various yeasts combined with casein and complex sugars called kefiran.
Kefir may have originated in the Caucasus mountains that lie between Europe and Asia. The word “kefir” comes from the Turkish word “keyif,” which means “feeling good.” Kefir was first made by accident when nomadic shepherds carried milk in leather pouches, which led to natural fermentation. For centuries, people in the Caucuses kept kefir a closely guarded secret. The people attributed their longevity and good health to the drink. No lab has replicated the unique matrix that makes up kefiran. It’s a lovely accident, and every grain that exists in the world originates from an ancient source.
There are two main types of kefir: milk kefir, and water kefir. Milk kefir is the most common one. It is made from the milk of cows, goats, or sheep. The kefiran feed on the lactose in milk and turn it into a delicious tangy drink similar to buttermilk, except fizzier. This article will focus on milk kefir.
Water kefir is a dairy-free alternative made by fermenting sugar water with kefir grains. It’s lighter and milder in flavor compared to milk kefir, and it’s an excellent option for those who are lactose intolerant or prefer a vegan option.
It’s Rich in Probiotics
Kefir is a probiotic powerhouse, containing a diverse range of beneficial bacteria and yeasts. There are many studies that have counted the colony forming units (CFUs) in kefir – and this number varies based on the specific strain and the type of milk used (goat, sheep, cow, or buffalo). The lowest counted number is 500 billion CFUs per cup! Most probiotic supplements contain between 1 and 10 billion CFUs per dose, sometimes going up to 50 billion, a fraction of what is contained in kefir.
It Boosts Immune Function:
The beneficial bacteria in kefir help support a healthy immune system, making it easier for your body to fight off infections and illnesses. Kefir has been known to help fight against cancer, protect our body from harmful changes in cells, reduce inflammation, and kill harmful bacteria. It can also help lower blood pressure and assist with managing diabetes. Additionally, kefir boosts our immune system, helps our body use lactose (found in milk) more efficiently, and even lowers cholesterol levels. Kefir also has important potential as an alternative treatment for osteoporosis due to its high levels of calcium (about 300mg per cup)
Kefir is a good source of essential nutrients. According to the USDA Food Data Central, it contains:
- 24% of the recommended daily value (DV) of calcium
- 20% of the DV of phosphorus
- 29% of the DV of vitamin B12
- 25% of the DV of riboflavin (B2)
- 7% of the DV of magnesium
- 12% of the DV of vitamin D
- 9 grams of protein.
*It’s important to note that the nutritional profile and probiotic content of kefir varies according to the type of milk used, and the particular strain.
Make Milk Kefir at Home
You can find kefir in most grocery stores, health food stores, or online retailers. But homemade kefir is healthier and more nutritious.
So get kefir grains and animal milk (traditionally, goat’s milk is used). You can buy these online or from a local source. When searching for kefir grains, make sure they are of high quality and come from a reputable supplier. It’s best to buy fresh, active grains rather than dehydrated ones.
- 1 tbsp milk kefir grains
- 2 cups of milk (whole, room temperature, preferably from grass-fed animals)
- Put the kefir grains in a clean glass jar.
- Then add the milk to the jar, covering the grains.
- Cover the jar with a breathable cloth or coffee filter and secure it with a rubber band.
- Allow the mixture to ferment at room temperature (68-78°F) for 12-48 hours, depending on your taste preference.
- Strain the kefir through a plastic strainer to separate the grains from the liquid.
- Store the strained kefir in the refrigerator and enjoy!