What Is Kefir?
You may not have heard of kefir, but it’s a product that is currently coming into vogue in many heath circles and one that we are big fans of here at the Budwig Center.
Kefir is a fermented drink product that has been known in certain cultures for centuries. The word â€˜kefirâ€™ has been derived from the Turkish word keif which means good feeling. What a great name for a drink!
Kefir originated in the Caucasus mountains and is produced from the milk of any ruminant animal such as cows, goats and sheep. Kefir is a kind of drinkable yoghurt and its taste is slightly sour. You’ll find that the drink is slightly carbonated because of the fermentation activity of bacteria and yeast. Kefir is chock full of various types of beneficial microbiota and so it is one of the most potent probiotic foods available.
Health Benefits of Kefir
Probiotics are those superfoods that are crammed with healthy microorganisms. Over one hundred years of modern research has backed up the idea of the health giving properties of probiotics thanks to the healthy bacteria that they contain.
Common probiotics that we find in fermented foods include the bifidobacteria species (frequently mentioned on commercials), lactobacillus species and the acetobacter species. You may wonder why we would want to consume bacteria, but actually eating healthy bacteria is extremely good for us.
We already have zillions of beneficial bacteria in our intestines. These bacteria assist in digesting food and fighting off harmful bacteria. When we become ill or we take medications the numbers of bacteria are reduced. Probiotics help the body to regain its army of healthy bacteria and restore balance and that’s why it is recommended that we keep ourselves topped up.
As well as the hugely beneficial bacteria and yeasts that kefir contains, it is also a rich source for a variety of vitamins, minerals and essential amino acids that will promote healing and repair in the body and help to maintain health. For example, kefir contains high levels of thiamin, B12, calcium, folates and Vitamin K2 as well as the B vitamin biotin that supports the body in assimilating other B vitamins and vitamin D. Because the proteins in kefir are already partially digested, they are readily utilized by the body. Kefir is a great provider of the minerals calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus, which together will promote healthy cell growth and energy levels.
One cup of kefir can provide you with 25% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin D, 10% of the RDA of Vitamin A and 30% of the recommended daily amount of calcium. Kefir is a good source of protein, one cup of kefir can provide 30% of the RDA of a 2000 calorie diet.
What Is Kefir Good For?
As we have seen, kefir is particularly good for the gut and the immune system, but it also helps to keep our bones healthy. Kefir will benefit the body
- By boosting immunity
- Healing inflammatory bowel disease
- Improving lactose digestion
- Working to kill candida
- Helping to build bone density
- Helping to fight allergies
- Supporting detoxification
Kefir is also known to have anti-fungal and antibacterial properties and recent research has suggested that kefir may have an anti-tumor effect. Kefir is most effective however in the prevention and treatment of digestive disorders in particular diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome.
There is not yet enough research to confirm that probiotics such as kefir can usefully treat Crohn’s disease, ulcers, high cholesterol, lactose intolerance or constipation although many people use kefir to these ends.
How to Consume Kefir
You may be able to find kefir on the shelves of your local health food store or supermarket, but failing that kefir is available online in a number of forms, so shop around for bargains. However, many people believe that authentic kefir can only really be made from scratch at home. It is relatively easy to prepare. Kefir is simply milk that is fermented at room temperature with kefir grains for about 24 hours and there is no heating or incubating involved. Starter kits for kefir can be purchased from health food shops, supermarkets and online. If you are struggling there are a variety of entertaining links online that will demonstrate how to make your kefir at home.
Making kefir from raw dairy products is the best way, but if you don’t have access to raw dairy or if you are lactose intolerant you can explore other alternatives. Organic full-fat dairy, preferably from a grass-fed animal is the most ideal. For those who cannot tolerate any form of dairy, kefir can also be made from almond milk, soya milk, coconut milk, coconut water, and even just sweetened water and this will still provide many of the benefits that are found in dairy kefir. If you make Kefir from dairy products you will need to purchase Kefir starter for dairy, however, if you make kefir from non-dairy products you will need to purchase a different Kefir starter for non-dairy. These starter kits are sold on the internet.
When taking kefir you may be unclear about how much you wish to consume. Start by asking yourself how much milk you would normally consume in a day – but you don’t have to take that much. It is wise to allow your body to get used to it so perhaps start with an eighth of a cup a day and gradually increase this to a quarter of a cup after a week. Give yourself a break of one day per week.
Besides drinking kefir, you can also add it to Smoothies of course, or use it in place of a salad dressing or in potato salad instead of mayonnaise. Or create kefir cheese which is prepared much like yogurt cheese, where the whey has dripped out, leaving a thicker consistency that is spreadable like cream cheese. Season this with herbs, garlic and salt and pepper and spread it on bread and biscuits or make it into a veggie dip.
You may be tempted to double ferment kefir and this can add a really interesting dimension. By straining the starter cultures off and adding fruit or juice you can mellow any sharp flavors. Your first fermentation takes place in 12 to 24 hours. Once you have removed the culture a second fermentation is cultured for another period of 8 to 12 hours.
Some people like a second fermentation on their milk kefir because it adds additional bacterial content. Others do it for the improvement in flavor. The kefir will be mellowed and can be sweetened or spiced depending on your preference. You can add citrus fruit peel, vanilla, cinnamon, garlic, or chopped fruit.
How to Make Your Own Kefir
Once you have your kefir grains you can get started on making kefir.
- Large glass bowl
- Wooden spoon
- Mason jar with lid
- Plastic colander.
- Place the grains in the Mason jar and add whole, organic milk (not UHT). Allow an inch at the top so that the mixture can expand slightly.
- Place in a warm cupboard for 12 – 24 hours.
- The grains will rise to the top as will the cream of the milk.
- Pour the now thick mixture through the colander and into the glass bowl.
- Stir in any stubborn milk and you should be left with the reusable grains in the colander. Place them back in the Mason jar and re-use.
- The kefir can be used straight away.
Are There Any Side-Effects?
Although kefir is usually considered perfectly safe if you drink or eat it in moderation, be aware that it may cause certain side effects such as constipation or intestinal cramping.
What If I am Dairy or Lactose Intolerant?
Interestingly, the beneficial yeast and friendly bacteria that are found in the kefir culture consume most of the lactose (or milk sugar). Kefir that is eaten on an empty stomach first thing in the morning before (or for) breakfast can be easily digested and is perfect for the lactose intolerant. You can, of course, use soy, almond or coconut milk if you are dairy intolerant.
At the Budwig Center, we are huge fans of Kefir. If you would like further information on the Budwig diet, please download our FREE Budwig diet guide clicking the button bellow.
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