My most recent obsession on the health front? Kefir!
Ke-what you ask? Kefir is a fermented milk drink made with kefir grains that originated with shepherds of the North Caucasus region. It’s an ancient cultured food rich in amino acids, enzymes, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and B vitamins. Kefir means “feel good” in Turkish, and that’s just how you’ll feel after drinking some daily!
Its actually quite similar to yogurt. Yogurt usually contains one or two strains of bacteria like acidophilus and bulgaricus. These strains are common in Eastern Europe and the Caucuses. Kefir contains up to 13 strains of different bacteria (some websites state up to 30 strains but I’m sticking to the worst case scenario here!). According to kefir.net, those strains can include “Lactobacillus Caucasus, Leuconostoc, Acetobacter species, and Streptococcus species.”
Also according to kefir.net, “Yogurt contains transient beneficial bacteria that keep the digestive system clean and provide food for the friendly bacteria that reside there. But kefir can actually colonize the intestinal tract, a feat that yogurt cannot match.”
The benefits are amazing, and I can truly say I have experienced many of these myself:
- The bacteria and yeast mixture can actually colonize the intestinal tract, a feat that yogurt cannot match
- Kefir cleanses and fortifies the intestinal tract making it more efficient at resisting pathogens
- Kefir is a balanced and nourishing food, it has been used to help patients suffering from AIDS, chronic fatigue syndrome, herpes, and cancer
- It has a tranquilizing effect on the nervous system and is beneficial for people with sleep disorders, depression and ADHD
- Promotes healthy bowel movements when used regularly, and helps reduce flatulence
- Helps reduce food cravings by allowing the body to feel more nourished and balanced
- It is loaded with minerals and essential amino acids
- The protein in kefir is partially digested in the fermentation process making it easily utilised by the body
- It contains significant amounts of tryptophan, the amino acid that promotes relaxation and sleep, making it a great drink before sleep
- It is also rich in vitamin B-12, vitamin K and biotin
- It can even be consumed by the lactose intolerant because the yeast and bacteria provide the enzyme lactase, an enzyme which consumes most of the lactose left after the culturing process.
You can buy premade kefir from some stores (try Harris Farms or Thomas Dux) or like me, you can make your own at home.
The process itself is really simple, but you’ll need to find some authentic Kefir grains before you can start. I purchased mine online and they arrived within a few days.
What you’ll need:
- 2 Glass jars
- Wooden or plastic spoon (Kefir doesn’t like metal)
- 1-2 tablespoons Kefir grains
- 300ml milk (I use skim milk but you can use a variety of other dairy and non dairy milks*)
- Put 1-2 tablespoons of kefir grains into a clean glass jar. (The more kefir grains you use, the faster it will culture.)
- Add milk. Leave a half inch to an inch of room at the top.
- Cover the glass jar with a cloth and place it somewhere warm or in a cupboard (NOT in the fridge!)
- Leave for anywhere from 12-36 hours. The kefir grains will culture the milk. It cultures faster in a warm kitchen than a cool one. You will know when it’s ready because it will start to look thick and clumpy. The longer you leave it out, the more tangy and cultured it will become. If it separates into a clear liquid and clumps, it’s REALLY ready.
- When it’s ready, pour the kefir out into a strainer set on top of the other glass jar (or a wide mouthed jug/bowl if easier). It’s important to use glass or plastic.
- Use a spatula or wooden spoon to gently stir the kefir until all the liquid passes through the mesh and you are left with kefir grains. This kefir is now ready to drink!!
- Some people like to rinse their grains. I don’t normally rinse mine. I do it every once in a while — maybe once every two to four weeks. I find that my kefir grains grow more quickly when I do not rinse them.
- Now put your grains back into a clean mason jar, add some more milk and start all over again.
*For those who cannot tolerate any form of dairy, kefir can be made from coconut milk, coconut water, and even just sweetened water, which will provide many of the benefits found in dairy kefir. The process is slightly different so please google this J
I drink my kefir plain as I quite enjoy the tangy taste, but you can use it as a flavouring or to make smoothies (particularly yummy).
One thing to note is that your kefir grains will “grow” over time as they multiply. Share excess grains with friends (to spread the kefir love) or simply eat them (they are really really good for you!)