Kefir, pronounced as KUH-FEAR, in the Turkish language means “good feeling,” which is fitting as it is a nutrient-dense probiotic food similar to yogurt.
Before kefir’s wider distribution as we now know it today, it was a well-kept secret by people in the Caucasus mountains of Russia for hundreds of years. It was later introduced to the western world in the 1960s and has since risen in availability and consumption.
The best part of kefir is the nutrition profile and health benefits. Kefir is a nutrient-dense drink that contains essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals similar to cow’s milk. 1 cup of plain, whole fat kefir provides about 140-160 calories, 8 grams of total fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 9 grams of protein, and 9-12 grams of carbohydrates. 1 cup of kefir also provides calcium, potassium, vitamin A, B-vitamins, and other nutrients.
As a probiotic drink, kefir can also improve gut health by increasing beneficial microbes and decreasing harmful microbial species. Health benefits found in studies include anti-cancer properties, improving blood pressure, and improving blood glucose. More research is looking into how it affects the immune system, liver disease, and anti-inflammation with promising outlooks.
As a nutrient-dense probiotic food, kefir will continue to trend. As more research continues to unfold the health benefits, there will be even more reason to include it as a part of a healthy diet.
How to Make Kefir:
Making kefir begins with its grains. These grains are made of a casein core surrounded by proteins, lipids, and sugars with bacteria and yeast living, symbiotically, on the surface. The live cultures will vary, but are primarily made up of lactic acid bacteria, yeast, and acetic acid bacteria. These grains are fermented with milk for about 12 to 24 hours. During the kefir-making process, two fermentations occur at the same time: fermentation of lactose (lactic acid fermentation) and the fermentation of kefir grains from yeast (alcoholic fermentation). After straining the kefir grains, the final product has a smoothie-like appearance with a sour and carbonated taste, similar to drinkable yogurt.
For those interested in making kefir at home, a kefir starter kit or kefir grains and milk is needed. Kefir starter kits, containing freeze-dried bacteria, are available online or at select grocery stores. Kefir grains, which can be used repeatedly, can mostly found online and at select stores as well. Those not interested in making kefir at home can find it in the dairy aisle of grocery stores.
Whether home-prepared or store-bought, kefir can be enjoyed in numerous ways. It can be consumed directly, poured into cereals like milk, or act as a substitute for milk or yogurt in recipes for smoothies, parfaits, bubble tea drinks, pancakes, and milkshakes. Kefir is also lactose-free!
Two Delicious Kefir Recipes:
Recipes courtesy of Savor Recipes