May 27, 2015

What is Kefir?

If you’ve spent any time in the dairy aisle of your local market, odds are you’ve noticed something called kefir. But what is it, where does it come from, and why should you try it?

What is it?
Kefir is a fermented milk drink similar to yogurt. It contains probiotics and is made by adding kefir grains to milk. Kefir grains are made up of proteins, lipids, and sugars, and are a catalyst for the fermentation process much as barley or wheat grains are in beer. When added to milks such as cow, goat or sheep, the kefir grains will not only ferment the milk but will also grow and can be reused. Kefir grains will ferment milk substitutes such as soy or almond milk, but these liquids will not promote growth in the grains.

Where does it come from?
Kefir comes from adding kefir grains to milk, but where do the grains come from? Kefir grains are a type of SCOBY—a word you may have heard of in reference to kombucha. SCOBY stands for Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast, and it is this colony that forms the kefir grains. Because it is very difficult to instigate the production of new grains, most grains are acquired from an established colony. Kefir grains are available to buy online and in health food stores and can be reused indefinitely.

Why should you try it?
Like yogurt, kefir comes with a range of health benefits associated with probiotics. However kefir contains many more strains of good bacteria than yogurt does, and thus colonizes the digestive tract more comprehensively and for longer. The presence of these healthy bacteria in the digestive tract aids digestion, boosts immunity, and can ease the symptoms of IBS. These bacteria also produce lactic acid which soothes the gut lining. Kefir is rich in vitamin A, B2, B12, D, K, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus, so is good for your overall nutrition.

How to make your own kefir
Although kefir is readily available these days, it’s quick, easy, and cheap to make your own. Homemade kefir is also likely to be higher in probiotics than store bought. To make kefir, simply purchase some kefir grains, add them to a milk of your choice (remember to use a dairy-based milk if you want your kefir grains to keep growing), and let the mixture sit at room temperature for 16 to 24 hours. When you’re done fermenting, just strain out the grains (and keep for your next batch), and enjoy your kefir. Once brewed, kefir can be stored in the fridge just like yogurt.

How to enjoy it
Depending on how long you ferment your kefir, it can be thick like Greek yogurt or thinner like drinkable yogurt. With summer approaching, another delicious way to serve kefir is by freezing it into frozen kefir popsicles (try adding fruit too). For a double health kick, try adding our Manuka Honey to your kefir for a naturally sweet treat!