What Is Kefir?

You may have never heard of kefir before. You may not even be certain of how to pronounce it — is it kee-fur or keff-er (it’s actually kuh-feer)? If you’re in that camp, you may want to get acquainted, especially if you’re having stomach issues. So, what exactly is kefir? It’s a fermented milk popular in Eastern Europe and Russia. Okay, we can sense we’re on the verge of losing some readers but bear with us. Despite the less than appetizing description, it’s essentially like a thin yogurt or buttermilk. It’s actually quite popular for its tangy flavor and many health benefits!

Probiotics & Digestive Health

Whenever you hear somebody raving about kefir and how healthy it is, they always mention the probiotics. We’ve discussed just how good probiotics are for you before, so this means kefir is great for healthy digestion; heart health by lowering your unhealthy cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure; and weight loss, to name only a few of the health benefits. These probiotics are created through the fermentation process that sets kefir apart from your standard milk.

One study found that kefir can contain up to 61 different strains of probiotic bacteria and yeasts.

Okay, it has probiotics. The same is true of many yogurts, kombucha, and sauerkraut. But all those examples pale in comparison to kefir. One study found that kefir can contain up to 61 different strains of probiotic bacteria and yeasts. For comparison’s sake, a typical probiotic yogurt may contain six strains, meaning kefir has up to ten times the amount of probiotics. If you’re looking for an excellent source of probiotics and all the health benefits you can get from them, it’s hard to top kefir.

Antibacterial

There are certain aspects of kefir that may have antibacterial properties, as well. This can help in keeping you healthy and prevent infections. While this was believed to be due to a low pH in the kefir, it may also relate to specific probiotic strains and antimicrobial materials created during the fermentation process. Studies continually find specific antimicrobial properties in kefir grains that can promote potent antibiotic activity against some bacteria.

Kefir’s antibacterial properties can help in keeping you healthy and prevent infections.

These findings have been so promising that they’ve been studied in other contexts, too. One study looked at the healing properties of kefir gel for wound healing and found that it had a protective effect on skin connective tissue and promoted healing in a seven day treatment. Another study supported the idea that peptide found in kefir could be utilized as a biological preservative for agriculture and the food industry.

Good for the Lactose Intolerant

If you’re lactose intolerant, you may feel like you’ve missed out on a lot of things. Milk and cookies, chocolate, ice cream, cheese — these things have been cruelly stolen from you. Even though it’s made from milk, kefir is likely a dairy product even the lactose intolerant can enjoy. See, the bacteria that are active in the fermentation process feed on the lactose sugars, making it easier for you to digest. This allows kefir to induce fewer lactose intolerance symptoms than even Greek yogurt, so it’s a great alternative for people who struggle to digest lactose. These findings may go even further than simply being a nice alternative, though. One 2003 study claimed that kefir may improve lactose digestion in your gut and may even boost lactose tolerance. More research on the subject is necessary, though.

One 2003 study claimed that kefir may improve lactose digestion in your gut and may even boost lactose tolerance.

Of course, there is a way you can make kefir that it totally lactose-free, and that’s water kefir. Water kefir is exactly what it sounds like, kefir that’s made with water instead of milk. It’s made almost the exact same way (more on that in a bit), only using a different type of kefir grain and adding sugar.

Easy to Make

If you’re curious and want to try kefir for yourself, it’s readily available to buy online. But, it’s also super easy to make at home! Just add a tablespoon or two of kefir grains to a mason jar and fill up the jar with milk, leaving about an inch at the top. Screw the lid on and allow it to ferment at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. It’s ready when it begins to look a little clumpy. Simply strain the liquid out gently and enjoy! You can also reuse the strained kefir grains. Some say you can allow it to sit for up to 48 hours.

If you want to try water kefir, simply replace the milk with water and add sugar and water kefir grains in a 2-to-1 ratio.

You can also add ingredients like fruit and vanilla to adjust the flavor and full fat cream to make it thicker. If you want to try water kefir, simply replace the milk with water and add sugar and water kefir grains in a 2-to-1 ratio. Make sure the sugar is dissolved into the water before adding the water kefir grains.

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So, let’s recap. Kefir is an easy-to-make, adaptable dairy product that’s great for lactose intolerant people, with a ton of health benefits, even for a probiotic food! For something that’s sometimes described as like a smoothie, that’s pretty great.