Kefir is a refreshing cultured-milk. The word is derived from the Turkish word ‘kief’ meaning ‘feel good’ which is apt considering that the drink is said to increase one’s sense of well-being. The origins of this drink can be traced back over 1000 years ago to the Northern slopes of Caucasus Mountains. The tribal groups living in this region are known to live longer and healthier lives with hardly any trace of disease. Their active life span was over a 100 years, it’s no surprise that these people used to consume kefir liberally as part of their everyday diet.
[pullquote]The complete proteins in kefir are already partially digested and are therefore more easily utilized by the body.[/pullquote]
Kefir was traditionally prepared with raw, full-cream goat milk. Kefir grains were added to fresh milk and left to ferment for 24 hours in a goat-skin leather bag. The grains would later be separated manually by hand or by pouring it in a container. Traditional Kefir has a moderate sour taste and a creamy texture. It also has an alcohol content between 3-5%. Kefir grains used to culture the milk must not be mistaken with traditional grains. Kefir grains/granules are actually a natural-starter. Due to their granular structure and appearance, they are often called grains which is a misnomer.
Why is Kefir Healthy?
.Complex in Structure: It’s a complex granule that is a mixture of protein, amino acids, lipids and soluble-polysaccharides.
.May have an Anti-Tumor Effect: One study showed that kefir consumption inhibited tumor growth and induced apoptotic form of tumor cell lysis.
.High in Minerals: Phosphorus and Magnesium are found in good quantities in Kefir. They aid in using carbohydrates and proteins for cell growth, maintenance and energy.
.Rich in Vitamin K2: This Vitamin is largely lacking in modern American diet and is often a by-product of bacterial fermentation. It plays a key role in calcium metabolism, where it deposits calcium in appropriate locations like bones and teeth, and preventing it from depositing in locations like soft tissues and arteries where it doesn’t belong.
.Good Source of Probiotics: Yogurt is traditionally known as an excellent source of probiotics. But, Kefir actually has 3x times more probiotic than yogurt. This is because kefir is made by fermenting milk with 10-20 different types of bacteria and yeasts, whereas yogurt is usually just fermented with just a few types of bacteria
.May Reduce Allergies: A study found that the bacteria in Kefir culture inhibited IgE production, moderating the body’s allergic response.
.Reduces Cholesterol and Blood Pressure: Kefiran, a polysaccharide produced by the kefir grains have been known to provide many health benefits.
.Good Source of Vitamin B: Kefir has Vitamin B12 important for blood and nervous system. It also has B1 (thiamine) and Biotin vitamins.
.Has Healing Properties: When applied topically, kefir and its polysaccharide compounds have shown to be effective antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory agents for improved wound healing
.Protein Rich, Less Calories: A single serving of Kefir has less than 100 calories providing 10.5 gms of protein.
.Protects against Gastrointestinal Diseases: It consists of both bacterial and yeast species of beneficial flora making it a potent probiotic.
.Improves Lactose Digestion: A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association in 2003 found that kefir can improve lactose digestion with reduced or no symptoms of lactose intolerance.
.Promotes Restful Sleep: Kefir has an amino acid called ‘typtophan’ which is known to have a relaxing and calming effect.
.Calcium Dense: For every 175 gm serving, you get 20% of the daily RDA of Calcium.
.Easy absorption of proteins: The complete proteins in kefir are already partially digested and are therefore more easily utilized by the body.
How to Make Kefir?
You will need:
.2 cups of raw organic goat or cow milk
.1-2 tablespoons of kefir grains
.Clean Mason Jar
.Put kefir grains in the mason jar (the more kefir grains you use, the faster it will culture)
.Add milk in the jar, there should at least be half inch of space left free. The jar must be acid-free. Do not use steel or other metal containers.
.Cover the jar securely and leave it on the kitchen counter-top or in a warm, dark place for 12-36 hours. The warmer it is, the faster it will ferment.
.It’s completely ready when it separates into a clear liquid leaving behind clumps. Although you can still eat it when it starts become smooth and lumpy.
.Once it is done, separate the liquid and the kefir grains using a sieve. You don’t have to rinse the grains, but if you want to, use only filtered water as tap water might kill the bacteria.
.You can re-use the grains for your next batch of kefir. The kefir grains will multiply, so you just need to buy them once as they will last a long time.
.You can also add some heavy cream while adding the milk to the kefir grains, this will result in a thicker product, like a Greek yogurt.
.You can drink kefir without refrigerating it for around 30 days where it will ripen further. The ripening process is useful for those who wish to reduce lactose in their kefir. Ripening also improves overall flavor, while increasing vitamins B1, B6 including vitamin B9 or folic acid, carbon dioxide and alcohol.
It is ideal to make kefir from raw dairy products, but if you don’t have access to that, you can use organic full-fat dairy, preferably from a grass-fed animal. Vegans can make kefir from coconut milk, rice milk, coconut water or sweetened water. If you are buying store bought kefir, just buy those that are not artificially flavored with lots of sugar in them. You can easily add flavors yourself while making kefir at home.