What is Kefir? What are the benefits? How do you make it?
Kefir, pronounced “kee-feer,” is a fermented milk drink people have been sipping for thousands of years. And according to ancient wisdom and modern research, kefir is extremely good for you.
1. Promotes gut health
Your digestive tract is home to an entire world of microorganisms (microbiome) that include bacteria, fungi and viruses. Some of them are harmful, while others are helpful, assisting with digestion and creating substances your body needs. If the bad bacteria start to multiply and spread, it throws the microbiome off balance, causing:
Abdominal pain. Bloating. Constipation. Diarrhea. Gas. Kefir contains approximately 12 active probiotic strains. When you eat probiotic and postbiotic-rich foods like kefir, it adds more good bacteria to your gut. They keep harmful bacteria in check and support gut health. One study suggests that regularly consuming kefir positively shifts the balance of organisms in the microbiome, reducing symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease. Another study found that kefir relieves chronic constipation.
2. Maintains strong bones
Having strong bones is essential for staying active, especially as you age and lose bone mass. A glass of kefir contains the nutrients you need to build and repair bones, including:
Calcium: This essential mineral makes bones hard. As our bodies can’t produce it, it’s essential to get enough in your diet. Vitamin D: You can’t absorb calcium unless you have vitamin D. So, this vitamin is crucial for bone health. Phosphorus: This mineral is abundant in most people’s diets and works alongside calcium to build bones. Magnesium: A key component in bone structure, magnesium makes bones stronger. Vitamin K: Found in whole-milk kefir, vitamin K is involved with multiple bone processes. 3. Fights germs
Kefir is a gut superhero because it fights off illness-causing germs like E. coli and salmonella. In lab studies, kefir was just as effective at combating harmful bacteria as antibiotics. The good bacteria in kefir compete with harmful organisms for resources in your gut. And they also release byproducts toxic to the bad bacteria and yeast.
In addition to battling bad bacteria in your gut, kefir protects teeth against bacteria that cause cavities. A dental study compared drinking kefir with a daily fluoride rinse. The kefir was just as effective as fluoride in reducing cavity risk.
4. Keeps muscles healthy
Protein is essential for building and repairing muscles. While kefir doesn’t have as much protein as Greek yogurt, it does have more than an egg. It also boasts magnesium — important for muscle movement — and phosphorus, which plays a vital role in the growth and repair of tissue.
5. Helps manage blood sugar
If you have Type 2 diabetes, your body can’t effectively process glucose (blood sugar). Kefir may help prevent diabetes or even be part of your treatment plan to lower glucose levels. A study of people with Type 2 diabetes found that drinking 20 ounces of kefir a day helped keep glucose in check.
6. Eases stress
Keeping your fridge stocked with kefir may help you better face stressful situations. At least, that’s what one lab study on kefir consumption found. The probiotic drink changed the makeup of gut bacteria, shifting it toward those bacteria that produce gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This amino acid has a calming effect on your brain, helping you relax.
Kefir also boasts other substances known for helping ease tension. These nutrients help create and regulate brain chemicals that stabilize your mood:
B vitamins. Magnesium. Tryptophan. Kefir has several health benefits and can be a nutritious addition to your diet. Just keep in mind, says Sommer, that you can get some gas and bloating when you first start eating foods high in probiotics. Add kefir slowly as your body adjusts. And enjoy this delicious way to boost your overall health.
How to make Kefir:
What you’ll need:
Good quality whole milk. Wooden spoon. Glass jar. Kitchen roll/ coffee filter and a rubber band to secure it with. Plastic strainer - don’t use metal. Kefir grains.
Ensure everything is scrupulously clean.
You’ll need approximately 2 tsp of kefir per cup of milk. Add kefir and milk to the jar and place the kitchen roll/coffee filter over the top and secure with the rubber band. That’s it! Leave on the kitchen side for 12+ hours depending on the level of sourness you enjoy… 12 hours in summer is enough to taste like a thin yoghurt, by 24 you will see the milk thickening with pockets of whey (it’s a matter of taste how you enjoy it ).
In winter it could take double the time, fermentation happens quicker in warmer temperatures.
Once you’re ready to strain the kefir you use the plastic strainer and put the freshly strained kefir milk in the fridge to stop the fermentation and put the strained kefir grains into a new jar with fresh milk for your next batch!