Does Greek yogurt bore you? Then it’s time to experiment with Kefir. The superfood (or super drink) has a consistency that is in between milk and yogurt. It is also a fantastic provider of calcium, just like its relatives from the dairy aisle. Kefir, however, offers even more advantages. It’s a fermented beverage, so it contains lots of probiotics that are excellent for your digestive system. Kefir is primarily created by fermenting milk from cows, goats, or sheep using a bacterial culture called kefiran, which produces polysaccharides.
It has high quantities of vitamin B12, magnesium, vitamin K2, biotin, folate, enzymes, and probiotics and is a strong source of calcium like other milk products. However, because the values might change depending on the cows, cultures, and regions where it is produced, it does not have a standardized nutritional content.
Kefir and its related products are well-known dairy products that are good for you. They are made by fermenting yeasts and bacteria that are already in kefir grains. This self-carbonated drink is good for you because it contains important nutrients like carbs, proteins, minerals, vitamins, and some nutraceutical components.
Kefir Nutrition Facts
What is Kefir?
You might wonder, “Is that milk?” when you approach a bottle of Kefir on a grocery store shelf. Ist das Yogurt? (And how exactly do you say it?) Kefir is quite similar to both. It is a fermented milk beverage pronounced “keh-feer” with several characteristics in common with yogurt. Kefir is primarily created by fermenting milk from cows, goats, or sheep using a bacterial culture called kefiran, which produces polysaccharides.
As these bacteria begin fermentation, they produce significant probiotic dosages and a bubbly pop that some have compared to beer’s fizz. Kefir has a mild flavor and a thin, palatable consistency and a robust and tart flavor.
Kefir isn’t only for the alternative medicine camp; holistic health practitioners have long recommended it as a treatment for everything from depression to acne. This creamy beverage with Eastern European roots is high in calcium and probiotics and has proven health advantages that anyone can take advantage of.
What does Kefir Taste Like?
Kefir is cultured milk that has undergone bacterial and yeast fermentation. The beverage’s flavor can vary depending on the variety you purchase, but it often has an acidic, sour, and slightly sweet flavor. The beverage sometimes tastes like cottage cheese, but other times it could taste more acidic, like pickles or yogurt.
Kefir’s tartness is one of its distinctive qualities. Additionally, it is hypoallergenic, effervescent from fermentation-induced carbonation, and contains probiotics, which support the growth of good gut bacteria in your body.
Which Type of Container to Use for Fermenting Kefir?
Making Kefir from scratch by fermenting your milk can be lovely and less expensive. Although there are various containers available, we will focus on the two most common ones here: Mason jars and glass jars. Due to their inexpensive cost and widespread availability, mason jars are the most preferred containers for fermenting milk.
They come with a lid if you want further protection from outside pollutants, but they also have a huge opening on top that makes it simple to create Kefir out of the jar. Mason jars’ small size might be a problem if you want to prepare larger batches and keep an eye on the fermentation process, at least when it comes to measuring how much gas the yeasts release as the fermentation progresses.
Suppose your kitchen tends toward colder temperatures, or you intend to ferment your food overnight. In that case, glass jars may be a better option because they are often taller than Mason jars and can thus assist minimize heat loss. Additionally, glass jars could cost more than Mason jars.
What are the Health Benefits of Kefir?
By eating it regularly, you can get antimicrobial activity, better gut health, anticarcinogenic activity, control over serum glucose and cholesterol, control over lactose intolerance, and a better immune system. Also, on the one hand, kefir is a good diet drink, and athletes are especially interested in it. On the other hand, feeding babies and pre-schoolers whole kefir helps them stay healthy and gain weight quickly.
Most people, including children, pregnant or nursing women, and even pets, can benefit from ingesting Kefir, according to registered dietitian Caroline Margolis (she advises plain Kefir). Kefir may provide a variety of health advantages, including the following:
- A rich source of vitamins and minerals: “One 8-ounce serving of Lifeway Kefir is an excellent source of vitamin D, riboflavin, calcium and phosphorus, and a good source of protein, vitamin A, vitamin B12, potassium and selenium – all nutrients important for every day and immune health,” Margolis shares. “The fermentation process enriches the content of vitamins B1, B12, K, folic acid, calcium and amino acids, and produces health-promoting metabolites, otherwise known as postbiotics.”
- Promotes gut health: “Research continues to support that the integrity of our gut microbiome may be essential for our health,” Margolis says. “Kefir provides diverse probiotics (good bacteria) to help balance the microbiome.” This, in turn, provides tremendous digestive benefits. A healthy gut is so important since all food is ultimately broken down in the gut so that nutrients can be delivered throughout our bodies. Many individuals with lactose intolerance may also find that they tolerate Kefir, as the fermentation process helps break down lactose.
- Supports immunity: A healthy gut is important for fostering a strong immune system by warding off infectious agents like bacteria and viruses. Given its probiotic-rich nature, Kefir has been shown to support a healthy immune system and even modulate the immune system to suppress viral infections. “Those who are on or finished a course of antibiotics may find that kefir helps digestive upset and help replenish the good bacteria in the gut that may have been wiped out from the medicine,” Margolis adds.
- Combats inflammation: “Studies have shown that those who consume kefir have a decrease in pro-inflammatory cytokines concentrations and an increase in anti-inflammatory cytokine concentrations, which decreases inflammation in our bodies to reduce our risk of disease or disease-related complications,” Margolis explains. “The postbiotic peptides in kefir that are produced during fermentation are being studied for their antihypertensive, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties, affecting everything from cardiovascular health to diabetes to autoimmune disease prevention.”
- Promotes bone health: Kefir is naturally an excellent source of calcium, a key nutrient to support healthy bones. Some kefir brands are fortified with vitamin D for even more bone health benefits.
- May improve mood: “There have been studies linking kefir to an increase in serotonin levels and decrease in the risk for anxiety and depression,” Margolis says. “That’s because 90% of serotonin, along with other neurotransmitters, is produced in our gut and sent back to the brain via the vagus nerve – communication known as the gut-brain axis.” She adds that Kefir also contains tryptophan, an amino acid that serves as a precursor to serotonin, helping to raise serotonin levels in the brain (via our circulatory pathway).
- Promotes glycemic control: Research conducted with 60 diabetic patients found that those supplemented with Kefir presented lower fasting glucose values than those supplemented with another fermented drink. In an animal study, whole milk kefir was also shown to reduce insulin resistance.
- May have anticancer activity: Several studies have suggested that Kefir has potential anti-tumor properties against breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and malignant T lymphocytes. But those in active cancer treatment or suppressed immune systems should speak with their physician before consuming Kefir.
Disadvantages of Kefir
There aren’t many drawbacks to this nutrient-rich probiotic food, but Margolis advises anyone with weakened immune systems to consult their doctor before taking Kefir because it contains live, active cultures. Kefir is not intended to treat medical ailments, so we recommend speaking with your doctor or trained dietitian about any health issues, your diet, and any particular medical conditions.
Kefir should also not be consumed by people who are allergic to milk proteins or have been told by a doctor to stay away from probiotics for health reasons.
How Much Kefir Should I Consume?
For optimal probiotic health, Margolis advises consuming one to two 8-ounce cups of Kefir daily. Remember that one serving of dairy equals one 8-ounce serving of Kefir.
The finest Kefir to consume is usually plain, but if you prefer flavored varieties, try to look for those with little to no added sugar (aim for 10 grams of added sugar or less per 1 cup serving).
Margolis advises looking for kefir variants with a high colony-forming unit (CFU) count and a label that states “live and active cultures” and “contains numerous strains.”
Unique Ways to Use Kefir
- Use your favorite flavor of Kefir as the base for any smoothie or smoothie bowl recipe.
- Use Kefir to makeover your breakfast by spicing up a bowl of cereal or granola or mixing it into pancake or waffle batter.
- Power up your overnight oats or chia seed pudding by using Kefir.
- Choose plain Kefir over mayo or sour cream to cut calories and fat without sacrificing flavor in your favorite dips and dressings.
- Add a tangy and flavorful zip to soups, hummus, snacks and spreads using your favorite flavor of Kefir.
- Use Kefir as a base for your next protein marinade. Kefir’s tangy flavor works well with herbs and spices to impart a fresh flavor, but the lactic acid (in Kefir) and the live and active probiotic cultures turn tough cuts into tender, juicy masterpieces.
- Give your desserts a probiotic boost with your favorite flavor of Kefir. It is a great base for puddings, popsicles, ice cream, frostings and more.
Storage and Food Safety
Both before and after opening, Kefir needs to be kept chilled in the fridge, and it should keep for about five days in the refrigerator after being opened. Kefir already has a mildly sour smell, so it could be difficult to detect when it’s gone bad. You may always use your eyes and nose to look for freshness. Throw away any kefir that has an overwhelming odor or is moldy, fuzzy, or spotty. Clumps or color changes are two other indications that the beverage has gone bad.
Fermented milk is used to make the beverage kefir. Despite being available for many years, more people are starting to include it in their recipes. Kefir is a versatile ingredient that may be used in various ways in cooking. In addition to probiotics, which support digestive health, it is a wonderful source of calcium, protein, potassium, B vitamins, and other nutrients. The best part is that you can prepare it at home quickly. It can be substituted for milk, yogurt, or cream when cooking and in smoothies.
Kefir is a fermented milk beverage with many health benefits, contrary to popular belief that it is a miraculous beverage. Kefir may improve digestion and lessen inflammation in people with GERD, also known as chronic acid reflux disease.