Feeling sluggish after months of lockdown? Kefir could be just what you need as a boost to your general health.
With so much focus on improving our health in general and our immune health in particular, fermented foods are gaining plenty of well-deserved attention. Kefir is a popular way of adding probiotics to your diet, and it is thought to be helpful with a wide range of issues from skin problems to digestive health.
What is Kefir?
Made either from milk or sweetened water, kefir has a slightly sour and tangy taste from the bacteria feasting on the sugars. These sugars ferment the milk or water, and a by-product of the fermentation process is the creation of vitamins, and probiotics and prebiotics, both of which are known to be beneficial for a healthy gut.
Where does Kefir come from?
Kefir is believed to have its origins in the Caucasus mountains - families would ferment raw milk in goatskin pouches hung outside their houses. It has been popular as a thin, yoghurty drink for centuries, and has a reputation for being excellent for good health.
What are Kefir grains?
Made by the bacteria that make kefir, these vary in size and have a jelly-like texture. The grains contain lactic and acetic acid bacteria, both of which are essential for making a probiotic drink.
Although it might seem tempting to cut out the middleman and eat the kefir grains directly, there are no recognised health benefits from doing so - these come from drinking the fermented liquid.
How is Kefir made?
Just about any milk can be used to make milk kefir, and it does not matter whether it is full fat or skimmed. However, organic is better, and raw milk is best of all. People who are intolerant to milk can rest assured that the fermentation process eats lactose, meaning you are unlikely to suffer any adverse reaction to kefir. However, if you would rather avoid milk altogether, then coconut water makes a successful and tasty alternative.
You need kefir grains (also known as kefir culture) to make kefir at home. You can buy these from us here in this fantastic starter kit which gives you everything you need to make your own delicious milk kefir. For non-dairy kefir, there’s also a great starter kit available in a variety of colours.
Making kefir is amazingly simple; just put your kefir grains in milk (or water) and allow them to ferment at room temperature for at least 24 to 48 hours. When your kefir is ready, strain out the grains and put them in fresh milk or water to be used again. Your strained kefir is ready to drink, or you can bottle it, add flavour, and keep it in the fridge where it will keep improving in both flavour and probiotics.
What are the health benefits of Kefir?
The benefits of milk kefir are plentiful. The good bacteria in kefir not only help digestion, but also have a beneficial effect on your immune system, and your body's inflammation response. There is also some evidence to suggest that kefir can help to control cholesterol levels and protect your kidney function. The high levels of calcium in milk kefir are also beneficial for strong teeth and bones.
How often should I drink Kefir?
There is no set 'dose’ and adding kefir to your daily diet can be as simple as having a glass with your breakfast. Start small to allow your body to build up to high doses of probiotics, and you should start to see the benefits of this tasty and healthy drink within two to four weeks.