Have you ever thought of using kefir for the health of your family? Kefir can bring a great nutritional punch to your diet for relatively little effort.
What is Kefir?
Kefir is a probiotic drink that is made using kefir grains which are not really grains, but a combination of yeast and bacteria in a symbiotic relationship. Sounds yummy, right? Stay with me!
Types of Kefir
Making and maintaining kefir is quite easy. The grains can be re-used from batch to batch and can last indefinitely.
There are two types of kefir grains: milk and water. Milk kefir grains look like little cauliflower florets and metabolize lactose in cow, goat, or coconut milk. Water grains look like little gel crystals and metabolize the sugars in sugar water.
Benefits of Kefir
The resulting hard work by both types of kefir produces a nutrient-rich drink full of beneficial acids and microorganisms. There is a high concentration of enzymes, vitamins A, B2, B12, K, D, phosphorus, nitrogen, and more. Kefir drinks are known to help cleanse the system and aid digestion, and may help with a long list of conditions including psoriasis, gastritis and arthritis. (Be sure to check out last weeks post on fermented foods and beverages!)
Comparing Water and Milk Kefir
Milk kefir has been around a lot longer than water kefir. You can even find it at grocery stores now if you’d like to try it before buying cultures. The drink is like a thin yogurt and has a strong fermented taste that intensifies the longer it is left to culture. Milk kefir is most often used for milk-based smoothies and as a substitute for buttermilk and yogurt in many recipes. It is not generally something people drink on its own.
Water kefir is a good choice for those who need to avoid dairy. It has a slightly lower concentration of the beneficial nutrients and enzymes. However, it has a more pleasant taste than milk kefir and is often consumed on its own or flavored with fruit juices. Being slightly fizzy and having a sweet, light taste, it is a great substitute for soda and flavored waters.
Our Experience With Kefir
We used milk kefir in our home for a few years and loved it. Our goal was to increase the amount of probiotics we consumed as a family. We used it primarily in green smoothies and fruit smoothies. Although I’d have to sweeten it for my kids, that wasn’t too hard with a bit of honey, bananas, or dates.
When my husband showed signs of lactose intolerance, we cut down significantly on the amount of dairy in the home. Milk kefir is actually reported to help with lactose intolerance, but I was more concerned with avoiding temptation. That man likes a big glass of milk!
I reluctantly gave my grains to a friend and then begged water kefir grains off of another friend. We have been enjoying water kefir and use it primarily as a beverage on it’s own or with some fruit juice. We love it!
How Do You Make Kefir?
Kefir is relatively easy to start and maintain. You simply need to get some grains and begin making batches! You can keep the grains from batch to batch and, if properly cared for, will last indefinitely. Keep your eye on Intoxicated on Life for a tutorial on how to make your own kefir at home!
Sources and Additional Information
- What You Need to Know About Kefir from About.com Alternative Medicine
- Milk Kefir versus Water Kefir from Cultures for Health
- Milk or Water, Definitely Kefir from Your Kefir Source
- How to Brew Water Kefir from Nourished Kitchen