Here’s an interesting story that I came across recently: Russian celebrities are taking part in what’s being dubbed an “Ice Kefir Challenge”—basically a unique twist on last year’s “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.”
But in place of ice, these Russian celebs are dumping bottles of kefir onto their heads to raise money for charity.
If you don’t know what kefir is, it’s a type of fermented milk that, in many cases, is used as a powerful probiotic alternative to yogurt.
While I’m sure it makes for some pretty cool imagery to have ice cold kefir dumped on someone’s head, my first thought was, what a waste of kefir! There is so much more that you can do with this deliciously healthy, probiotic beverage.
What is Kefir?
The name “kefir” comes from the Turkish word key if, meaning “feeling good.” This fermented drink originates from Eastern Europe and is mainly made by adding fresh kefir grains to cow’s milk or goat’s milk. Kefir grains are not your conventional grains; they are rich active cultures of yeast and lactic acid bacteria. With regards to their appearance, they look like cauliflower.After the kefir grains are added to milk, it takes about 24 hours for the microorganisms in the kefir grains to multiply and ferment the sugars in the milk—this is what turns it into the kefir beverage.Those same grains can then be removed from the milk to be used again. The presence of lactic acid bacteria turns the lactose in the milk into lactic acid, which is why the kefir will taste like sour yogurt.
Nutritional Content of Milk Kefir (One Serving, 175 ml/6 ounces):
- At least six grams of protein
- 20% recommended daily allowance of calcium
- 20% recommended daily allowance of phosphorus
- 14% recommended daily allowance of vitamin B
- 19% recommended daily allowance of riboflavin
- 5% recommended daily allowance of magnesium
The calorie intake of milk kefir is not high at all—per serving, it only contains about 100 calories, seven grams of carbs, and three to five grams of fat.
Types of Kefir
Coconut water kefir: A delicious beverage made with young coconuts. The probiotics nurse on the sugar that is in the coconut water and it produces a sour, tangy beverage (similar to champagne). Coconut water kefir will keep your immune system and digestive system strong to help ward off diseases. As an added bonus, you’ll begin to notice healthier hair, smoother-looking skin, and less bloating in your abdomen area.
Donna Gates, author of the book The Body of Ecology, states that only half a cup of coconut kefir with your meal will greatly improve digestion of the meal. She also adds that if you drink half a cup before bed, it will help establish a healthier inner-ecosystem.
Milk kefir: Milk kefir is packed with nutrients, mainly because it is mixed with a dairy product. The kefir grains take all the sugar out of the milk and leave the essential nutrients that milk already has. Combine that with the nutrients that kefir has and it is an absolute powerhouse in terms of health benefits! However, be aware that if bought in stores, milk kefir may contain other added flavors, such as fruit or cane sugar.
Health Benefits of Kefir
A superstar – Kefir for beneficial health alternatives—let me explain to you why you should substitute yogurt for kefir:
- Kefir can improve bone health and lower the risk of osteoporosis: Kefir is made from full-fat dairy, which makes it not only a great source of calcium, but rich in vitamin K. Vitamin K plays an essential role in calcium metabolism, and consuming this nutrient has been shown to reduce the risk of getting a fracture by an astonishing 81%.
- Kefir can protect against cancer: Cancer arises when there is an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells found in the body—one example is a tumor. Probiotic fermented dairy products have been known to slow down tumor growth by reducing its formation of carcinogenic compounds, but also by stimulating the immune system. One study reported that kefir reduced the number of human breast cancer cells by almost 57%, compared to only 14% for those who consumed regular yogurt.
- Kefir helps with digestive problems: There are two types of bacteria, bad bacteria and friendly bacteria. Our body needs bacteria in order to function properly, but it requires good bacteria to avoid issues. Kefir can help restore the balance of friendly bacteria found in the gut.
- Kefir is well-tolerated by people who are lactose intolerant: The lactic acid bacteria found in kefir is significantly lower in lactose than milk is. It also contains enzymes that will help break down the lactose even further. Because of this, kefir is generally tolerated in a positive way by most people who are lactose- intolerant.
Why Kefir Is More Potent Than Yogurt
Yogurt is a well-known probiotic and for a while now, it was seen as one of the best probiotic choices for a diet. Then kefir came along—a much more potent source of probiotics. Kefir grains contain about 30 strains of bacteria and yeast, illustrating that it is a rich and diverse probiotic source you should add to your diet.
Because kefir contains over 30 different microorganisms, it is much more potent than any other probiotic dairy product.
Let’s Make Kefir
If you don’t trust the kefir you find in grocery stores, or you would simply prefer to make it from scratch, here are a few simple steps on how you can make this fermented beverage right out of your own home:
- Put one or two tablespoons of kefir grains into a small jar. The more kefir you use, the quicker it will take to settle.
- Add two cups of milk, preferably organic.
- Put the lid on the jar and let it sit for 12 to 36 hours at room temperature.
Hard Kefir Cheese
- Finished milk kefir
- Butter muslin, cotton bag, or tight-weave cloth
1. Pour the milk kefir into the cotton bag.
2. Hang the milk kefir above a bowl or jar and drain the whey for about 24 hours. Once it has stopped dripping, wrap the cheese in a towel or cloth and put it in a colander or strainer.
3. Set a plate on top of the cheese and weigh it down using something heavy. Continue to put pressure until the dripping stops.
Milk Kefir Vinaigrette
- 1/4 cup of milk kefir
- 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon of honey
- Salt and pepper to taste
1. Put all of the ingredients into a pint-sized jar.
2. Put a lid on the jar and shake it.
3. Keep in the refrigerator for about a week for full effect.
Creamy Orange Kefir Fruit Salad
- 3 oranges (large)
- 1/2 cup of kefir
- 1 tablespoon of organic honey
- Dash of vanilla extract
- 2 to 3 tablespoons of chopped pistachios
1. Peel and cut the oranges into bite-sized chunks, removing all the seeds.
2. In a separate small jar, combine the kefir, vanilla, and honey. Shake the jar thoroughly until all the ingredients are mixed well.
3. Pour the kefir, honey, and vanilla dressing over top of the orange chunks, cover them, and refrigerate for about 25 minutes to allow the flavor to meld.
4. Sprinkle pistachios on top.
See More :
- Prebiotics vs. Probiotics – Is One Better Than the Other?
- How Eating Probiotics Can Help Prevent Celiac Disease
Crosby, H., “Easy Coconut Water Kefir,” Yum Universe web site; http://yumuniverse.com/easy-coconut-kefir-beverage/, last accessed May 8, 2015.
Kozlowska, H., “Russian celebrities are dumping kefir on their heads for charity,” Quartz web site; http://qz.com/374506/russian-kefir-challenge/, last accessed May 8, 2015.
“Kefir Starter,” Body Ecology web site; http://bodyecology.com/digestive-health-kefir-starter.html#sns_tab_products2, last accessed May 8, 2015.
“Creamy Orange Kefir Fruit Salad,” Cultures for Health web site; http://www.culturesforhealth.com/creamy-orange-kefir-fruit-salad-recipe, last accessed May 8, 2015.
“Milk Kefir Vinaigrette,” Cultures for Health web site; http://www.culturesforhealth.com/milk-kefir-vinaigrette-recipe, last accessed May 8, 2015.
“Hard kefir Cheese,” Cultures for Health web site; http://www.culturesforhealth.com/hard-kefir-cheese-recipe, last accessed May 8, 2015.