If you are into healthy living and incorporate superfoods in your diet, you must have definitely heard about Kefir. It is fast gaining importance as a probiotic and has become quite popular. Kefir is made from Kefir grains which resemble a cauliflower head and are a rich combination of beneficial bacteria and yeast along with sugars, proteins and lipids.
So what is Kefir like?
Kefir is not a new food and has been around for quite some time. It has its origin in the North Caucasian region and is popular in Russia. The word Kefir has its origin in the Turkish word “köpür” which means “feeling good” and is pronounced as “keh-FEAR”.
The health benefits of Kefir range from improving digestive disorders and bone health, having anti-bacterial properties, reducing allergies and asthma. It is something you would want to incorporate in your daily diet and get on a healthy life.
One of the most potent probiotic foods, Kefir is similar to Yogurt, prepared by using a starter culture. It is available in the form of grains, which can be used as culture in milk and water – the grains are different for both. The bacteria and yeast from these grains, feed on the lactose and ferment milk in 24 hours (depending on the room temperature) giving rise to a healthy drink. The fermented Kefir drink has a creamy texture, similar to that of yogurt, with a foam formed due to natural carbonation. It has a tart and tangy taste, given by the lactic acid formed by Lactobacillus.
Nutritional content of Kefir
Since it is a probiotic, Kefir has a lot of beneficial bacteria which are responsible for the numerous health benefits. Some of the important bacteria present in Kefir are:
Lactobacilli, Lactococci, Acetobacter, Streptococci
Enterococci, Leuconostoc, Bacillus, Micrococci
One serving of Milk Kefir (175 ml) would give the following:
Energy: 100 calories
Protein: 6 grams
Calcium: 21% of RDA
Phosphorus: 20% of RDA
Vitamin B2: 19% of RDA
Vitamin B12: 14% of RDA
Potassium: 8% of RDA
The type of milk used in making the Kefir, will have a direct impact on the nutritional content of the Kefir. For example, Kefir made from full fat milk will have higher fat content as compared to that from skimmed milk. Since the sugars from the milk (lactose) are used up by the Kefir grains, it has less calories from carbs. Besides these nutrients, Kefir is a good source of amino acids, peptides and organic compounds which help in maintaining good health. Also, since it is a fermented food, it is a good source of Vitamin K.
Is making Kefir easy?
Although ready to drink Milk Kefir is available widely in health stores, especially the organic ones, it is easy to make it at home as well. To get started on the Kefir routine, all you need are the Kefir grains. They are available in the dried form or as live cultures. And it would be good to remember that the grains are different for Milk Kefir and Water Kefir, but the process of making it remains the same.
Milk Kefir is considered as the original or traditional form of Kefir and can be made using cow or goat milk. To prepare it at home, start by taking a teaspoon of kefir grains in one cup of milk. Keep it loosely covered with cheese cloth in a warm place for 24 hours. The bacteria and yeast from the grains will ferment the milk and convert it into Kefir. The Kefir will have a thicker consistency than milk and will have a tangy flavour, somewhat like drinkable yogurt. All you need to do is strain the grains using a plastic sieve & wooden spoon and your cup of Kefir is ready. You can reuse these grains till they remain healthy, by making Kefir every 24 hours, or you can put them in a cup of milk and refrigerate.
These Kefir grains can be used in making Kefir from coconut milk and Almond milk as well. The process will remain the same, however, when storing you would need to store the grains in a cup of cow or goat milk.
– Glass jars are the best when making Kefir, since they do not react or leach in the product.
– A wooden spoon and plastic or stainless steel sieve with fine mesh are ideal.
– Use one tablespoon of Kefir for 1 cup of milk during winters
– Dried Kefir will need to be placed in a fresh cup of milk every day for a few days, to get it started
– Always leave space in the jar for carbonation to escape, else the jar might burst
Special water Kefir grains are required to make this Kefir and the water used has to be sweetened for the Kefir grains to feed on. For this purpose, sugar is added to water or fruit juice is used. The taste of water Kefir is subtle than milk kefir and is also lighter.
The process of making kefir remains the same. To reduce the sugar content you can choose to add natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, fruit juice and natural flavours like lime and mint.
What are the benefits for our health?
Although traditionally people have known the benefits of Kefir for many years, research on Kefir used in humans is still in infancy. There are few human studies while more animal studies done on the different benefits of Kefir. Here are some of the important health benefits of Kefir:
The most important benefit of probiotics is for the GI tract or the gut. Since Kefir contains lot of beneficial microorganisms, they have an impact on the digestion and various ailments associated with the gut. Research has shown that consumption of such probiotics during diarrhoea, helped in controlling it, especially antibiotic associated diarrhoea. Post antibiotic treatment, there is an imbalance in the gut bacteria which can be restored using foods or drinks made using Kefir.
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