Have you ever heard of Kefir?? You may have seen it in health food stores, in supermarkets next to the milks and yoghurts, or you may have seen it ‘fermenting’ on someone’s kitchen bench!
I thought I should put together some of the research that I’ve done on kefir… for a few reasons….
- I give my kids a ‘kefir’ shake (milkshake) every day
- I have 2 jars sitting on my kitchen counter, full of kefir,
- Dealing with kefir is part of my daily routine,
- I drink it
- I give away the kefir grains knowing that they are an amazing source of ‘free’ probiotics, but I need to start giving an information sheet with my grains so people understand how to care for them and just how beneficial they are!
So, how do you say it??
It is pronounced “kef” as in deaf and “ear” as in fear.
WHAT IS KEFIR?
I describe kefir as a yoghurt-like drink. It’s ‘stronger’ than yoghurt, hence why I usually make a smoothie with the kefir + banana + vanilla extract + honey for the kids. I can’t drink it ‘straight’ yet, and my husband can’t face it at all!!! It has HUGE health benefits because it has a very high level of live and active probiotic cultures that are good for your immune system and gut health.
The following information is from Dom’s Kefir Website … (Dom, that’s his name, is the Australian guru on all things kefir!)
- Kefir is a cultured-milk beverage which originated in the northern slopes of the Caucasus Mountains (which are in Europe) believed to date back over 1,000 years.
- The tribes-folk of this particular region consumed the nutritious beverage in large quantities, and they were known for living long, healthy lives with little to no known disease. An active life span of over one hundred years was common for folks living in the region where kefir was cultured and liberally consumed as part of a staple diet.
- Traditional, authentic kefir can only be prepared by culturing fresh milk with Kefir grains.
- Kefir can be strained and consumed fresh (ie at room temperature… or I strain it straight into my Amazing Thermo Machine! (my Thermomix) and make a fresh fruit smoothie with crushed ice to make it cold… the kids aren’t too keen on warm kefir milkshakes!!) OR it can be ‘ripened’ at room temperature over a few days (this reduces the lactose in your kefir, improves flavour??, increases Vitamin B1, B6 including B9 or folic acid, .. also increases the alcohol content I’ve found!!!… I don’t usually ‘ripen’ it)
What do kefir grains look like?
Kefir grains look like soggy cauliflower florets. Here is a picture of mine….
This is my kefir grains after I’ve strained the milk kefir off in the morning. I’m about to pop them back in the jar and pour some of our raw milk over the top of them (you can definitely use pasteurised milk, I did before we bought our cow!) and leave on the kitchen bench for around 24hours.
Health Benefits of Kefir
Kefir is the ‘original’ probiotic! – long before people even knew what probiotics were.
are friendly or ‘good’ bacteria that help strengthen your body
the word ‘probiotic’ means “beneficial to life”
are SO good for you
(research shows evidence that they ….)
help boost immunity
promote better digestion
lower cholesterol levels
help to restore gut health after you take a course of antibiotics
- ….. research on the above and more potential effects (list found here)
- 2.1 decreases diarrhea 2.2 decreases lactose intolerance 2.3 helps to prevent colon cancer 2.4 decreasing cholesterol 2.5 noromalising blood pressure 2.6 increases immune function and infections ……… 2.10 aids in prevention and treatment of irritable bowel syndrome and colitis
- Studies (see here) have also shown that giving probiotics to children preventatively can reduce the incidence of respiratory tract infections, diarrhoea, reduces the number of sick days from daycare, helps to prevent allergies such as exzema and hayfever, and it may decrease the incidence of ear infections.
The Kefir Association state on their website that kefir contains 10 probiotic strains and is an excellent source of protein, calcium and fiber (VERY nutritious for children and women!)
Your body contains about 100 trillion bacteria — more than 10 TIMES the number of cells you have in your entire body. Ideally, you should have 85 percent “good” bacteria in your gut, and 15 percent “bad” bacteria in your gut. If you have an excess of unhealthy bacteria in your gut, it can manifest in many ways, such as gas and bloating, fatigue, sugar cravings, nausea, headaches, constipation or diarrhea. You may also find that, despite a healthy diet and exercise, you have difficulty shedding weight. (See more detail on Dr Mercola’s website)
By adding things like yoghurt and kefir to your daily life, it helps you to get the good bacteria in your digestive system. Dr Mercola explains that this is important because an estimated 80 percent of your immune system is located there (in your digestive system!). So supporting your digestive health is essential to also supporting your immune system, which is your number one defense system against ALL disease.
Things that interfere with your keeping your gut healthy –
- eating a lot of processed foods (as they tend to destroy healthy bacteria and ‘feed’ the back bacteria and yeast)
- taking antibiotics (of course, you sometimes HAVE to take antibiotics, so just ensure that you have adequate probiotics in your diet to replace the good bacteria that’s been wiped out!)
- drinking chlorinated water
- using antibacterial soap all the time
- chemicals used in growing food and food production
- pollution (need some of this fresh hills air!)
All of us are exposed to some or all of the above on occasions, so it’s a good idea to keep up the numbers of good bacteria in your gut by eating/drinking probiotics (e.g eating fermented foods/drinking kefir).
(Note: pasteurization kills the naturally occurring probiotics in milk, so pour your pasteurized milk over some kefir grains!! OR even better, access some raw milk!)
In order to be considered probiotic, the bacteria must be present in sufficient numbers of live and active cultures, resistant to acid and bile, able to attach to the intestinal wall and colonize the intestinal tract and beneficial to health. Probiotics can be taken in tablet form, but most experts agree that it is better to get any nutrient through food consumption. Often the processing of tablets causes cultures to become inactive. With kefir, that’s not an issue since it’s ‘living’ on your bench, plus you’ll get the added benefits of calcium, Vitamins A, C and D, lactic acid and potassium.
Also, Kefir is so much CHEAPER than a tablet. I’ve had a mum from school take home some of my kefir grains and now makes milkshakes/smoothies with the kefir each day for her children. She previously had to purchase probiotics in tablet form for her children but can now ‘make her own’ probiotics. The Microgenics Probiotic tablets cost $27.95 for 60 tablets – that’s nearly 50 cents EACH tablet – that all adds up if you have a few adults and a couple of children taking them every day! Alive Probiotics (they are meant to have 25 billion friendly bacteria in each tablet!) cost $41.95 (on special) for 60 tablets – that’s 70 cents each tablet. Yes, kefir on my bench, using milk that I have in my fridge anyway, is cheaper.
So why not try some kefir … look for some in the grocery store or health food shop (so you know I’m not making this up!), or see here (Dom’s Website) or here (source in Queensland) for Australian sources of kefir grains, OR if you know me, contact me and I’ll give you some grains (mine are thriving and I have SO many) so that you can easily make traditional kefir in your own home (and you never have to buy them again!).
For more information regarding Kefir – and sources of the grains – please visit Dom’s Website. He’s the ‘King of Kefir’, from Australia, and has pages on the origin of kefir grains, benefits, and uses.
For more information on Raw Milk – see this series of blog posts from Kelly the Kitchen Kop on Raw Milk Benefits, Raw Milk Safety, and Farming Practices
Mmmm, I’m thinking of getting the kids to video the daily practice of making real kefir…. THEN you’d be impressed and request some grains from me immediately… or not….
On another topic… if you have a Thermomix, check out this site for amazing, SIMPLE, additive free lemon tarts… and I LOVE the French accent.
I’m an OT – Occupational Therapist – it’s a GREAT profession, I LOVE my job, but NOBODY knows what it is!!! Thanks Danielle for the link, here is a 3 minute, easy to watch, YouTube clip describing OT very well!!