By Sue Bedford (MSc Nutritional Therapy)
What is kefir?
Kefir is a tangy fermented drink made from milk or sweetened water. The ‘tanginess’ is the result of bacteria and yeasts that use the sugars in the milk or water for fuel. This probiotic food is made by culturing fresh milk with kefir ‘grains’- which are live colonies of yeasts and bacteria. The bacteria ferment the milk and create a range of different substances, including calcium, potassium, protein, vitamins, acetate, and lactate. Kefir makes a great addition to smoothies and soups, or you can use it as a base for salad dressing (add lemon juice and seasoning).
Where did Kefir originate?
It originated in the mountainous region between Asia and Europe, as well as Russia and Central Asia
What are the main types of Kefir?
Cow’s milk kefir
Goat’s milk kefir
Coconut water kefir
What are the health benefits of kefir?
Milk kefir has a number of health benefits particularly to the digestive system, which is linked closely to all other body systems including the endocrine, circulatory, immune and nervous system. There has been less research on the health benefits of water kefir which is fermented using a different culture of bacteria. Kefir helps to support the immune system as it contains a special fibre which also has anti-inflammatory properties. Consuming kefir on a regular basis may increase the activity of T helper cells in the immune system which help to initiate the immune response, along with increasing the body’s natural killer cells. The probiotics in the kefir help to control the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut and the mouth and at the same time, help maintain the balance of the healthy bacteria in the gut. Kefir in studies has been linked to helping lower LDL cholesterol (unhealthy cholesterol) and blood pressure. Kefir has also been found to help those who are lactose intolerant by breaking down lactose in milk. In lab studies it has also been seen to slow breast cancer cell growth.
Why not make your own kefir?
Ingredients: (makes 1 litre)
1 litre of whole milk (pasteurized or unpasteurized, non- homogenized)
1 tbsp kefir grains
How to make:
Take a clean glass jar or jug and put in the kefir grains. Pour the milk over. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave in a dark place for a day – a kitchen cupboard is good.
After a day, strain the milk into another clean jar or jug (keep the grains to add to another new litre of milk as they can be used again and again)
Keep your kefir milk in the jug in the fridge and over the next few days. Enjoy!
Fancy a ‘Get up and GO’ Gut health kefir morning smoothie?
(Makes 1 large glass or 2 smaller ones)
1 handful of each of the following: Fresh or frozen Raspberries, blueberries and blackberries
1 heaped tablespoon of chia seeds
Place into a blender and whizz together! Enjoy!
Why not try making some healthy ‘Kefir gluten free bread’
As many love bread and it is often the basis of loads of meals – ie for toast, sandwiches etc I thought this was a good place to start for some healthy breakfast/lunch ideas. Let’s ditch the white refined bread and get making healthy, tasty bread. This recipe uses kefir which contains many bacteria to promote a healthy gut which has a knock on effect on the immune system, skin and all health . Why not give it a go?
- 125g buckwheat flour
- 200g Oats
- 30g Sunflower Seeds
- 30g Pumpkin Seeds
- 30g Chia Seeds
- 1 Tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
- 400ml Kefir
Pre-heat oven to 200ºC. Add the sunflower and pumpkin seeds to a pestle and mortar and grind down slightly so that they are still rough but not whole. Add all the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl and stir to combine. Make a well in the middle and pour in the Kefir. Stir until the entire mixture is covered in the liquid. Line a loaf tin with baking paper and then pour your mixture in and spread evenly all around. Bake in the oven for 50mins. If you stick a skewer into the centre it should come out clean. When you take the bread out of the oven wrap in a clean tea-towel until the bread is cooled – this helps to prevent the crust from going hard- to make this festive add dried cranberries or fruit/spices of choice – always make sure oats/ any grains used are gluten free .