100 ml of kefir

Kefir is a probiotic drink made by the fermentation of milk or water with kefir grains containing yeasts and bacteria. It may help modulate the gut flora and relieve constipation. Read on to learn more.

Contents

What Is Kefir?

Kefir is a fermented beverage made with milk and kefir grains, originally from the Caucasus mountains between Asia and Europe. The word “kefir” originates from the Turkish word “keyif,” which means “feeling good” .

Kefir grains contain several species of bacteria and yeasts. They are small, yellowish-white in color with the appearance of miniature cauliflowers .

Kefir is best known as a probiotic, which helps digestion .

However, kefir is under investigation for a number of other potential benefits, including:

How To Make Kefir?

Traditionally, kefir is made by adding kefir grains (which contain microbial cultures) to cow’s milk. It is also made by using other types of milk, such as goat, sheep, donkey, soy, rice, or coconut .

Water kefir is a probiotic drink containing water and kefir grains, similar to kombucha and ginger beer, whereas coconut kefir is prepared from coconut water and kefir grains .

It is fairly easy to make milk kefir at home by following the steps below :

  • Choose the type of milk you want: cow, goat, buffalo, sheep, donkey, or soy. The fermentation time and temperature may vary on the type of milk used.
  • Place a tablespoon of milk kefir grains in a medium glass jar.
  • Add 2 cups of milk in the jar and cover it with a towel or a cloth, but do not fully close it with a lid.
  • Place the jar at room temperature to ferment for 24-36 hours. During the fermentation process, the bacteria and yeasts in kefir break down the glucose and sugar into amino acids, lactic acids, and other substances.
  • Use a strainer to separate the kefir grains from the milk kefir.
  • The milk kefir is safe and ready to drink. Either you drink it directly or you can store it in your fridge (at 4°C) for later consumption.

The kefir grains can either be stored in the fridge for later use or can be used directly to make more milk kefir.

Kefir’s taste depends on the milk used, but it is usually slightly sour and creamy.

The nutritional value of kefir varies depending on the milk or water used, kefir grains, and the way it is produced and stored. A cup of low-fat milk kefir is around 110 calories.

Milk kefir contains :

  • Proteins (3% – 6.4%)
  • Carbohydrates (3.8% – 4.7%)
  • Fats (0.2% – 2.3%)
  • Alcohol (0.48%)

Components

Since kefir grains come in different varieties, their components may vary from country to country and from grain to grain. Kefir can contain numerous probiotic bacteria and yeasts .

Kefir grains may contain a variety of bacteria, including:

The yeasts in kefir grains may include:

Kefir also contains :

How It Works

Researchers have investigated the effect of kefir and its probiotic bacteria in cell studies. They have observed a number of effects on the immune system, gut flora, and fat metabolism.

Kefir’s immune-modulating effects include:

  • Activating large white blood cells (macrophages) .
  • Increasing the breakdown of bacteria and other harmful microorganisms (phagocytosis) .
  • Boosting nitric oxide (NO) and cytokine production to decrease Th2 dominance (shifting the immune response to Th1 by decreasing IL-8 and increasing IL-5) .
  • Preventing an allergic response (reducing immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibody production) .
  • Reducing Th2 dominance, by increasing the cytokines produced by Th1 cells, while decreasing the cytokines produced by Th2 cells .

Kefir’s effects on gut bacteria include:

  • Increasing beneficial bacteria, yeast, and other microorganisms in the gut, including Lactobacillus, Lactococcus, and Bifidobacterium .
  • Decreasing harmful bacteria, yeast and other microorganisms in the gut, such as Enterobacteriaceae and Clostridium .

Kefir’s effects on weight and metabolism include:

  • Decreasing the levels of an enzyme that makes fats (fatty acid synthase), while increasing the levels of an enzyme that blocks fat production (p-acetyl-CoA carboxylase) .
  • Activating multiple pathways that block the production of new fats (such as AMPK and SREBP-1c) .
  • Increasing the release of proteins that break down fats (such as PPAR alpha) .

Potential Benefits of Kefir

Kefir is considered very safe for most people to consume as food, but it has not been approved for any health purpose or medical claim. If your immune system is compromised for any reason, talk to your doctor before drinking kefir.

Possibly Effective For

1) Gut Flora

In a study on 82 patients, kefir and triple antibiotic therapy (amoxicillin, clarithromycin, and lansoprazole) were more effective in killing Helicobacter pylori, which causes stomach infections and ulcers, than the antibiotics alone .

In 76 children with gut infections, bifidokefir (kefir containing Bifidobacterium bifidum) restored the gut bifidobacteria in 73.4% and lactobacilli in 82% of patients to their normal levels within 7 days .

In mice, kefir increased the number of bacteria that are beneficial for gut health (lactic acid bacteria). It also reduced harmful bacteria (Enterobacteriaceae and Clostridia) .

Kefir prevented the growth of Campylobacter jejuni in chicks, one of the most common causes of food poisoning .

Kefir protected mice against a gut infection caused by the parasite, Giardia intestinalis .

In mice, kefir reduced gut inflammation by increasing immune defense (boosting immunoglobulin A antibodies) and reducing inflammation (by increasing IL-10 and decreasing IFN-γ and IL-1β). Thus, it could be used to combat gut infections .

In fact, the bacteria and yeasts in kefir stopped bacterial growth that causes gut infections, including Escherichia coli, Salmonella, and Bacillus cereus .

A complex sugar (polysaccharide) produced by a bacteria in kefir decreased nitrogen oxides (high levels can cause gut issues), and increased free fatty-acids (control cytokine production), improving the gut microbiota. Tibetan kefir grains also contain Lactobacillus plantarum and acts as an antioxidant in cells .

One major issue with probiotics is that stomach acid kills some strains before they can reach the intestines, rendering them inactive. But the probiotics from kefir were able to survive in a stomach-like acidic environment .

2) Constipation

In a pilot study on 20 adults with constipation, kefir increased the frequency and consistency of stools, reduced the use of laxatives, and improved bowel movements when consumed for 4 weeks .

In 42 adults with mental and physical disabilities, 2g of kefir (lyophilized) for 12 weeks provided complete relief from constipation in 9 participants and reduced symptoms in most. Kefir could be used as a safe remedy to prevent constipation .

Kefir can also increase digestive enzymes. It helped to break down and digest proteins in rats .

Insufficient Evidence For

The following purported benefits are only supported by limited, low-quality clinical studies. There is insufficient evidence to support the use of kefir for any of the below-listed uses. Kefir is considered very safe for the majority of people, but it should never be used to replace something your doctor recommends or prescribes.

3) Immune Function

In 18 healthy adults, 6-week kefir consumption reduced blood IL-8 (a chemokine) levels and raised IL-5 levels. This results in increased gut immune function .

In mice, kefir boosted protective immunity and increased resistance to gut infections. It increased the number of cells with immunoglobulin A (IgA) antibodies in the small and large intestine, as well as the number of cells with IL-4, IL-10, IFN-γ, and IL-6 in the small intestine .

4) Lactose Intolerance

In a study of 15 adults with lactose intolerance, kefir improved lactose digestion and tolerance as well as yogurt did. It also reduced bloating and stomach pain. Raspberry-flavored kefir has a weaker effect than the unflavored kefir .

A beverage made of eggshell and milk kefir had less lactose and more calcium than regular milk. Thus, milk kefir could be easier to digest by lactose-intolerant people – both because of the lower lactose content and the beneficial probiotics .

The fermentation process in milk kefir decreases the lactose content in the milk, which makes it easier to digest. Kefir made with soy or coconut milk, or even water, is lactose-free .

5) Weight Management

In an 8-week study on 75 obese or overweight women, kefir reduced the weight, body mass index (BMI), and waist size. Low-fat milk also led to similar results .

In obese mice, kefir reduced body weight, body fat, liver weight, total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol, thus preventing obesity and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease .

Kefir peptides decreased fat accumulation and increased breakdown of fatty acids in obese rats. Complex sugars (polysaccharides) from kefir also decreased body weight, body fat, and cholesterol (VLDL) blood levels in obese rats .

In mice with the non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, kefir peptides reduced body weight by decreasing fat storage and increasing fat break-down .

6) Heart Health

Kefir reduced the blood levels of total cholesterol, cholesterol (LDL), and triglycerides in an 8-week study on 75 obese or overweight women. Soy-goat milk kefir also raised HDL cholesterol in rats .

However, kefir did not lower cholesterol or triglyceride levels in 13 men with high cholesterol levels in a 4-week study .

Kefir decreased blood pressure levels, high heart rate (tachycardia), and heart enlargement (cardiac hypertrophy) in rats with high blood pressure. Kefiran, a complex sugar extract from kefir, also decreased blood pressure in rats with high blood pressure .

In mice with high cholesterol, kefir decreased fat buildup in the arteries. This reduces the risk of clogged, hardened arteries (atherosclerosis) .

In mice with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, kefir reduced body weight, blood levels of triglycerides, cholesterol, and free fatty acids, reducing the risk for heart diseases .

7) Bone Health

In a 6-month pilot study, kefir consumption increased the hip bone density, the blood levels of parathyroid hormone (PTH), and calcium in 40 patients with osteoporosis .

Kefir consumption for 12 weeks increased bone mineral density and thickness in rats with osteoporosis .

8) Diabetes

In a study of 60 patients with type 2 diabetes, milk kefir decreased hemoglobin A1c (HbA1C), and glucose blood levels. Hence, it could be added to the diet to help with diabetes .

In one study on mice with diabetes, a combination of soy and goat milk kefir reduced blood glucose levels and increased antioxidant enzymes (glutathione). In fact, the combination has a stronger effect than kefir made just from soy or goat milk. Goat milk-soy kefir may also increase the activity of the pancreas to improve glucose control .

9) Tooth Decay

In 22 healthy adults, kefir blocked the growth of Streptococcus mutans, a bacteria that causes tooth decay, as effectively as the typical fluoride rinse .

Animal & Cell Research (Lacking Evidence)

No clinical evidence supports the use of kefir for any of the conditions listed in this section. Below is a summary of the existing animal and cell-based research, which should guide further investigational efforts. However, the studies listed below should not be interpreted as supportive of any health benefit.

10) Inflammation

11) Skin Health and Scars

Kefir gel reduced wound size and scar tissue in rats with burn wounds .

A 70% kefir gel sped up the wound healing and protected the skin connective tissue in rats infected with the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus. This bacteria is one of the most common causes of skin infections .

Milk kefir also protected cells from UV damage. Aside from preventing skin cancer, this may reduce skin aging .

12) Allergies

In mice, Lactobacillus kefiranofaciens bacteria in kefir decreased IgE production, pointing to its allergy-reducing effects .

In fact, the effects of Kefir on reducing inflammation and boosting gut immunity cannot be isolated from its ability to combat allergies. Kefir shifts the immune response from Th2- to Th1-dominant, which is key in reducing allergic response .

13) Antimicrobial Activity

Microorganisms in kefir grains stop the growth of the following bacteria:

Microorganisms in kefir grains kill fungi, including Candida, Saccharomyces, Rhodotorula, Torulopsis, Microsporum, and Trichophyton species .

Cancer Research

In one clinical study of 40 patients with colorectal cancer undergoing chemotherapy, kefir reduced sleep difficulties. However, it didn’t reduce gut complaints .

Milk kefir delayed tumor growth and decreased tumor size of breast cancer in mice. Water kefir also blocked tumor growth and increased immune cells that kill cancer (T helper and cytotoxic T cells) in mice with breast cancer. It also stopped tumor growth in other mice studies .

In rats, milk kefir prevents stomach ulcers caused by radiotherapy .

In multiple cell studies, milk kefir blocked tumor growth and caused cancer cell death in leukemia, colorectal cancer, stomach cancer, and breast cancer .

Milk kefir protects cells from UV damage, which causes skin cancer .

Kefir’s effects on cancer cells in the lab include:

  • Reducing the release of growth factors of cancer (TGF-α, TGF-β, and Bcl2), while increasing a protein that triggers cell death (Bax), resulting in cancer cell death .
  • Increasing the release of interferon-β, a cytokine which blocks the growth of cancer cells .
  • Increasing the level of an enzyme that prevents DNA damage (glutathione peroxidase) and decreasing a chemical that causes DNA damage (malondialdehyde) .

Limitations and Caveats

Most studies investigating the benefits of kefir are performed on animals and cells, while the human studies included a small number of participants.

More human studies are needed to confirm its effectiveness.

Kefir vs. Yogurt

Although both kefir and yogurt are probiotics with many health benefits, there are some differences and similarities between them.

Yogurt contains bacteria (Eubacteria, Lactobacillus, and Bifidobacteria) and yeasts (Debaryomyces hansenii, Kluyveromyces marxianus, Yarrowia lipolytica, Issatchenkia orientalis). But, kefir contains more species of bacteria and yeast than yogurt, making it a more broader-spectrum probiotic .

Health Benefits

More studies have investigated the potential benefits of yogurt than kefir for bone health .

Both kefir and yogurt have produced benefits in heart disease and diabetes .

Although yogurt is beneficial for gut health and the immune system, kefir has been more effective in improving gut microbiota, fighting infections, and boosting immune function .

Yogurt improved memory and brain function in men. No studies have yet examined the effects of kefir on the brain, except for one study in which kefir improved sleep in chemotherapy patients .

Side Effects & Precautions

Kefir consumption may cause :

  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain

However, most participants did not report any side effects .

Make sure your kefir is adequately fermented before you consume it. Although well-fermented milk kefir reduces lactose intolerance, you may wish to avoid dairy kefir altogether if you are lactose intolerant. Rather, you can choose kefir made from soy, coconut, or other non-dairy sources .

Drugs Interactions

Although kefir contains some bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics (especially kanamycin and tetracycline), antibiotics (especially taken orally) may still kill some of the bacteria in kefir. This would reduce the beneficial effects of kefir. The yeast in kefir is not affected by the antibiotics .

Since kefir balances the immune response, it should be used cautiously with immunosuppressive drugs, including :

  • Azathioprine
  • Cyclosporine
  • Biologic drugs like Muromonab-CD3 or Basiliximab
  • Mycophenolate
  • Tacrolimus
  • Sirolimus
  • Corticosteroids

Although kefir may help balance the gut microbiome during chemotherapy, it should be taken cautiously. Some lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria in kefir are resistant to chemotherapy drugs. Other strains in kefir may be killed by chemotherapy .

Kefir may contain small amounts of alcohol (0.5%, similar to non-alcoholic beer). People who take Disulfiram for alcohol dependence may want to avoid it. Concurrent use could cause adverse effects, such as nausea, vomiting, headaches, and heart problems .

Safety Considerations

When kefir drinks are prepared industrially, the fermentation processes are generally safe with a very low risk of contamination .

Too much washing or improper processing can change the microbiota of the kefir grains and cause contamination by harmful bacterial species (Bacillus or Micrococcus) .

Supplementation

Dosage

Based on clinical trials, kefir is safely consumed at a daily dose of 200-600 mL .

If you aren’t used to consuming fermented foods and drinks, you may want to start with a small amount (about 100 mL) and then increase the amount once your body adjusts to drinking it.

User Experiences

Many kefir drinkers report improved gut health, digestion, reduced constipation, better mood, and health in general.

People with lactose intolerance and acid reflux disorders (Gastroesophageal reflux disease, GERD) experienced benefits with kefir consumption.

However, some users reported side effects such as infections, rash, constipation, sore throat, and nausea when using kefir.

One user felt that kefir did not help with his lactose intolerance.

Kefir is a cultured, fermented milk drink, originally from the mountainous region that divides Asia and Europe. It is similar to yogurt – but thinner in consistency, making it more of a drink. Kefir has a tart, sour taste and a slight ‘fizz’, due to carbon dioxide – the end product of the fermentation process. The length of the fermentation time determines the flavour. Kefir is a good source of calcium and is rich in probiotic bacteria.

How is it made?

The method of making kefir is one of the main differences between kefir and yogurt. Traditional milk kefir uses kefir grains and whole cow’s milk – although now you can find it made from goat’s milk, sheep’s milk and coconut milk as well as from rice and soy milk alternatives. Kefir grains are not actually grains at all – they are small gelatinous beads that look like grains and contain a variety of bacteria and yeasts. The grains are placed in a glass jar or bowl, soaked in milk, covered and left at room temperature for a minimum of 24 hours. This enables the bacteria and yeast to ferment the lactose (natural sugar in milk) into lactic acid, activating the bacteria to proliferate and grow.

After around 24 hours at room temperature, the grains are strained from the kefir and transferred to a fresh batch of milk and used again to enable them to keep reproducing – this cycle can be carried on indefinitely. The strained kefir is now ready to drink.

The grains will multiply as long as they are kept in fresh milk at the right temperature (ideally about 22-25C). When the product is put in the fridge, the cool temperature inhibits the fermentation process.

Is it safe to make kefir at home?

As kefir is a fermented product, strict guidelines must be adhered to in order to ensure that it is safe for consumption – if made incorrectly it has the potential to make you ill. Therefore, if you are fermenting at home, make sure you follow the recipe instructions closely. Incorrect temperatures, fermentation times, or unsterile equipment can cause the food to spoil, making it unsafe to eat.

Nutritional benefits

Milk is a good source of protein and calcium, and kefir is no different. However, it has the added benefits of probiotics. Probiotics are known as ‘friendly bacteria’ that may ease IBS symptoms such as bloating and digestive distress in some people.

Enjoying kefir regularly has also been associated with benefits for blood pressure, cholesterol balance and blood sugar management. Plus, depending on the variety that you use, kefir grains may contain 30 or more strains of beneficial bacteria and yeasts. Some of the major strains include the lactobacillales – or lactic acid bacteria (LAB).

Does kefir improve digestion?

Some people find that kefir improves their digestion, potentially due to its probiotic content. Probiotics may help restore balance in the gut, thereby improving digestion.

The fermentation process also helps to break down the lactose in milk, so there is some evidence to suggest that kefir may be tolerated by those who suffer from lactose intolerance. However, you should speak to your GP if you think you may be lactose intolerant.

Those with a diagnosed condition such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) should consult with a GP or dietitian before introducing fermented foods because, in some cases, they can make symptoms worse.

Does kefir help you to lose weight?

Obesity has been linked to an imbalance in gut bacteria. However, which strain of bacteria has an effect is less clear. Some evidence suggests that the lactobacillus species, or LAB group, like those found in kefir are associated with changes in weight, but more robust evidence is needed before recommendations can be made.

However, other evidence contradicts these findings, suggesting instead that probiotics do not decrease body weight or affect weight loss/BMI. Clearly this is an area for further research.

Does kefir promote better bone health?

Traditional kefir made from cow’s milk is a good source of calcium and vitamin K, nutrients which are both important for bone health. As we get older, our bones become weaker, which can increase the risk of osteoporosis and fractures, especially in post-menopausal women. Kefir, along with other dairy products, is a useful source of dietary calcium.

Does kefir reduce inflammation?

Inflammation is involved in a number of diseases such as IBD or rheumatoid arthritis. The anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory effects of probiotics have been reported in some studies, although this is an emerging area of research. It does appear that the LAB bacteria are anti-inflammatory but whether that translates directly to kefir is still unknown.

Are there any side effects?

As the process used to make kefir can vary between brands, it is hard to monitor its potency, so some products may be richer sources of probiotic bacteria than others. For those who are not used to probiotics or fermented foods, it is sensible to start with a small amount and increase slowly. Some people report digestive symptoms such as bloating, constipation or diarrhoea when introducing fermented foods to the diet. Anyone with a compromised immune system or a histamine intolerance should speak to a health professional before introducing or increasing their fermented food intake.

What about water kefir?

Water kefir is made in a similar way to milk kefir. The kefir grains are placed in sugared water and the same fermentation process occurs (as in milk). The fermentation produces beneficial bacteria while reducing the sugar content of the drink. It’s important to note that the grains are different –water kefir is made with specific grains that rely on water, and will not work in the same way if put in milk or milk substitutes. Cane sugar or fruit juice can be used to sweeten the water. Water kefir is a great alternative source of probiotic bacteria for those who are following a dairy-free diet but does not contain the same protein and calcium content that’s provided by milk.

Kefir was recently featured in BBC’s Trust Me I’m A Doctor.

More healthy guides…

Health benefits of lemon water
Health benefits of green tea
Health benefits of coconut milk
Health benefits of bananas
Health benefits of ginger

This article was reviewed on 1st November 2019 by Kerry Torrens.

Kerry Torrens BSc. (Hons) PgCert MBANT is a Registered Nutritionist with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.

Jo Lewin works as a Community Nutritionist and private consultant. She is a Registered Nutritionist (Public Health) registered with the UKVRN. Visit UpPath where Jo is a Health Coach or follow her on Twitter at nutri_jo.

All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other healthcare professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

Many books have been written about beneficial properties of kefir. Even serious scientists devoted their works to this drink believing that regular use of kefir is the secret of longevity and good health.

Kefir is a cultured beverage that originally came from Russia. It is a fermented, enzyme-rich, looking like yogurt food, filled with friendly micro-organisms, protein, micro- and macro-nutrients, essential vitamins and minerals – vitamin B, vitamin K, magnesium, folic acid, potassium, phosphorus, and more.

People always compare kefir and yogurt and tend to think that they are similar. In reality, they are quite different. Both kefir and yogurt are cultured milk products but they contain different strains of friendly bacterias. Yogurt contains only two types of bacterial strain with billions of helpful microorganisms; kefir, on the other hand, has 10 strains with trillions of helpful bacteria, which makes it 10 times more beneficial than milk or yogurt. And the beneficial bacteria contained in kefir can actually colonise the intestinal tract literally taking it over and fighting bad bacterias, while those found in yogurt only provide food for the healthy bacteria in the gut.

What is it so great about Kefir?

The benefits of drinking kefir are endless. Let’s see, what does kefir do to our bodies? First of all, the beneficial properties of kefir are due to its content – lacto cultures – friendly bacterias known as prebiotics and probiotics. When probiotics and prebiotics are combined, they form a symbiotic. Fermented dairy products, such as kefir, are considered perfect symbiotic because they contain live bacteria and the fuel they need to thrive.

Probiotics are live microorganisms, that provide health benefits when consumed as a food. Scientists who studied kefir grains were surprised to find out that there is not a single bad bacteria in the kefir grains. They experimented by adding Escherichia coli bacteria to kefir and discovered that they were killed by probiotics in kefir. It seems that pathogenic organisms cannot exist in kefir.

Beneficial bacteria live in our intestines and help us to digest fibre-rich foods. The condition of the intestinal flora is responsible for the quality of our digestion. The stronger your intestinal flora is, the better is your immunity which would definitely be improved with a daily glass of kefir.

Kefir possess both antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. It contains calcium which is important in maintaining healthy bones and teeth. Doctors recommend kefir for diseases of the liver, pancreas, gastrointestinal diseases, obesity.
Kefir – a versatile product which controls the speed of your digestion. “Fresh” 1-2 days old kefir loosens up your stool, but the 3 days plus “old kefir” – on the contrary, makes is more solid.
Kefir also has a mild diuretic properties, so it is recommended to all who have problems with swelling and even high blood pressure.
And it contains complete protein. If you want to get more protein, kefir is perfect! A single serving of plain, non-fat kefir has less than 100 calories, but provides 10.5 grams of protein, which makes you feel fuller without extra fat, thus a perfect choice for those who want to lose weight.

Kefir is known to regulate the immune system, to promote production of bile, to provide natural protection against diseases, to improve blood circulation, to regulate cholesterol and sugar levels, to regulate blood pressure, to strengthen the kidneys, to slow down ageing and many more. It is excellent nourishment for the elderly, pregnant and nursing women, kids and those with a poor immunity. It targets almost all our body system and is known to treat numerous disorders.

When is the best time to drink kefir?

If you are aiming to improve the intestinal flora, the answer to the question – drink kefir when your stomach is as empty as possible.

If you just drink kefir on a daily basis, you can drink it anytime really – in the morning, afternoon, and even in the evening menu. The best is to have a glass 1-2 hours before bedtime.

Kefir taken before bed time improves intestinal flora and enhances sleep. Dairy proteins in kefir are rich in the amino acid tryptophan – a key product for quality and restful sleep, it has calming and relaxing effect.

If you are trying to lose weight or just maintain your weight, a glass of kefir will decrease your appetite in the evening. Water kefir also has low glycemic index (GI). This means it releases glucose to your bloodstream at a relatively slower rate making you feel full for a longer time, and therefore not crave for food

Contraindications:

  • Kefir is contraindicated for children under one year, due to the fact that their gut microflora is not ready yet to digest it.
  • People with super sensitive intestines – might be too strong for them.
  • Lactose intolerant people are better off with a water kefir ( we talk about it later) than milk kefir.
    However, today you can find lactose-free milk and ferment kefir in your own home to get a similar drink.
  • “Old” kefir is contraindicated for people with stomach’s high acidity and heartburn.

There are two varieties of kefir grains: water kefir and milk kefir.

Both are delicious and have many health benefits. Since milk kefir grains feed on lactose, water kefir is perfect for individuals who are lactose intolerant as it is dairy free.

Differences between a water and milk kefir:

  • Water Kefir: Water kefir is non-dairy and is made with fruit juices, coconut water, or as simple as filtered water. Never use tap water since the chemicals in it destroy the kefir.
  • Milk Kefir: Milk kefir can also be made from cow, goat, buffalo, and sheep milk. No matter what type of milk you use, kefir grains manage to feed and ferment to any of them.

Usage

  • Water Kefir: Water kefir can be taken in it’s pure form or added to dairy-free smoothies. It can be flavoured and is a good alternative for lemonade and juices.
  • Milk Kefir: Milk kefir can be consumed as is, added to smoothies and can also be made into cheese. It goes well with the cereals and baked products as well.

How to make Milk Kefir

Buy kefir grains online, in the health shop or ask a friend who has got it to share them with you – the grains grow very quickly and people are normally very happy to give some away.

Place the kefir grains in a clean glass filled with milk. Stir gently with a wooden or plastic spoon then leave it at a room temperature for 24 -48 hours, mixing once a day.
After that, the kefir grains should be thickened and starting to separate into curds and whey. The taste and consistency of the kefir greatly depend on the duration of fermentation. The longer you let it to ferment, the thicker and sourer your kefir will be.

When your kefir reaches the taste and consistency you like, stir and then pour it out to drink. Keep the grains – you will use the grains for the next batch and so on.

How to make Water Kefir

Combine 1/3 cup of sugar in 3 cups of warm water. Basically make it sweet. As sweet as you like. Make sure the sugar completely dissolves. Let it cool down.
Add the water kefir grains into the jar of sugar water. You can cover the jar with a breathable cloth ( i personally don’t) and leave at room temperature until you see small bubbles on the top. The result is a fizzy drink . It’s ready to drink. Use grains for the next batch.

The taste of the drink depends on the duration of fermentation. The grains eat the sugar, so the longer you let them to ferment for, the less sweet you kefir drink becomes.

Dont’s when making Kefir

Never use straight tap water for water kefir. The chemicals in tap water damage the kefir. Use filtered water instead.
Do not use metal spoon when mixing kefir. Metals react with kefir. Use glass, wooden or plastic utensils instead.
Do not heat the kefir. It kills the good bacteria.
Try not to freeze it. Freezing stops fermentation and some grains are difficult to revive after putting in a freezer. If you must freeze them( going on holiday for example), then try to freeze them for no longer than a month. When you start making your kefir again after freezing the grains , the first batch is usually not very nice, I pour it out, and do the second one which is normally tastes good again.

Happy drinking!

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There is much confusion about the carbohydrate content on the packages of fermented food products. The government makes manufacturers count the carbohydrates of food “by difference.” That means they measure everything else including water, ash, fats and proteins. Then “by difference,” they assume everything else is counted as a carbohydrate. This is standard procedure.

To make fermented foods such as yogurt, and kefir, and other fermented foods the milk is inoculated with the lactic acid bacteria. These bacteria use up almost all the milk sugar called “lactose”, and convert it into lactic acid. It is this lactic acid which curds the milk and gives that sour taste to the product. So the milk sugars that the government thinks is still in the product, are actually gone, it’s been converted by these lactose loving bacteria. Since these bacteria have “eaten” most of the milk sugar by the time you buy it (or make it yourself) there are not many carbohydrates left. It is the lactic acid which is counted as carbohydrates.

Therefore, you can eat up to a cup of plain yogurt, buttermilk, or kefir and only count 2-4 grams of carbohydrates. Dr. Jack Goldberg of Go- Diet has measured this in his own laboratory. Kefir is 99% lactose free, which means all the milk sugars or lactose is mostly gone and this is why so many lactose intolerant people don’t have a problem with kefir. One cup of yogurt will contain about 4 grams of carbohydrates. Kefir has about 1 since there is more bacteria in kefir to eat up the lactose.

Milk Kefir Nutritional Profile

Milk kefir is quite a nutritional food / drink. As compared to just milk, it has more B vitamins, K2 and others. Not to mention the vitamins are more readily absorbed due to the bacteria. It also has less sugar and calories. The milk kefir grains eat much of the lactose sugar, which is converted to simpler sugars and then converted to beneficial acids. In an average ferment, it may consume as much as half of the lactose. Shorter ferments may be less. Longer ferment may eat through even more lactose sugar. The overall effect is that kefir has less sugar / carbs and a little less calories than milk before the ferment.

SERVING SIZE 1 CUP (240ml) of WHOLE MILK KEFIR (RAW or Pasteurized)

  • 116-132 calories (vs 148 pre-ferment)
  • 8 grams of fat (5 of which are saturated)
  • 4-8 grams of carbs (vs 12 grams of carbohydrates pre-ferment)
  • 8 to 11 grams of protein

Using 2% milk will result in about 104 calories and 5 grams of fat
Using 1% milk will result in about 87 calories and 2.5 grams of fat
Using non-fat milk will result in about 70 calories and .2 grams of fat

Milk kefir has plenty of vitamins, especially all the B vitamins, calcium, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus. It also contains K2 which is a unique by-product of the fermentation process. K2 is very important for bone healthy, bone density, and calcium absorption.

Example content of 1 cup of whole milk kefir

*Source

The chart above gives a good idea of nutritional content, but actual vitamin content can vary quite a bit due to the type of milk, strains of bacteria and how its fermented. The vitamins can be changed due to the bacteria. Some bacteria strains makes more vitamins, others use them up a bit. Overall, the nutrients are much better than regular milk as the bacteria will improve nutrient absorption.

Milk kefir also has high levels of biotin, folate, enzymes, bio-active peptides and beneficial acids (lactic and acetic).

Milk kefir has upwards of 28 strains of bacteria and many strains of yeast. The probiotic CFU count under ideal conditions may be as high as 2.4 trillion per cup. With the average ferment, its more likely several hundred billion per cup. But that is still a very large amount of probiotics.

Learn More About Milk Kefir:

  • Milk Kefir Overview
  • Milk Kefir FAQ
  • How to Make Milk Kefir (Step-by-Step Instructions)
  • The History of Milk Kefir Grains
  • Strains: Bacteria and Yeast Strains in Milk Kefir
  • The Difference Between Commercial Kefir and Homemade Kefir
  • Meet our Milk kefir Grains
  • Milk Kefir Flavorings and Recipes
  • Instructions on How to Make Coconut Milk Kefir
  • Milk Kefir Pictures
  • Milk Kefir Videos
  • Purchase Milk Kefir Grains

Notes for Table 1

a There is room for debate regarding energy value of kefir, which is derived not only from the fat content , but also from protein and the carbohydrate content. The majority of digestible carbohydrate of kefir is milk-sugar , of which at 24 hour fermentation followed by 24 hour storage seems to be approximately 3.5%, going by the figures available. This is about 50% reduction of lactose content of that found in fresh milk. We need to consider that the figures given in the table above were assessed from kefir prepared with artificially prepared commercial starter-cultures .

This needs clarification, for we also need to consider that with kefir grain-prepared kefir, the grains are synthesised from lactose by encapsulated organisms. That portion of lactose synthesized into kefiran, which becomes part of the ever increasing grain matrix, remains unavailable as an energy source, because the kefir grains are separated from the liquid-kefir before the kefir is consumed. Also, any synthesised kefiran found in liquid-kefir, has little to no energy value, for kefiran is not readily digestible by gastric digestion. This is because the variety of linkage types of the kefiran molecule accounts for rather poor accessibility to enzymeic attack, so can not be broken down and used as an energy source. Length of fermentation, and kefir grain-to-milk ratio used for preparing kefir, including the growth rate of kefir grains, may play an important role in determining the contents of, and the value of carbohydrate of kefir grain-prepared kefir. More research to evaluate the carbohydrate of kefir grain-prepared kefir is definitely needed.

b Although Pyruvic and Hippuric acids are produced during fermentation, neither was detected during storage .

c Orotic acid and citric acid increase slightly during storage .

d Lactic acid concentration increases during storage, reaching a maximum of 7739 parts per million by day 21 . The form of lactic acid found in kefir is almost 100% of the isomer L lactic acid. On the other hand yogurt contains almost equal proportion of both isomers, D lactic acid and L lactic acid through the fermentation of lactose. Research in the former USSR concluded that whole milk-kefir is well tolerated and gives adequate weight gain, providing a high content of indispensable fatty acids in blood serum of premature infants. It is therefore logical to conclude that toddlers born at normal gestation should tolerate kefir quite well. D lactic acid can cause Lactic acidosis, in which infants are more susceptible. This is why kefir is quite suitable for infants.

e Initial ethanol alcohol content of fresh kefir can range from about .04 to .5% by volume, and kefir grain-prepared kefir usually contains more ethanol alcohol than commercial starter-prepared kefir. This is probably due to yeast content of both kefir types, where it is common to only include 1 yeast strain in commercial kefir production. Although ethanol concentration increases during storage. Ethanol may reach a maximum of 2% to 3% alcohol by volume, depending on the starter, initial lactose content of the fresh milk, including culture and ripening-conditions and length of fermentation including the amount of kefir-grain culture used to inoculate milk.

f Under parallel culture-conditions, kefir prepared with traditional kefir grains has the lowest folacin content in the fresh product at day 0 . However, kefir grain-prepared kefir exhibits the highest rate of folacin production during storage. This is quite likely due to the fact that artificial kefir-starters are prepared usually containing only one yeast strain, as apposed to the vast population of different yeast strains found in kefir grains. Mostly yeasts are responsible for the bio-synthesis of the B group vitamins. Kefir prepared with traditional kefir grains, folacin increased by 116.2% during storage for 48 hours at 4°C.

g There have been some 40 aromatic compounds discovered in kefir. Amounts of acetaldehyde and acetoin increased during fermentation. Acetaldehyde content in kefir samples doubled from day 0 to day 21, reaching a final concentration of 1.1g/100g. During storage, the concentration of acetoin decreased from 25 ppm on day 0 to 16 ppm on day 21. However, diacetyl was not detected during fermentation or storage. The nature of the mother-culture, medium, culture-conditions including storage play an important roll in the biosynthesis of compounds in kefir.

h Three isomers determined by a two-step methylation method followed by gas chromatography was used to identify conjugated linoleic acids isomers of (c9, t11; t10, c12; t9, t11), butyric, palmitic, palmitoleic, oleic acids, which have been proven as antimutagenic components of milk fat, were in higher concentrations in kefir, than that found in fresh milk and yogurt.

i Research in 1993 in Yugoslavia explains that the organisms of kefir grains assimilate cholesterol in milk by some 22% to 63% during a 24 hour culture-cycle with kefir grains. Out of 6 batches of kefir grains obtained from Yugoslavia, Hungary and Caucasus, some batches were more effective at assimilating cholesterol than others. Further cholesterol was reduced during storage at 10°C for 48 hours where between 41 to 84% cholesterol had disappeared.

j Protein digestibility is better with kefir produced from pasteurised milk than with raw milk. This is due to lack of oxygen and the denatured amino acid profile in pasteurised milk, which also has shown to produce kefir with a more favourable consistency.

END NOTES Raw, unpasteurized milk contains greater quantity of heat-sensitive vitamins such as some 30% more vitamin B12 than pasteurised milk. This reflects the content of those vitamins in kefir, so kefir prepared with raw milk shall contain much the same greater quantity of those specific heat sensitive vitamins . Milk exposed to direct sunlight will have a reduction in Riboflavin, because of the sensitivity Riboflavin has to Ultra Violet radiation. For this and other reasons, culturing kefir in clear, glass containers should not be exposed to direct sunlight. Figures in Table 1 do not explain the vitamin content of raw milk kefir, for the information was not available at the time of writing. It appears further research is required to establish nutritional composition of kefir made with raw milk.

Also see Nutritional Value of Different Fresh Milk-Types to get some idea of the nutritional value of kefir compared to that of non-fermented Cow’s milk.

Last Updated on June 3, 2019

Kefir is a type of cultured dairy drink made by fermenting milk with kefir grains.

Although records of this drink date back for thousands of years, kefir has experienced a recent renaissance in the Western world.

With people viewing it as a healthy source of beneficial probiotics, kefir has quickly become a commercial success.

This article examines kefir’s nutrition facts, potential health benefits, and side effects.

Kefir (pronounced kuh-fear) is a fermented dairy drink.

In recent years, many interesting, cultured dairy products have experienced a surge in popularity, and kefir is probably the leader among these.

To make the drink requires two simple ingredients;

  • Regular whole milk
  • Kefir grains (a starter for fermentation)

Firstly, kefir grains are not one ingredient, and they contain various strains of bacteria, milk proteins, and yeast, which we will come to later.

After mixing the kefir grains with milk and allowing some time for the fermentation process to do its work, the kefir will be ready.

Taste

Kefir has a thick texture, and it shares some resemblances to yogurt in its taste profile. It is a sour and creamy drink.

Key Point: Kefir is a popular cultured dairy drink with a sour and creamy taste, and it contains a range of beneficial bacteria.

Kefir Health Benefits

While there are many claims about the benefits kefir can have on our health, not all of them are evidence-based.

Here we look at some of the research-backed benefits (and potential benefits) that kefir may have.

1) Kefir May Strengthen Bone and Improve Skeletal Health

Kefir contains several compounds that help to strengthen bone and reduce the risk of bone density loss.

Bone loss is otherwise known as osteoporosis, and it is a disease that can cause bones to become increasingly weak and brittle. Unfortunately, this can increase the risk of falls and fractures in the elderly.

Over the long-term, osteoporosis can be debilitating, and it affects an estimated 200 million people worldwide, including more than 50 million American adults (1, 2).

On the positive side, kefir is an excellent source of calcium and vitamin K2, which both promote skeletal health (3, 4).

Calcium and Vitamin K2’s Role In Bone Health

One of the major functions of calcium is strengthening bone tissue, and it plays a vital role in bone remodeling and formation (5).

In combination with calcium, vitamin K2 has a synergistic effect, and it helps to ensure the bone gets sufficient vitamin K2.

Vitamin K2 does this by activating osteocalcin, a type of protein hormone that takes circulating calcium and binds it to the bone (6).

In a recent randomized controlled trial of osteoporotic patients, six months of daily kefir supplementation led to positive changes in bone mass density (7).

Key Point: Due to the compounds it contains, kefir likely has a protective effect on bone mass density.

2) Kefir Is Nutrient-Dense and Contains Numerous Essential Nutrients

The nutrient-density (nutrients per calorie) of food is a particularly useful way to judge the healthfulness of a given food.

In this case, kefir offers an excellent source of nutrients—particularly minerals—for relatively few calories.

For instance, here are some of the nutrients that just one cup (240 ml) of plain kefir provides (8);

  • Protein: 12 grams
  • Calcium: 40% RDI
  • Phosphorus: 43% RDI
  • Potassium: 16.5% RDI
  • Vitamin A: 10% RDI
  • Vitamin D: 17% RDI

Among these nutrients, protein, vitamin D and phosphorus also assist with the previously discussed bone health improvements (9).

One cup of kefir contains approximately 160 calories.

Key Point: Kefir is a good source of nutrients, and contains a range of essential vitamins and minerals.

3) Kefir Is Lower In Lactose Than Regular Milk

During the fermentation process necessary for making kefir, the kefir grains slowly feed on the sugars in milk.

As this process takes place, the bacteria convert milk sugar (lactose) into lactic acid.

As a result, kefir contains much lower amounts of lactose than standard milk.

For example; Lifeways, one of the leading commercial kefir brands, claims that their kefir is “99% free of lactose”.

Furthermore, a randomized trial shows that in adults with lactose maldigestion, consuming kefir alongside regular milk improved lactose digestion and tolerance (10).

Compared to regular milk, kefir is likely an excellent option for people with lactose intolerance.

Key Point: The fermentation process of kefir results in a very low-lactose dairy drink. Also, it may lessen symptoms of lactose sensitivity when consumed alongside regular dairy.

4) Kefir Is a Rich Source of Probiotic Bacteria

Firstly, kefir is a source of numerous strains of probiotic bacteria, and these may include the following (11);

Lactobacillus acidophillus Lactobacillus brevis
Lactobacillus delbreuckii Lactobacillus fermentum
Lactobacillus kefirgranum Lactobacillus kefiranofaciens
Lactobacillus kefiri Lactobacillus parakenfiri
Lactococcus lactis cremoris Lactococcus lactic biovar diacetylactis
Leunostoc mesenteroids cremoris Leuconostoc mesenteroids ssp. mesenteroids
Streptococcus thermophilus

Research shows that these bacterial strains can survive digestion and colonize the gut, thereby promoting the microbiota and, potentially, health (12, 13).

The state of research on the microbiome/gut flora is in its relative infancy, and more research is necessary to gain a full understanding.

However, accumulating research suggests that the gut microbiome may play an important role in immune response and protection against disease (14, 15).

These probiotics may have a beneficial effect on blood sugar control too.

In a randomized controlled trial, type 2 diabetes patients consuming kefir had decreased fasting blood glucose and HBA1c levels compared to conventional fermented milk (16).

This larger variation in bacteria strains is one of the key differences between kefir and yogurt.

As a fermented product, it offers similar benefits as buttermilk in this regard.

Key Point: The probiotics in kefir have numerous beneficial (and potentially beneficial) effects on the body.

5) Kefir May Reduce the Severity of Allergies

Some initial research suggests that the probiotic strains in kefir may help to lower allergic responses.

In an animal study, kefir “displayed anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic effects in a mouse asthma model” (17).

Mice studies do not infer that the same effect would be true in humans. However, it is an area for future research in human trials.

Additionally, kefir may hold a benefit for the treatment of the nasal condition allergic rhinitis.

On this note, numerous randomized controlled trials have shown that treatment with Lactobacillus probiotics, as found in kefir, reduces symptoms of allergic rhinitis in both adults and children (18).

Key Point: Further evidence is necessary to confirm this, but kefir may help to reduce the severity of certain allergies.

6) Kefir May Have Digestive Benefits

One of the most common claims around kefir is that it can have substantial benefits for digestive health.

For instance, numerous randomized trials suggest that probiotic milk drinks can aid (and maintain) the remission of ulcerative colitis (19).

Furthermore, a systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials found that probiotics help to alleviate the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) (20).

Explicitly focusing on kefir, a trial had 20 constipation patients drink 500 ml of kefir daily for four weeks. The results showed that kefir relieved constipation symptoms as well as overall “bowel satisfaction” scores (21).

Research on probiotics as a treatment option for digestive diseases is still very basic, and a wealth of studies are underway in this area.

From existing research, it is possible that probiotic foods like kefir hold promise for conditions ranging from allergies and stomach complaints to irritable bowel syndrome and other inflammatory disorders (22, 23).

Key Point: Kefir can potentially ease the symptoms of various digestive conditions.

7) Contains Immune-Enhancing Compounds

Some of the probiotic strains in kefir are associated with immune boosting properties.

One interesting study looked at participants who consumed 200 ml of kefir every day for six weeks. The results showed increased immune response and lowered circulating levels of several inflammatory markers (24).

Animal studies in this area also suggest that kefir can have an anti-inflammatory effect. In particular, the use of kefir appears to lower markers of inflammation in the presence of inflammatory gut conditions (25).

Further studies show that kefir may help to improve endothelial function as well as having an anti-bacterial effect against food pathogens (26, 27).

Key Point: Research shows that kefir has potential immune-boosting and anti-inflammatory properties.

8) Potential Weight Loss Benefits (Context Required)

Attributing weight loss benefits to a specific food is difficult. However, it is easy to find claims that kefir can lead to weight loss.

Overall, we should view this claim with skepticism as there is no real evidence to support it.

There are few recent studies on kefir and weight loss;

  • The first study shows that kefir supplementation can decrease weight gain in a high-fat mouse diet model. Again: humans are not mice, and nor does this finding prove weight loss (28).
  • Secondly, a randomized trial found that kefir use—in a non-energy-restricted diet—caused weight loss in dieters. However, a different control group using milk had virtually the same degree of weight loss in the study. The weight loss effect was likely due to the overall diet design rather than because it contained kefir or milk (29).

On the other hand, kefir does provide a decent nutrient profile, and it is rich in satiating protein.

These facts could make it a “smarter swap” for unhealthier snacks like candy or chips, which could have an indirect effect on weight loss.

Key Point: Kefir likely doesn’t have any unique weight loss-promoting effects. However, it could have an indirect effect on weight loss through its satiating properties.

9) Some Studies Suggest Kefir May Have Anticancer Properties

Some research claims that kefir may have anti-cancer properties.

First of all, some researchers believe that kefir’s bioactive compounds are responsible for these effects, namely polysaccharides—a type of carbohydrate—and peptides (30).

There is also the theory that fermented dairy products can suppress tumors by activating the immune system and by delaying enzymatic reactions that convert potential carcinogens to carcinogens (31).

A cell culture (test tube) study supports these claims, with kefir demonstrating that it can induce apoptosis (cell death) and slow the spread of cancer cells (32).

Also, a recent systematic review of 11 in-vitro (test tube) and experimental studies found that kefir had a consistent beneficial effect on cancer prevention (33).

However, care should be taken with the interpretation of these study results, as they are very weak evidence.

Put simply; cell culture studies are very different from human clinical trials.

Until better evidence is available, we should take the “cancer-protective” effects of kefir with a large pinch of salt.

Key Point: Cell culture and experimental studies demonstrate that kefir can have anti-cancer effects. However, there is no evidence that this applies to the human body.

Side Effects

Although kefir has a collection of positive health effects, that does not mean it is healthy for everyone.

There are several common side effects that some people experience when they consume the drink.

Here are some potential drawbacks of using kefir.

1) Gastrointestinal Issues

It is not unusual for people consuming kefir to experience several digestive complaints.

This occurrence is more common when first starting to use kefir, but it can be a longer-term issue for some people.

These digestive complaints can include intestinal issues such as bloating, cramping, and gas pains.

Notably, these issues may not be exclusive to kefir, and they appear to be from consuming high amounts of probiotic bacteria in general. However, kefir is generally well tolerated after the first week or so of use. (34, 35).

Key Point: Gastrointestinal disturbances are not uncommon when first starting to use kefir.

2) Lactose Intolerance and Milk Allergy

Although kefir contains only trace amounts of lactose, it is not impossible that it could cause an issue for people with severe lactose intolerance.

Additionally, people with a genuine milk protein allergy will not tolerate kefir well; it still contains dairy proteins, and thus the responsible allergens.

Key Point: While people with lactose intolerance or lactose sensitivity may tolerate kefir, those with a genuine milk allergy should avoid it.

3) Some Store-Bought Kefir Products Are Full of Added Sugar

If you are buying a commercial brand of kefir, then make sure you read the label.

While some products are 100% pure kefir, others may contain numerous additional ingredients, including added sugar.

Flavored kefir products are particularly notable for this, and fruit-flavored kefir is often very high in sugar.

Key Point: Many branded kefir drinks contain large amounts of sugar and other additives.

Nutrition Facts

For reference purposes, here is the nutrition profile for kefir per 100 ml (8).

Calories and Macronutrients

Calorie/Macronutrient Amount (kcal/grams)
Calories 58 kcal
Carbohydrate 7.1 g
Fat 1.0 g
Protein 5.0 g

Major Vitamins

Mineral % RDI
Vitamin B12 50 %
Vitamin B2 39 %
Vitamin D 17 %
Vitamin A 10 %
Vitamin C 6 %

Major Minerals

Vitamin % RDI
Phosphorus 43 %
Calcium 40 %
Potassium 16.5 %
Sodium 7.4 %
Vitamin C 6 %

Key Point: Kefir is an excellent source of phosphorus, calcium, and vitamin D. It is also reasonably high in dietary protein.

How To Make Kefir At Home

Should you wish to avoid store-bought kefir and make your own, then this is something which is surprisingly easy to do.

All you need are the following ingredients/equipment;

  • Whole milk (cow and goat milk are both suitable)
  • Kefir grains: you can find these in local health stores, or you can buy them online.
  • A large glass jar/container

Instructions

Note: depending on the size of your jar and how much kefir you wish to produce, you may want to use more or fewer ingredients.

In this case, per teaspoon of kefir grains, you will need approximately one and a half cups of milk.

  • Add 6 cups (1440 ml) of milk to the glass jar.
  • Add 4 tsp of kefir grains, and then stir the grains for a few seconds.
  • Make sure some space is left at the top of the jar and then put the lid back on the jar. During fermentation, gas will put pressure on the cover if there is no space.
  • Leave the glass jar at room temperature and allow 1-2 full days for the kefir to ferment.
  • Once the kefir is ready, it will have a clumpy look somewhat like cottage cheese or rice pudding. At this stage, strain the liquid into a container for drinking and then refrigerate it.
  • It is then possible to re-use the solids (kefir grains); add them back into the glass jar, re-fill with milk, and start the fermentation process over again.
  • You can drink the kefir plain or mix it with some berries for fruity-flavored kefir.

Key Point: It is quick and easy to make your own homemade kefir.

Final Thoughts

Kefir is a healthy drink that is relatively simple to make, tastes great, and has some interesting potential health benefits.

Overall, kefir is a cheap and nutritious choice that may help to improve our health.

For more on fermented dairy products, find out about the nutrient-dense quark or see this in-depth guide to sour cream.

Seven benefits of kefir

Kefir consumption is still being researched, but the potential benefits include:

1. Blood sugar control

In 2015, a small study compared the effects of consuming kefir and conventionally fermented milk on blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.

Participants who consumed the kefir had significantly lower fasting blood sugar levels than those who consumed the conventionally fermented milk.

Participants in the kefir group also had decreased hemoglobin A1c values, which are a measurement of blood sugar management over 3 months.

2. Lower cholesterol

A 2017 study looked at changes in cholesterol levels among women drinking low-fat milk or kefir. The participants drank either 2 servings a day of low-fat milk, 4 servings a day of low-fat milk, or 4 servings a day of kefir.

After 8 weeks, those who drank kefir showed significant decreases in their total and their “bad cholesterol” levels compared to those who drank only 2 servings per day of low-fat milk. Participants who consumed 4 servings per day of low-fat milk also had lowered cholesterol levels.

The probiotics in kefir may play a role in how much cholesterol the body absorbs from food. They may also affect how the body produces, processes, and uses cholesterol.

3. Increased nutrition

The nutrients in kefir depend on the type of milk used to make it. Generally, it is a good source of protein, calcium, and potassium. Some store-bought brands are fortified with vitamin D, as well.

4. Improved lactose tolerance

People with lactose intolerance may be able to consume kefir without experiencing symptoms, as the bacteria present in kefir break down much of the lactose.

The leading brand of kefir in the U.S. claims to be 99 percent lactose-free.

A small study in 2003 concluded that the consumption of kefir improved lactose digestion over time, and could potentially be used to help overcome lactose intolerance. It noted that flavored kefir produced more adverse symptoms that plain kefir, probably due to added sugars in the flavored product.

5. Improved stomach health

Share on PinterestKefir may be able to help treat digestive issues, such as diarrhea or lactose intolerance.

The stomach contains both good and bad bacteria. Maintaining a balance between them is an important part of keeping the stomach healthy. Diseases, infections, and some medications, such as antibiotics, can upset this balance.

Probiotics are similar to the good bacteria found naturally in the digestive tract and may help maintain a healthy balance.

There is some evidence that probiotic foods, such as kefir, can help treat diarrhea caused by an infection or antibiotics.

One review cited the use of kefir to aid the treatment of peptic ulcers in the stomach and small intestine.

6. Healing properties

Laboratory studies have shown kefir may have antibacterial and antifungal properties, although more investigation is needed.

Research shows that kefir has the potential to be beneficial against gastroenteritis, vaginal infections, and yeast infections.

A 2016 review reported that kefir lessened the severity of symptoms in mice infected with a parasite. Another review demonstrated beneficial effects of kefir on mice for wound healing and reduced tumor growth.

7. Weight control

Another study reported that kefir consumption reduced body weight and total cholesterol in obese mice. However, more research on people is required.

What is Kefir?

Kefir is a cultured, creamy product with amazing health attributes.

Kefir’s tart and refreshing flavor is similar to a drinking-style yogurt, but it contains beneficial yeast as well as friendly ‘probiotic’ bacteria found in yogurt. The naturally occurring bacteria and yeast in kefir combine symbiotically to give superior health benefits when consumed regularly. It is loaded with valuable vitamins and minerals and contains easily digestible complete proteins.

For the lactose intolerant, kefir’s abundance of beneficial yeast and bacteria provide lactase, an enzyme which consumes most of the lactose left after the culturing process.

How is Kefir Made?

Kefir can be made from any type of milk, cow, goat or sheep, coconut, rice or soy. Although it is slightly mucous forming, the mucous has a “clean” quality to it that creates ideal conditions in the digestive tract for the colonization of friendly bacteria.

Kefir is made from gelatinous white or yellow particles called “grains.” This makes kefir unique, as no other milk culture forms grains. These grains contain the bacteria/yeast mixture clumped together with casein (milk proteins) and complex sugars. They look like pieces of coral or small clumps of cauliflower and range from the size of a grain of wheat to that of a hazelnut. Some of the grains have been known to grow in large flat sheets that can be big enough to cover your hand!. The grains ferment the milk, incorporating their friendly organisms to create the cultured product. The grains are then removed with a strainer before consumption of the kefir and added to a new batch of milk.

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