What exactly is Kefir? It’s a fermented milk drink. It starts out with the Kefir grains that are used to begin the fermentation process. Because this process is different than the process used to ferment yogurt or other milk products, very little lactose remains in the Kefir which is why some folks who can’t tolerate milk are still able to drink Kefir.
It’s a source of probiotics which are “good guy” gut-busting bacteria that help boost our immune system. While yogurt is also good for you, Kefir contains 3 times more probiotics! It’s also a good source of protein, high in Vitamin D and calcium to help us maintain good bone health, and can also help with stomach bloating, gas, cramps and diarrhea. It’s also low calorie and a source for protein.
There are two types of Kefir – milk and water. Water Kefir isn’t thick, but still retains the probiotic values. Water Kefir is made from coconut water or fruit juices, making it a “win win” situation for those who are sensitive to dairy.
Kefir milk has a similar taste to plain yogurt, but thinner and a bit more bitter. You can get it in flavors such as vanilla and strawberry, but check the label – those are usually very high in sugar. You may want to try plain unsweetened Kefir (still contains some sugar) and add it into your smoothie using natural fruits or honey as the sweetener. My favorite Kefir smoothie is a scoop of vanilla low-fat ice cream, a quarter cup of Kefir, half a cup of skim milk, a ripe banana and fresh or frozen strawberries.
Start your day by adding it to your cereal. Cut back slightly on your regular milk and add a tablespoon of Kefir. If you’ve never had it before, go easy on it – it is a strong flavor and a little goes a long way. It also has a fairly long refrigerator life – another plus.
When it comes to healthy gut-busting fermented food/drinks that aid in digestion, Kefir should be right at home among the pickles, sauerkraut and kimchi.