What is Kefir? It’s a nutritious, natural probiotic source that’s effectively made from fermented milk. It’s similar to yoghurt but has more of a drinking-yoghurt consistency. Cows milk or goats milk are traditionally used (coconut milk if you prefer dairy free) and kefir ‘grains’ (cultures of yeast and lactic acid that look like cottage cheese) are added for about 24 hours+. As the cultures multiply in the milk, they ferment the milk sugars into kefir. You then remove the grains and they can be used again repeatedly. As the sugars are broken down it tastes slightly sour but can be mixed with granola or topped with fruit, amongst other things.
Where did it originate? Southwest asia and Eastern europe, kefir comes from Keyif in turkish which means ‘feeling good’.
What are the evidence-based benefits? It is a supply of calcium, B12 and bioactive compounds. Kefir is lower in calories and sugar than many supermarket yoghurt brands (especially the notorious 0% fat pots which contain plenty of sugar – Haribo is fat free!), it is also a more potent probiotic. Depending on the brand it can contain around 30 strains of bacteria making it a diverse microbial source, lactobacillis Kefiri is unique to kefir. Some studies show that this probiotic can help to inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria such as E.Coli
Kefir is great for digestion and some people with IBS have found it can ease their symptoms. I often have an irritable bowel when I am particularly stressed and try to ensure a good intake of natural probiotics such as fermented foods to balance it out. It is also generally well tolerated by people who are lactose intolerant as this is the sugar that is broken down by the cultures. This allows you to get the benefits of milk without as much of the lactose – however there are completely dairy-free versions.
If you buy the cultures you can even try making your own at home but I’ve personally found it to be a bit trickier than it sounds. For a no-fuss and no-mess solution you can buy in store or online. Little Bird Kefir even do home delivery, so you get a fresh batch straight to your doorstep. They are such a lovely little company selling quality, hand-made blends and you can read more about their healthy pancake, smoothie and biscuit recipes on their website.