Kefir is used all around the world for centuries. It is actually a fermented milk product produced in the northern Caucasus Mountains, as per a popular belief.
The name “Kefir” has been derived from a Turkish word “keyif” which means a “good feeling” that a person experiences after they have consumed it.
Kefir is considered as a popular eatable in different parts of Asia and Europe for many years. However, its popularity has only recently reached the United States, mainly due to a growing interest in the field of gut health and probiotics.
What is Kefir?
As you are aware that yogurt is actually the fermentation of bacteria in milk, kefir is the combination of these yeast fermentations and bacteria. The combination is also referred to as the “kefir grain”.
Kefir grains are not like the typical grains like rice or wheat and are completely devoid of gluten. These kefir grains are combined with milk and stored in a warm place for the purpose of “culture”. This eventually leads to the production of kefir beverage.
Kefir possesses a tangy and tart flavor with a consistency similar to that of drinkable yogurt. Because it has to pass through the process of fermentation, kefir may seem to be a little carbonated.
A lot of benefits provided by kefir are due to its high probiotic content. These probiotics or the “good bacteria” of your body are living organisms which help in the maintenance of regular bowel movements, treat some digestive problems, and boost immunity.
What are the Types of Kefir?
Kefir is typically made with the help of cow’s milk; however, it can also be prepared from the milk of other animals like goats and sheep. Sometimes, non-dairy milk is also used for its preparation.
Kefir made from the milk of cows is available in different forms like whole milk, low-fat, and non-fat varieties.
At the same time, you may also obtain kefir in plain as well as flavored varieties.
Why should you Consume Kefir?
The consumption of kefir is under research but a lot of its potential benefits have already been discovered.
- Controlling Blood Sugar
In a small study conducted in 2015, scientists compared the effects of using kefir and the fermented milk on blood sugar in people suffering from diabetes.
Participants who used kefir were found to have a lower level of fasting blood glucose as compared to those which consumed fermented milk.
At the same time, the participants using kefir also had a decreased level of hemoglobin A1c value, an agent used to measure the blood sugar level over the period of three months.
- Managing Cholesterol
A study conducted in 2017 measured the changes in the blood cholesterol in women drinking kefir or low-fat milk. The participants were directed to consume either 2 servings of low-fat milk, 4 servings of low-fat milk, or 4 servings of kefir on a daily basis.
After 8 weeks of analysis, it was found that those who were using kefir had a significant decrease in their total cholesterol level. At the same time, the amount of LDL cholesterol or the “bad” cholesterol was also reduced.
The probiotics present in kefir are thought to play a role in how much cholesterol a body absorbs from the food it uses. They may also tend to affect how the body generates, processes, and uses cholesterol.
- Increasing Nutrition
The nutrients present in kefir depend on the type of milk utilized to make it. Generally speaking, it is a great agent to get protein, potassium, and calcium.
Some types of kefir bought from stores even have vitamin D in them.
- Improving Lactose Intolerance
People suffering from lactose intolerance may be able to use kefir without suffering from any symptoms. This is because the bacteria present in kefir are able to break down most of the lactose present in it.
The leading brand of kefir present in the United States has claimed to have 99 percent effectiveness.
A small study conducted in 2003 has indicated that consuming kefir can improve the digestion of lactose over the time. It can even be used to overcome most of the symptoms due to lactose intolerance.
Kefir with added flavor seems to have more adverse symptoms as compared to plain varieties. This is probably due to additives like sugar.
- Improving Stomach Health
Your stomach consists of both good and bad varieties of bacteria. Maintaining a healthy balance between them is important for keeping your stomach fit and fine.
Infections, diseases, and certain medications like antibiotics can upset this perfect balance. Probiotics work similar to the good bacteria that reside in your digestive system naturally. These can also help regain a healthy balance.
Probiotic foods such as kefir have also been found to treat diarrhea due to antibiotics and certain infections. It can also treat peptic ulcers present in both stomach and small intestines according to some evidence.
- Healing the Body
It has been revealed that kefir possesses antifungal and antibacterial properties, although more research is required. This product can be used to treat vaginal infections, gastroenteritis, and infections due to yeast.
A review published in 2016 has reported that kefir can lessen the severity of the symptoms in mice infected with parasites. It can also improve wound healing and slow down the growth of tumors.
- Controlling Weight
A study has reported that the consumption of kefir can reduce body weight as well as the total cholesterol in mice suffering from obesity. However, more research is required to test its effects on human models.
Tips for Making Kefir at Home
If you wish to prepare kefir at home, there are certain tips to keep in mind:
- By exposing metal to kefir grains, you are possibly weakening them. So, avoid making it in metal utensils
- The temperature must be kept below 90 degrees F and a higher temperature can spoil the milk
- Keep the jar with kefir away from direct sunlight
- You may use the strained kefir grains to prepare new batches
- If you notice it separating while being stored, shake it
- To add a fruit flavor to kefir, chop up some fruit and add some of it to the strained kefir. Let it stay for 24 hours and re-strain if required.
How to Use Kefir
You can use kefir in ways similar to those you use for yogurt and milk.
It can be consumed as a beverage, poured over oats or cereals, or used in smoothies as a blending liquid. You can also use kefir in baked goods, dips, soups, or salad dressings even though the heat may considerably reduce its concentration of probiotics.
Risks of Using Kefir
Kefir is generally safe to use but you must consider a few factors before making it a permanent part of your diet.
People who are lactose intolerant may be able to consume it without developing any symptoms. Those with a milk allergy should, however, not consume kefir produced using dairy milk as it may initiate an allergic reaction.
Because kefir is made using milk, it may have some sugar in it. The pre-packaged flavored kefirs can have sugar in even higher concentrations. Therefore, people with diabetes must be careful enough while reading the label and must stick to plain varieties that do not have sugar.