It is considered one of the healthiest foods of the 21st century. Milk kefir is a probiotic drink that contains many bioactive compounds, but does it really need to be consumed on a daily basis?
These probiotics, like lactic acid bacteria, are able to help boost immune function and fight harmful microbes and carcinogens; In addition, they are often considered key to improving many digestive problems. If we still doubt whether we should drink milk kefir, then we will find out everything about this drink.
Milk kefir originated in parts of Eastern Europe and Southwest Asia. The name is derived from the Turkish word keyif, which means “to feel good” after eating.
Kefir is a fermented beverage, traditionally made from cow’s or goat’s milk. It is made by adding kefir grains to milk. These are not cereal grains, but grain-like colonies of yeast and lactic acid bacteria that resemble cauliflower in appearance.
For about 24 hours, the microorganisms in the kefir grains multiply and ferment the sugars in the milk, turning it into milk kefir. The grains are then removed from the liquid and can be used again to create more quantity. You could say that kefir is the drink, but the grains are the starter culture used to make the drink.
Lactic acid bacteria in the grains convert the lactose in milk into lactic acid, so kefir tastes tart like yogurt, but has a runnier consistency.
A 175 ml serving of low-fat milk kefir contains:
- Energy: 100 calories
- Protein: 4 grams
- Carbohydrates: 8 grams
- Fat: 4 grams
- Calcium: 10% of the recommended daily amount
- Phosphorus: 15%
- Vitamin B12: 12%
- Riboflavin (B2): 10%
- Magnesium: 3%
It also contains a decent amount of vitamin D. Additionally, kefir has about 100 calories, 7 to 8 grams of carbohydrates, and 3 to 6 grams of fat, depending on the type of milk used.
Kefir also contains a wide variety of bioactive compounds, including organic acids and peptides that contribute to its health benefits. Dairy-free versions of kefir can be made with coconut water, coconut milk, or water. Logically, these will not have the same nutrient profile as dairy-based kefir.
Recommended daily allowance
Most experts recommend consuming one cup a day to maximize the health benefits of this power-packed beverage. Ideally, we will start with a lower dose and slowly increase to the desired amount to assess tolerance and decrease negative side effects.
Please note that milk kefir is made from dairy products and is not suitable for people with a milk allergy or sensitivity to dairy products. Also, although most people with lactose intolerance can tolerate it without any problem, it can cause adverse side effects in other people. If we have negative effects after consuming milk kefir, we will try to change it to fermented drinks made with coconut or water.
Many claim that it can help in weight loss. It can even support weight maintenance due to its high nutrient content. That said, we’ll choose sugar-free versions to get the most benefits with the fewest empty calories.
Kefir was recognized as a potential source of probiotics and molecules with various healthy properties. Eating this food has enormous health benefits.
rich in probiotics
Some microorganisms can have beneficial health effects when ingested. Known as probiotics, these microorganisms can influence health in many ways, aiding digestion, weight management, and mental health.
Yogurt is the most well-known probiotic food in the Western diet, but kefir is actually a much more potent source. Kefir grains contain up to 61 strains of bacteria and yeast, making them a very rich and diverse source of probiotics, although this diversity can vary.
Improves bone health
Osteoporosis is characterized by the deterioration of bone tissue and is a major concern in Western countries. It is especially common among older women and dramatically increases the risk of fractures.
Ensuring adequate calcium intake is one of the most effective ways to improve bone health and slow the progression of osteoporosis. Full-fat milk kefir is not only a great source of calcium, but also vitamin K2, which plays a central role in calcium metabolism. K2 supplementation has been shown to reduce the risk of fractures by up to 81%.
Help with digestive problems
Probiotics like kefir can help restore the balance of beneficial bacteria in your gut. This is why they are highly effective in treating many forms of diarrhea.
Additionally, ample evidence suggests that probiotics and probiotic foods can alleviate many digestive problems. These include irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers caused by H. pylori infection, and many others. For this reason, kefir can be useful if you have problems with digestion.
low in lactose
Dairy products contain a natural sugar called lactose. Many people, especially adults, cannot properly break down and digest lactose. This condition is called lactose intolerance.
Lactic acid bacteria in fermented dairy foods like kefir and yogurt convert lactose to lactic acid, so these foods have much less lactose than milk. They also contain enzymes that can help break down lactose further.
That is why milk kefir is well tolerated by people with lactose intolerance, at least compared to regular milk. Note that it is possible to make 100% lactose-free kefir using coconut water, fruit juice, or another non-dairy beverage.
Differences with yogurt
Kefir and yogurt with fermented milk products. However, they have slightly different properties.
Kefir and yogurt are very similar in that they both consist of milk fermented with beneficial bacteria. They have similar nutritional profiles, are relatively low in fat, and are a source of protein . It’s also possible to make both with dairy-free milk alternatives, and people can use them in foods in a similar way.
Both are typically made with a “live” active yeast starter kit, which is responsible for growing the beneficial bacteria. Unlike yogurt, milk kefir comes solely from mesophilic strains, which are grown at room temperature and do not require any heating.
They have many similarities, but kefir tends to have a higher amount of probiotics and a greater diversity of bacterial strains and yeasts. Once fermented, milk kefir has a tart flavor similar to the taste of Greek yogurt. The intensity of the flavor depends on how long the drink has been fermented: a longer fermentation process generally leads to a stronger, tarter flavor and even produces some carbonation.
Differences with water kefir
Water kefir tends to have a more subtle flavor and lighter texture than milk kefir, and is typically made with sugar water or fruit juice.
Water kefir is made in a similar way to milk and coconut kefir. Like the milk variety, plain water kefir can be flavored at home using healthy additions and is a great, healthy alternative to drinking things like soda or processed fruit juices.
However, water kefir should be used differently than we use milk kefir. We’ll try adding it to smoothies, healthy desserts, oatmeal, salad dressing, or just drink it plain. Since it has a less creamy and less tart texture, it is not the best substitute for dairy products in recipes.
How to use?
People can use kefir in the same way as milk and yogurt. For example, we can drink it cold in a glass, pour it into cereals, oatmeal or muesli, add it to smoothies or eat it with fruit. Kefir can even be used in creamy salad dressings, frozen yogurt, baked goods, and soups. However, keep in mind that heating the kefir will deactivate the live cultures.
It can be a great base for soups and stews that would otherwise call for buttermilk, sour cream, heavy cream, or yogurt. It can also be a good substitute for any ingredient in baked goods, mashed potatoes, soups and more to increase the nutrient content and get all the wonderful benefits of kefir.
We can even use it to make kefir cheese, a type of hard, crumbly cheese that can be sprinkled on top of our favorite dinner dishes.
How to do at home?
If we are not sure about the quality of kefir bought in a supermarket, we can easily make it at home. Keep in mind that kefir grains for dairy and non-dairy beverages are different.
The process to make milk kefir at home is very simple:
- We will put between one or two tablespoons (14 to 28 grams) of kefir grains in a small jar. The more we use, the faster it will grow.
- We will add about two cups (500 ml) of milk, preferably organic or even raw. Milk from grass-fed cows is the healthiest. We will leave 2.5 cm of space at the top of the jar. We can add a bit of whole cream if we want a thicker kefir.
- We will place the lid and leave it between 12 and 36 hours at room temperature.
- Once it starts to look lumpy, it’s ready. After gently filtering the liquid, the original kefir grains remain. Then we can put the beans in a new jar with some milk and the process will start all over again.