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Is Kefir the New Yogurt?

milk-yogurt-kefir

You’ve probably heard by now that the cultures and probiotics in yogurt are great for digestion. But did you know that there is an even better way to get those good bacteria? Kefir, yogurt’s lesser-known cousin, is a milk culture made by fermenting milk. The fermentation process creates enzymes and chemicals that aid in digestion. Kefir “grains” – which are actually not grains but rather yeast and bacteria that cling to milk proteins and complex sugars. Kefir comes frozen, in drink form and in a yogurt-like consistency to be eaten with a spoon. It can be used in everything from cake recipes to pancake mix to Kefir smoothies!

Where did Kefir come from?

Originally eaten by tribes in the northern Caucasus Mountains, Kefir used to be a well-kept secret. The grains were even considered part of a family’s wealth and were passed on from generation to generation. They were believed to have divine healing powers. The health benefits of kefir were first studied scientifically at the end of the 19th century.

What are the health benefits of kefir?

Divine or not, the health benefits of kefir can’t be ignored. Kefir incubates for longer than yogurt, which is why it has more probiotics. Probiotics aid the digestion process and ease symptoms of gastrointestinal disorders. Kefir is a dairy product, but it actually soothes the stomachs of the lactose intolerant because it helps break down the sugars in milk. It is also helpful for people suffering from other digestive issues such as celiac disease. Kefir has also been shown to boost immunity, reduce inflammation and reduce the risk of cancer.

How do you make Kefir?

Kefir isn’t a big secret any longer – you can make it yourself at home! You can get your hands on live kefir grains by ordering them online or purchasing a packet of them at the store. Live grains tend to last longer and be stronger than their store-bought alternative. We like this easy recipe for blueberry kefir from Food Loves Writing, where you can also read more about the process!

Homemade Kefir

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons live kefir grains
  • 1 quart of milk

Add the kefir grains to the milk and let it ferment at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. Give the mixture a gentle stir with a wooden spoon and strain out the kefir grains. The leftover grains can be used over and over again for your next batches!

- Emma Stratigos

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