Snack Hack # 10 – Kefir – Fermented food for your gut

Welcome back to the What Supp Blog’s snack hack series. These are a simple collection of actionable tips, tricks and hacks to get the most out of your biological make up.

Today’s subject matter is a tasty one, Kefir. Kefir is one of those products that’s slowly making its way into the mainstream. This is for good reason as it holds some real health benefits and can be made simply at home as well as purchased from your local health food provider.

Kefir is a fermented milk product that comes from the Caucasus Mountains in Eastern Europe. It is popular Eastern Europe, Russia and Southwest Asia. The drink itself is the result of the milk being cultured from kefir “grains.” These are not grains in the conventional sense, (fear not paleo and gluten free enthusiasts), but gelatinous white or yellow particles that are actually living cultures, formed from yeast and lactic acid bacteria. They look like pieces of coral or small clumps of cauliflower and range from the size of a grain of wheat to that of a hazelnut.

The fact kefir colonizes as it does is unique, as no other milk culture forms grains. These grains contain the bacteria/yeast mixture clumped together with casein (milk proteins) and complex sugars. The grains metabolize the nutrients in the milk – the lactose and some fatty acids – and in-turn produce carbon dioxide, lactic acid, and small amounts of a host of other compounds, including ethanol. These benign microorganisms out-compete and actually fend-off pathogenic bacteria, thus preserving the milk without refrigeration.  

The kefir grains ferment the milk, incorporating their friendly organisms to create the cultured product. The grains are then removed with a strainer before consumption of the kefir and added to a new batch of milk. Kefir can be made from any type of milk, cow, goat or sheep, coconut, rice or soy. Although it is slightly mucous forming, the mucous has a “clean” quality to it that creates ideal conditions in the digestive tract for the colonization of friendly bacteria.

For the lactose intolerant, kefir’s abundance of beneficial yeast and bacteria provide lactase, an enzyme that consumes most of the lactose left after the culturing process. Some lactose may remain in trace form however so do proceed with some caution.

Health

Ok, so we’ve looked at what Kefir is and how it is formed. This still however begs the question, why supplement Kefir into your diet? Kefir is unique due to it containing both bacteria and yeast, and because the grains are re-used again and again with each new batch. This process only adds to the health improving potency of it. This is unlike similar dairy products such as yogurt, which only contains bacteria.  

Similar to other fermented foods, kefir is considered to be both a probiotic and prebiotic. Probiotics are microorganisms that can help with digestion and may offer protection from harmful bacteria. Prebiotics are carbohydrates that probiotics use as fuel. Kefir has both of these in abundance as well as containing calcium, protein and B-vitamins. Kefir also contains about 30 different microorganisms, making it a much more potent source of probiotics than other fermented dairy products.

I wont go on and on to much about probiotics and prebiotics in this post but will highlight that they are essential to gut health. Gut health in turn as been evidenced to have a direct link with everything from energy levels and immune system to hormone functioning and mental health. You can read more about them and where to get them in this post;  https://whatsuppblogblog.com/2017/04/27/snack-hacks-5-prebiotics-vs-probiotics/)

As previously mentioned, the grains for kefir can be purchased and it can be cultured at home. Should you choose to do so, here’s a quick how too;

(Note; if grains are new and not activated, either follow instructions with grains or see instructions here; https://www.culturesforhealth.com/media/docs/Milk_Kefir_Instructions.pdf)

Method

1. Transfer the active kefir grains into up to 4 cups of fresh milk.

2. Cover with a coffee filter or butter muslin secured by a rubber band or jar ring.

3. Place in a warm spot, 68°-85°F, to culture.

4. Culture until milk is slightly thickened and aroma is pleasant. This generally takes 24 hours, but can take less time in warmer temperatures, so keep an eye on your grains.

5. After the milk changes texture and culturing is complete, separate the kefir grains from the finished kefir.

6. Place the kefir grains in a new batch of milk. Store the finished kefir in the refrigerator.

Be aware that double fermentation, the sieving of the kefir drink produced from the grains and then left to ferment alone again for 24 hours, can further reduce lactose and increase both b vitamins and probiotics further. 

Thank you for joining me once again. I hope this post has been informative and as ever, if you’ve enjoyed, please leave a comment and share. Till next time.  

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