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KEFIR: AN ANCIENT BEVERAGE
FOR YOUR WELLBEING

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THE STORY AND BENEFITS BEHIND KEFIR, AN INGREDIENT THAT IS EASY TO PRODUCE. MADE WITH GRAINS OF BACTERIA AND YEAST THAT FERMENT WATER OR MILK, TURNING INTO A BEVERAGE THAT CAN BE USED IN MULTIPLE RECIPES AND HERE ARE A FEW TIPS FOR YOU.

Words By Giulia Dattrino

Kefir is an ingredient that should be as common as could be in all four corners of the world. Rich in properties, it is simple to produce at home or acquire in a shop. Its smooth flavour makes it a viable option for various diets. This intriguing ingredient is simply fermented milk. Those who have adapted (or are in the process of adapting) to a vegan diet, can replace the milk-based kefir with water-based kefir.
History

The word Kefir comes from the Turkish word Keif, which means well-being. It was first made in the Caucasus many centuries ago, however, its benefits were largely unknown. In recent year, this ingredient caught an increasing amount of attention for its beneficial effects.

This type of fermented milk was initially created unintentionally by shepherds, who would carry their milk in leather pouches for extended periods of time leading to the fermentation process. Kefir was not only a healthy ingredient in the Caucasian diet but was considered a gift from Muhammad, the prophet of God in many Islam branches. Reportedly he gave instructions on how to manipulate the fermented drink, telling his listeners to refrain from sharing this secret with anyone, as it would lead to a loss of its magical properties. This could be a possible explanation of why this ingredient has remained obscure for such a long time.

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Milk Kefir

The milk version of this ingredient was the first one created and the only one known for centuries. Its unique composition is possible thanks to a double fermentation process that occurs in the milk with the usage of bacteria and yeasts, creating the kefir grains.

The ingredient gets its special virtues from the processes of fermentation, which eliminates all the sugar from the beverage. This enriches it with a slightly sour taste and lighter texture.

The whole fermentation process leads to an ingredient which resembles yogurt, but more nutritious and bitter. Kefir can be made with any type of milk, from plant-based to animal. Interestingly, the lactose is all lost during the fermentation process which makes it a lactose-free product.

Water Kefir

The water Kefir is a probiotic drink which is also made with a double fermentation process that results in sparkling water. This version is a more modern version of the milk kefir, first produced in the 19th century. It is a fermented and carbonated beverage produced by the mixture of water with sugar and kefir grains (grains made in the double fermentation process, with bacteria and yeast.

It is an excellent option for those following a vegan or dairy-free diet, since unlike the traditional kefir, this version is water-based.

Benefits

Kefir is a source of an enormous amount of nutrients, being a rich source of calcium, protein, and vitamins Bs, like B12 and B2. Kefir is also quite healthy, as it contains a minimal amount of sugar. It is an astonishing ingredient for boosting digestion being a stronger probiotic than yogurt. Being rich in vitamin K2 and calcium, Kefir can improve bone health by preventing bone-related diseases, which become more common the older you get. Kefir is also great for people suffering from lactose intolerance since it is a food that is low in lactose as most of the milk sugar is fermented. It is also excellent as an anti-inflammatory medicine, working wonders for those who suffer from allergies and asthma. Kefir facilitates weight loss, since it is low in calories, and especially when in the water version. 

Last but definitely not least, recent studies indicate that Kefir might prevent cancer as it helps to reduce tumor growth.

How to make your own Kefir

Both types of Kefirs can be found in supermarkets. The most common one is the milk version in yoghurt format. However, it is quite simple to cultivate your own and it is more sustainable since you will not produce any waste. Another remarkable characteristic of the kefir is that the kefir grains (that can be found in supermarkets or in natural food stores) can be used multiple times.

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Water Kefir

1 liter of water;

1 tablespoon of brown sugar;

2 tablespoon of water kefir grains.

Mix all the ingredients, put them in a bottle and seal them. Leave it to ferment for 24 to 48 hours. Leach all the grains and put the water back in the recipient and it is ready to be consumed. In case more kefir is needed, just repeat the same process.

The best way to take water kefir is in beverage form as a juice or infused water. As it is water-based, mixed with any fruit it will give the texture of a juice, making it ideal for hotter days. Recipes to make with Water Kefir:

Coconut water Kefir

1 liter of coconut water;

1 tablespoon of brown sugar;

2 tablespoons of water kefir grains.

Same procedure as with the water kefir.

For the following recipes, just mix the ingredients, put them in a bottle and seal them. Leave the mixture in the fridge for 24 to 48 hours, so it can ferment.

“Soda” with water Kefir

1 liter of water Kefir;

3 teaspoons of Vanilla extract.

Aromatic fresh berry water with Kefir water

1 liter of water Kefir;

A cup of berries.

Milk Kefir

1 liter of whole milk;

2-4 tablespoons of milk kefir grains.

Mix both ingredients, put them in a glass container and seal them (with a cloth and an elastic), leave the mixture for 24 to 48 hours. The hotter the ambient temperature, the less time is needed. Leach all the grains and put the milk back in the recipient and it is ready to be consumed. In case more kefir is needed, just repeat the same process.

As its texture is like yogurt, replacing the traditional yogurt with kefir milk could be a great option. Here are some ideas:

 Summer detox smoothie

1 banana;

2 tablespoons of berries;

1 teaspoon of ginger;

½ cup of kale (optional);

150 ml of milk Kefir;

½ cup of ice (optional).

Blend everything and serve cold.

 Pancakes

1 cup of Kefir yogurt;

1 cup of flour;

1 egg;

1 teaspoon of any type of oil (in case the frying pan is not non-stick).

Blend all the ingredients, but the oil. Put the oil in the frying pan and cook it as a normal pancake.

Kefir is an excellent ingredient to be easily implemented in any diet, with a significant amount of health benefits. Its very basic milk taste provides an easy alternative to milk, and water kefir is the perfect base for light drinks. To connect yourself even more with this ancient process, we recommend you to make your own kefir beverage at home.