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The Health Benefits of Kefir Milk

What Is Kefir?

Kefir (pronounced ka-FEER) is said to have originated from the Turkish word "Keif" which means "good feeling" (off to a good start!). It is made similarly to yogurt—by fermenting milk—but instead of only using bacteria for fermentation, both bacteria and yeast are used. The bacteria and yeast create cultures referred to as grains, but this can be deceiving as the "grains" don't contain gluten, so kefir is actually gluten-free. The taste can be a little tart and the consistency of kefir milk makes it drinkable

Kefir can be made from any type of milk: cow, goat, sheep, soy, coconut, rice, or even almond. There are also varieties that are drained of whey making it possible to have a soft spreadable kefir cheese, a hard cheese, or even a spoonable kefir.

Health Benefits of Kefir Milk

Kefir grains contain many strains of bacteria and yeasts, making it a very rich and diverse source of probiotics, the healthy gut bacteria that aids in digestion and boost immunity. There is some emerging evidence that probiotics may also help with skin conditions, like eczema, urinary and vaginal health and cold prevention.

In addition to beneficial bacteria and yeast, kefir contains an abundant amount of tryptophan, one of the essential amino acids well-known for its relaxing effects on the nervous system. Yes. it's the same component that makes you so sleepy after Thanksgiving dinner. It is also a very good source of phosphorous and calcium, both of which are crucial minerals for bone health.

One cup of plain whole milk kefir provides 160 calories, 10 grams protein, 8 grams fat, 5 grams saturated fat, and 300 mg calcium. Plus it provides 35 percent of your daily recommended value of phosphorous. Some, but not all kefir drinks, add vitamin D in the processing, which is important for calcium absorption.

How to Eat Kefir Milk

Milk kefir can simply be enjoyed on its own, or it can be used instead of yogurt or buttermilk in most recipes. It is popular in salad dressings, smoothies, soups, or even baked goods. Swap almond milk for kefir milk in overnight oats, or make the kefir veggie dip from the recipe below.

Kefir Veggie Dip

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups plain kefir
  • 2 tablespoons chives, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons dill, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1/4 lemon, juiced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Strain kefir over a cheesecloth-lined bowl and let set overnight (6 hours minimum). Reserve strained liquid for another use.

2. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.

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