There are many benefits to probiotic foods, and kefir is no exception. Kefir benefits range from topical to systemic and can impact the state of your daily life and health dramatically. The following are some of the top kefir benefits around.
1. Boosts Immunity
2. Builds Bone Strength
3. Potentially Fights Cancer
4. Supports Digestion and Combats IBS
5. Improves Allergies
6. Heals Skin
7. Improves Lactose Intolerance Symptoms
Types of Kefir
You’ll be happy to know that even if you cannot tolerate having any dairy, there are types of kefir that are still rich in probiotics and have plenty of healthy kefir benefits but are completely lactose- and dairy-free. There are essentially two main types of kefir, and they differ in multiple ways.
The two types of kefir are milk kefir (made from cow, sheep or goat milk but also from coconut milk) and water kefir (made from sugary water or coconut water, both of which do not contain any dairy).
While the base liquid used in different types of kefirs varies, the process for making kefir is still the same. All kefir is made using kefir “grains,” which are a yeast/bacterial fermentation starter. All types of kefirs are similar to kombucha (another healthy probiotic-rich drink favorite) in that they must have sugar either naturally present or else added in order to allow the healthy bacteria to grow and for the fermentation process to take place.
However, the end result is that both kombucha and kefir are very low in sugar, because the live active yeast essentially “eats” the large majority of the added sugar during the fermenting process.
Milk kefir is most often made from goat’s milk, cow’s milk or sheep’s milk.
When making milk kefir, use goat, cow or sheep milk, but you want to always look for a high-quality organic brand to ensure you get the most kefir benefits and avoid any harmful substances found in conventional dairy.
Once fermented, milk kefir has a tart taste that’s somewhat similar to the taste of Greek yogurt. How strong the taste is depends on how long the kefir fermented; a longer fermenting process usually leads to a stronger, tarter taste and even yields some carbonation, which results from the active yeast.
Milk kefir is not naturally sweet on its own, but other flavors can be added to it in order to boost the flavor and make it more appealing. While some people prefer to have kefir plain, many like to have vanilla- or berry-flavored kefirs, similarly to how you will find yogurts flavored and sold.
Beyond just drinking milk kefir, there are other ways to cleverly use it in recipes. Milk kefir can make a great base for soups and stews that would otherwise call for regular buttermilk, sour cream, heavy cream or yogurt. You can substitute plain or flavored kefir for any of these in ingredients in your favorite recipes for baked goods, mashed potatoes, soups and more in order to boost the nutrient content and get all the wonderful kefir benefits.
Coconut kefir can be made either using coconut milk or coconut water. Coconut milk comes directly from coconuts and is made by blending coconut “meat” (the white, thick part of the inside of a coconut) with water, and then straining the pulp out so only a milky liquid is left.
Coconut water is the clear liquid that’s held inside coconuts naturally, which would come out if you were to crack open the coconut.
Both types of coconut kefirs do not contain any dairy. Coconut water and coconut milk are said to be the perfect base for creating fermented kefir because they naturally have carbohydrates present, including sugars, which are needed to be consumed by the yeast during the fermentation process to create healthy bacteria.
Coconut kefir is made in the same way as milk kefir. It contains live active yeast and bacteria that combine to make a traditional starter culture.
It becomes more tart and also carbonated once fermented, and tends to be sweeter and less strongly flavored than milk kefir.
Both types of coconut kefir still taste like natural coconut and also keep all of the nutritional benefits of unfermented plain coconut milk and water (potassium and electrolytes, for example).
Water kefir tends to have a more subtle taste and a lighter texture than milk kefir, and it’s normally made using sugar water or fruit juice.
Water kefir is made in a similar way as milk and coconut kefirs. Just like milk kefir, plain water kefir can be flavored at home using your own healthy additions and makes a great, healthy alternative to drinking things like soda or processed fruit juice.
You want to use water kefir differently than you use milk kefir. Try adding water kefir to smoothies, healthy desserts, oatmeal, salad dressing, or just drink it plain. Since it has a less creamy texture and is less tart, it’s not the best substitute for dairy products in recipes.
If you’d like to drink water kefir on its own, make sure you buy a kind that’s low in sugar and then consider adding your own fruit or herbs to give it more flavor. Try having water kefir with fresh-squeezed lemon and lime juice, mint, or cucumber to flavor your water kefir naturally, or make a healthy soda alternative by combining water kefir with club soda or seltzer for a virtually sugar-free carbonated drink.
No matter the type of kefir you choose to consume, all types of kefir should be refrigerated, and it’s best to keep them in glass bottles, so that plastic or any BPA that might be present cannot leach into the kefir and offset kefir benefits with harmful toxins.
I use my kefir to make morning smoothies with berries. Strawberry kefir smoothy is my favorite and gives me just what I need after an intense workout at the gym. Unfortunately, I am a klutz and sometimes I get into a hurry in the mornings and then I miss the mark. LOL