Kefir is milk fermented by a whole range of live microorganisms which may be good for your gut health. We have started making our own kefir and cannot recommend it highly enough. Each day I make a fresh fruit smoothie and top it up with about 200ml of kefir which tastes delicious.
How can I describe it?
Keffir is more pourable than yogurt and it tastes less sour. It is rather like a mild tasting, drinkable yogurt. The great thing about combining it with fruit is it offsets some of the sweetness. It is also really lovely as a drink on its own.
Kefir is very light and fresh tasting and I think it would go really well with cucumber, dill, fennel and salmon. So I will be trying this out soon.
So why is it good for the gut?
The BBC programme, ‘Trust Me, I’m A Doctor‘ set up a small experiment using 30 volunteers. The volunteers were split into three groups and over four weeks tried a different food claimed to boost ‘good’ gut bacteria.
- One group tried an off-the-shelf probiotic drink found in most supermarkets. These drinks usually contain one or two species of bacteria that can survive the acid in the stomach and reach the colon.
- A second group tried kefir which contains a diverse mix of bacteria and yeast.
- The third group ate foods rich in a prebiotic fibre called inulin such as erusalem artichokes, chicory root, onions, garlic and leeks.
The results were surprising.
In the first group there was non significant change in one bacteria type known to be good for weight management, bacteria called Lachnospiraceae. However this change wasn’t statistically significant.
In the other two groups there was a significant change and the biggest change, was in the group consuming kefir.
These volunteers saw a rise in a family of bacteria called Lactobacillales, which are good for overall gut health and that they can help conditions such as traveller’s diarrhoea and lactose intolerance.
“Fermented foods by their very nature are quite acidic and so these microbes have had to evolve in order to cope with these sorts of environments so they’re naturally able to survive in acid,” says Dr Paul Cotter from the Teagasc Research Centre in Cork, who helped with our analysis. “That helps them to get through the stomach in order to then have an influence in the intestine below.”
So this BBC study was just a small study but there are other larger studies which show positive results.
The simplest way to get started with making your own kefir is to buy some Live Kefir grains. I bought mine from The Live Kefir Company and they cost about £5.00 for 5g.
The grains are mixed with milk and left at room temperature for 24 hours to allow the kefir to ferment. The grains are then strained, put into a clean jar, more milk (@300ml) is added to begin the process again.
The strained kefir can be consumed on the same day or put in the fridge to undergo a secondary fermentation for a further 24 hours. The kefir becomes a bit thicker after a secondary fermentation and it has a greater concentration of bacteria.
The great thing about Kefir and the fermentation process is that it is alive and will never really ‘go off’. Kefir will last happily in the fridge for two weeks. Sometimes it might separate a little but just mix it up, or shake it and the kefir will return to a smooth consistency.
Is kefir lactose free
Not quite but nearly. During the fermentation process Kefir grains use the lactose in the milk, this dramatically decreases the lactose content in the Kefir therefore making it safe to drink a small amount for people with lactose intolerance. Most people with lactose intolerance can tolerate a small amount of lactose.
What are the microorganisms in kefir?
Kefir is full of probiotics and includes Lactobacillus Acidophilus, Bifidobacterium Bifidum, Streptococcus Thermophilus, Lactobacillu Delbrueckii Subspbulgarius, Lactobacillus Helveticus, Lactobacillus Kerfiranofaciens, Lactococcus Lactic Acid and Leuconostoc species (source: Live Kefir Company).
So have a go at making kefir yourself. We are really enjoying having it in our kitchen and I will post some kefir recipes over the next few weeks.