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What Is Kefir?
Kefir is a fermented milk beverage made using starter “grains,” which are actually a combination of bacteria and yeast that interact with the milk to make a lightly fermented drink that even lactose intolerant people can drink. It can be made from any type of milk, such as goat, sheep, cow, soy, rice or coconut. It can even be made using coconut water. Scientifically speaking, milk kefir grains contain a complex microbial symbiotic mixture of lactic acid bacteria and yeasts in a polysaccharide–protein matrix.
Kefir has been used for thousands of years in many different cultures around the globe. Derived from the Turkish word keyif, or “feeling good,” kefir comes from the Eastern European Caucasus Mountains. It’s thought that sheep herders accidentally fermented milk in their leather flasks. The potency and powerful effects of the mixture soon spread around the tribes and was later picked up by Russian doctors, who heard of its legendary healing benefits and used it to help treat ailments like tuberculosis in the 19th century.
Highly consumed in the Eastern European countries, it was traditionally made in skin bags and hung above doorways to consistently knock the bag to mix the concoction of milk and kefir grains. Mass production of kefir didn’t begin until the mid-1900s in Russia and produced 1.2 million tons of the fermented product by the late 20th century.
Today, kefir has become a worldwide phenomenon. Sales in the U.S. alone by Lifeway, which accounts for 97 percent all kefir sales in the U.S., reported a growth from $58 million in 2009 to over $130 million in 2014.
However, although this popular probiotic drink is widely available and there are many options for where to buy kefir, it can also be made right from your own kitchen. In fact, there are plenty of recipes out there for how to make kefir grains and interesting ways that you can use them in soups, stews, smoothies, baked goods and more. You can buy your own Milk Kefir Grains in Egypt from The Apothecary Egypt and make your own Kefir in your kitchen forever!
Is kefir really good for you? Besides being associated with a number of powerful health benefits, kefir also contains high levels of vitamin B12, calcium, magnesium, vitamin K2, biotin, folate, enzymes and probiotics. Because kefir does not have a standardized nutrition content, the values can vary based on the cows, cultures and region where it’s produced. Yet even with the range in values, kefir has superior nutrition.
Beneficial bacteria and yeasts may include the following:
- Kluyveromyces marxianus/Candida kefyr
- Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis
- Lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris
- Streptococcus thermophilus
- Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus
- Lactobacillus casei
- Kazachstania unispora
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Bifidobacterium lactis
- Leuconostoc mesenteroides
- Saccaromyces unisporus.