You know those days when you’re super stoked on life and can’t help but skip down the street and say hello to everyone along the way?
Where you just look up at the sky and giggle.
Or when you wave to the driver who cut you off (when usually you’d be so disturbed that you’d curse them off the road).
Well quite a few years ago, I was having one of those days…
I woke up early, went on a glorious/extra long run, made an incredible breakfast for friends and got a ton of work done.
On those kind of days, I literally feel like I can conquer the world – do anything!
And any adventure that falls in my path will most certainly be pursued!
Towards the end of this particular day, after I frolicked around town talking to strangers and driving down random dirt roads I hadn’t seen before, I stumbled into the grocery store to get food for the week.
But I strayed from my usual grocery store routine.
I started browsing the aisles and exploring items I had never looked at.
I threw things into my cart that I had always wanted to try because I had heard something about them once. Although at that moment I couldn’t remember what I had heard about them and why I thought they may be good for you!
Then I stumbled on Kefir. Kefir…
All the rage in the health community, but for some reason I couldn’t remember why!
Either way, this was my adventure day! So I threw a bottle into my cart.
I knew I was going to get an earful when the checker grabbed the bottle and inspected it with a disgruntled look. She tried in vain to pronounce the name and then asked, “What is this for?!”
“What is this for?!” She said with such aversion.
Well its… its…
“To be honest, I have no idea why I am purchasing Kefir”, I said with a giggle. (I think I was the only person in that grocery store having this kind of day.)
As soon as I got home, I immediately hoped on my laptop to start researching.
Hmmm… what did I just buy?!
Kefir? I mean fermented milk?! As in milk you leave on your counter and do not refrigerate for 24 hours?
I have to admit, the concept was hard for me to wrap my brain around.
I wanted to understand why something that seemed so unappetizing could be so popular and beneficial!
All I could find were articles listing the health benefits of this “magic food”.
Not only that, but people were literally raving about how great Kefir tastes! I mean it wouldn’t have gotten to be this popular unless it tasted half way decent – right?
I decided to stop being so closed minded, and poured myself a glass.
And here we go… below is my guide to Kefir. Why it is so good for you, where to purchase it, and some of my favorite ways to eat it!
Kefir Guide for Beginners!
This Kefir Guide for Beginners is the most comprehensive guide available to help you start your new journey with kefir! If you are looking for something specific within the article please select in the table of content below:
Kefir is known to have countless benefits, and believe it or not, it actually tastes pretty dang good!
I created this kefir guide for beginners to make the process as easy as possible for those of you who are interested 🙂
Do you like the taste of yogurt?
In my opinion they taste very similar, although kefir is a thinner/drinkable substance.
You can dress it up anyway you like (some of my favorites are listed below)!
And BTW it’s a healthy way to jumpstart your metabolism in the AM for the day.
What is Kefir?
So what the heck is Kefir?!
Kefir is fermented milk that looks and tastes similar to yogurt.
The fermentation is achieved by pouring milk over kefir grains and leaving this concoction unrefrigerated for several hours.
Although yogurt is also a fermented dairy product, the health benefits are very different primarily because kefir is fermented in kefir grains.
Kefir grains are essentially a cluster of yeast and bacteria used to make the kefir drink.
“The grains are a soft gelatinous biological mass, comprised of protein, lipids and a soluble-polsaccharide, the kefiran complex, that surrounds yeast and bacteria in the kefir grain”(source).
The most interesting fact about it? Kefir has actually been used and respected for its healing powers for centuries!
The word itself is derived from the Turkish word “keif” meaning good feeling.
It has been a coveted part of the Caucasian mountain culture for years.
The Muslims there believe the kefir grains are “gifts from Allah”. The grains are passed from generation to generation, as they are seen in their culture as a symbol of family wealth (source).
I find this statement by Dr. Perricone to be so true…
“Most ancient foods have survived for a reason—they continue to be instrumental to the survival of our species. Fermented and cultured foods may well represent our first experience with what researchers now call ‘functional” foods—foods that actively promote optimal health'” (source).
Kefir Health Benefits
Kefir health benefits are countless, which is why many doctors have started to list kefir and other fermented dairy products (yogurt) as a top superfood!
Kefir is one of the most probiotic rich foods and contains countless medicinal benefits for healing issues such as leaky gut (source).
In fact, kefir is a more potent probiotic than yogurt!
Probiotics are “good” bacterias that help to keep our guts healthy (source). Doctors often suggest the use of probiotics for people who have digestive issues.
More research still needs to be done, but probiotics (since they are the “good” bacteria) are said to balance the good and bad bacterias in our guts.
They are great to take after an antibiotic course, as taking antibiotics makes you loose bacteria (both good and bad). Taking probiotics after antibiotics help to build back the good bacteria in our bodies.
Probiotics are said to reduce the amount of bad bacteria in our systems, which is huge because bad bacteria can cause infections and additional problems (source).
It is important to keep the good bacteria in your digestive tract live and well because 75% of our immune system is housed in our digestive system (source).
Therefore: A Healthy Gut = A Healthy Life!
On top of being a huge source for probiotics, Kefir embodies many additional benefits including:
Boosts your immune system: Kefir adds good bacteria to our bodies while reducing the amount of bad bacteria.
Great source of calcium and helps to lower the risk of osteoporosis: “Kefir made from full-fat dairy is not only a great source of calcium, but also vitamin K2. This nutrient plays a central role in calcium metabolism, and supplementing with it has been shown to reduce the risk of fractures by as much as 81 percent” (source).
May help the fight against cancer: A study conducted in test tubes compared the tumor reducing effects of Kefir, yogurt and pasteurized cow’s milk. It found that Kefir was able to reduce the size of MCF-7 cell (cancer cells found in the breast) numbers by 56% (while yogurt was only able to reduce the same cells by 14%)! “The present findings suggest that kefir extracts contain constituents that specifically inhibit the growth of human breast cancer cells, which might eventually be useful in the prevention or treatment of breast cancer” (source).
May improve lactose digestion: You heard me right, consuming milk kefir may improve lactose digestion in those who have a lactose intolerance. In a study conducted, 15 healthy adults with lactose maldigestion were separated into groups and either fed cow’s milk, plain/flavored yogurt, or plain/flavored kefir. To sum it up, “kefir improved lactose digestion and tolerance in this study, its use may be another potential strategy for overcoming lactose intolerance. Further studies of other types of kefir for improving lactose digestion are warranted” (source).
(If you have a lactose intolerance check out the different types of Kefir below!)
Types of Kefir
Believe it or not, there are many types of Kefir. This article primarily focuses on Milk Kefir, however check out the pro’s and con’s of each below so you can find which is best for you.
milk kefir – store bought
Store bought milk kefir is a great introduction to trying kefir!
It is easy, and comes in many flavors. I tend to stick to the “plain” flavor, as some flavorings have added refined sugars that you just don’t need. If you buy the plain flavor you can add sweeteners such as agave or honey to sweeten it up!
You can add anything you want to plain kefir such as honey, nuts, herbs, veggies, fruit, and even chocolate chips!
Water Kefir is another great option for those that are dairy free.
It is made using the same process as milk kefir, and can sometimes be purchased in the store.
This can be done with either coconut water, sugar water or fruit juice. The natural sugar in these drinks is needed by the yeast during the fermentation process to create healthy bacterias (source).
Water kefir tends to be more subtle in flavor and is a good starting point for new kefir drinkers!
Making kefir is actually incredibly easy.
I understand that purchasing the kefir grains can be a bit of an investment (typically around $42 for the grains and starter kit). But in all actuality, you will save money!
Kefir is a reusable culture, and if the grains are taken care of properly, they can last you a lifetime.
Check out this video to learn more:
Store bought kefir can sometimes have added sugars to flavor it. If you make kefir at home you can control the type of sugar added to your kefir and the quantity you make!
An additional benefit to making kefir at home?? You can make it with whatever kind of milk you choose! Coconut, almond and rice milk are great alternatives for the dairy free.
Where to Buy Kefir
If you want to start off with store bought kefir (or if you only want to drink store bought kefir) here are a few options. Also keep in mind these can typically be purchased at your local grocery store:
- Lifeway Probiotic Low Fat Plain Kefir
- Lifeway Probiotic Low Fat Vanilla Kefir
- Lifeway Probiotic Low Fat Strawberry Banana Kefir
Now that I make my own kefir from home, I will never go back to store bought kefir. I started off with this starter kit and am so happy with it!
The same company also makes a water kefir kit which I have yet to try.
Yes, you can just drink a glass of kefir in the morning. But how boring right?! There are many kefir recipes out there, here are a few of my favorites:
- If I am in a rush, I typically cover my kefir with fresh fruit, sliced nuts and a drizzle of manuka honey (I buy this one).
- Kefir Chai, is an absolutely delicious and caffeinated way to start the day! I add agave nectar (I buy this one), cinnamon, and grated ginger for a little extra zest!.
- Kefir dessert is a great way to curve a sweet tooth (hopefully yours isn’t as bad as mine!) I like to cut grapefruit into small chunks and cover the kefir/grapefruit with mini dark chocolate chip (I buy these).
- Pumpkin sweet potato soup with kefir is a delicious soup for the fall, plus you can’t even tell there is kefir in there!
- Kefir is great to incorporate into dips and appetizers such as this sun dried basil and tomato dip
How do you like to eat/drink kefir? What kind of kefir is your favorite? Leave a comment below so we can try your recipe!