Some people swear by the fermented milk drink kefir when it comes to digestion problems and for strengthening the immune system. And they’re right!
Full of nutrients, kefir is exceptionally healthy for us. It tastes a little sour and might remind you of buttermilk. It’s made by fermenting milk with the kefir fungus (which consists of yeast and bacteria) so that the lactose transforms into alcohol as well as lactic acid and carbon dioxide. That’s why kefir is a little bit fizzy and has an alcohol content of 0.3 to 2%.
But why exactly is kefir so healthy?
Kefir has a lot of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, B (1, 3, 9, and 12), D, and K, folic acid, iodine, magnesium, iron, and calcium. It also contains natural probiotics that stimulate the intestinal tract, fight off harmful bacteria, and keep our good gut flora healthy. This, more and more research is demonstrating, is not just important for our digestion but also for immune function. And kefir is better than milk itself and other milk products because, in addition to lactic acid bacteria, it has the yeast, amino acids, and acetic acid bacteria as well — and no lactose.
With this particular combination of nutrients and living organisms, kefir also has the effect of slowing skin cell aging, it regulates blood pressure, and helps against tiredness, nervousness, and sleep disorders. It’s also thought to be helpful for heart, gallbladder, liver, and stomach ailments.
With a lot of protein per calorie, healthy fats, and no sugar, it’s also a great diet aid. Plus, having a healthy intestinal microbiome is essential for a good complexion. You can even make a facial mask with kefir to help clear up your skin (treat yourself to this incredibly cute how-to video).
You can buy kefir in many supermarkets but you can also make it yourself: you just need milk (from a cow, sheep, or goat) and kefir fungi. People have even made lightly-bubbling water with kefir fungi. It has all the same benefits, just no protein.
Put the fungi and your milk into a well-sealed airtight container and let it ferment over two days at room temperature in a dark place. Just be aware that industrial kefir usually contains lactose. If you’re lactose intolerant, check the brand carefully or consider making it yourself.
Take care not to overdo your kefir intake either. Up to four cups per day is fine, but more lactic acid bacteria can actually begin to damage the microbiome. The ideal is about two cups, depending on your weight and diet.
Kefir tastes delicious to some, for others it’s an acquired taste — and worth acquiring as you can tell. But you can also use it in baking and cooking. (Savory wholegrain-kefir pancakes for dinner, anyone? Or kefir salad dressing? Mm.) If you’ve never had this ancient fermented milk drink, time to give it a try!