We get so many people coming in for nutrition guidance to help with gut health. Chronic constipation, trapped gas, abdominal pain can be caused by a poor diet. More commonly known fermented products such as yogurt are sought after by many folks to help create a healthier gut environment. However, many people have never heard of kefir.
What is kefir?
The word kefir is named after the Turkish word keyif, which means “good feeling.” Kefir is much like yogurt in that it’s fermented from milk, but kefir is fermented from both bacteria and yeast. It has a sour taste much like yogurt, but kefir is much higher in probiotic content.
One of my patients, Lisa, makes her own kefir, and she says it’s super easy. In one of our sessions, we discussed the benefits of incorporating fermented foods in her diet for digestive health. She discussed this with a family friend, and he said that he makes his own at home and would give her some kefir grains to get started.
“Kefir has impacted my health in a variety of ways. In addition to the benefits to my gut, I have also seen an improvement in my hair and nails as well as an overall decrease in the times I have come down with a cold,” says Lisa.
Kefir can be enjoyed the same way you add yogurt to your diet – mixed with fruit, added to a smoothie or even substituted in recipes. Lisa substitutes buttermilk for kefir in her pancakes, and she’s even had a friend use it in a cheesecake recipe. Do keep in mind that the consistency is a thick liquid instead of a yogurt texture.
In order to get started, you must get some kefir grains. They can be purchased at many health food grocers, or even online suppliers including Amazon. Now that you have your kefir grains, it’s time to get started.
What you need:
- Wide mouth mason jars
- Glass collection bowl
- Non-metal mesh strainer
- Stainless steel or wooden spoon
- Kefir grains
- Milk of choice (whole milk best)
1. Place your kefir grains in a clean mason jar and cover with whole milk. You can choose the amount, but the recommendation is typically 1 teaspoon of kefir grain to one cup of milk. Cover the jar with the top, and let them sit in a dark location between 68-85 degrees 24-48 hours.
2. Pour the kefir through a strainer by separating the kefir from the grains. Now that the kefir is separated from the grains, they must be placed in the refrigerator until ready to use.
3. Take your strained kefir grains and repeat process every 24-48 hours depending on how fast kefir is growing and desired taste.
Kefir grains do not like metal or plastic, so the types of equipment recommended above is best. Kefir will not ferment in temperatures under 68 degrees and it will spoil at temperatures above 90 degrees. Lisa says, “kefir grains will let you know if they are happy and healthy. In the right environment (temperature, location, amount of milk), the grains will multiply, and your kefir will be creamy and abundant.”
Once you’ve have your homemade kefir, the skies the limit! I’m one of the few people that like to drink it plain, but like Lisa says, you can blenderize some fruit with it to make it more palatable. My daughter, Hannah, loves it with her smoothies. She will mix ½ cup of milk with ½ cup of kefir plus 1 cup of mixed banana, mixed berries and handful of ice for a refreshing beverage after her tumble training for cheer.
If you or a loved one struggles with digestive health, one of our registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) can help! Like Lisa, we spend time customizing food therapy ideas that are specific to your health and lifestyle. Insurance is often covered for your visit with an RDN, so give us a call at 800-422-8070 to make an appointment in any of our three Texas locations or a telehealth session.