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The health benefits of kefir and how you can make it yourself

July 21st, 2022  

Kefir is a fermented milk drink rich in probiotic bacteria that can have a positive effect on gut health and gut flora. In this article, we will discuss the health benefits of kefir and show you how to make it yourself at home. We also go into who should better not drink kefir and who can benefit from it. Finally, we compare different types of kefir and help you choose the best kefir for you. Of course, we also have a summery kefir recipe for you.

What is kefir and what are the health benefits of the milk drink?

Kefir is a fermented milk drink that has been around for centuries. The word kefir comes from the Turkish word “keyif”, which means “good feeling”. Kefir is made by adding kefir tubers to milk and letting them ferment for 24-48 hours. Kefir nodules are a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast that look like small white balls and are also called “SCOBY” (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts). The nodules contain up to 120 strains of lactobacilli. (1)

When kefir ferments, the bacteria and yeasts in the kefir tubers eat most of the lactose in the milk, making it easier to digest for people with lactose intolerance. Kefir is also rich in probiotic bacteria, which are good for your gut health. The lactobacilli it contains have been shown to improve digestion, can support the immune system and reduce inflammation in the gut. (2)

Which bacteria are found in kefir?

The microbial community of kefir comprises a complex mixture of lactic acid bacteria (Leuconostoc, Lactobacillus, Streptococcus, Lactococcus, Enterobacter, Acinetobacter, Enterococcus and Pseudomonas spp.), acetic acid bacteria and yeasts (Kluyveromyces, Candida, Saccharomyces, Rhodotorula and Zygosaccha-romyces). (3)

Studies based on the sequencing of 16S ribosomal RNA genes in kefir grains and milk have shown that kefir grains typically have one (Lactobacillus) or two (Lactobacillus and Acetobacter) dominant bacterial genera. The most common Lactobacillus species are L. kefiranofaciens, L. kefiri and L. parakefiri. (4)

In addition, yeasts play an important role in creating an environment that allows kefir bacteria to grow. The yeasts also produce various metabolic products such as peptides, amino acids, vitamins, ethanol and CO2, which contribute to the taste and flavour of kefir. (5)

What are the differences in the production of kefir?

There are several ways to make kefir. The most common, as already mentioned, is to put the kefir grains in milk and let it ferment for 24-48 hours. But you can also make water kefir by putting the grains in sugar water and letting it ferment for 24-48 hours. Water kefir is a refreshing, dairy-free alternative to milk kefir.

You can also make fruit kefir by adding the grains to juice or pureed fruit and fermenting for 24-48 hours. Fruit kefir is a good way to supplement your diet with probiotics if you are vegan or lactose intolerant.

Milk kefir recipe and production
You can easily make kefir at home with a few simple ingredients.

How can you make kefir yourself?

You can easily make kefir at home with a few simple ingredients. All you need is milk and kefir balls. You can use any kind of milk, but whole or fresh milk will give you the best taste. You can also use raw milk to get even more probitic bacteria in your kefir.

To make the kefir, simply add the tubers to the milk and let them ferment for 24-48 hours at room temperature. The longer you leave the kefir, the more tart and sour it will taste. Once the kefir is ready, strain the grains and enjoy your homemade kefir.

Raw milk kefir: Kefir with raw milk

If you can find raw milk, kefir made from raw milk is a healthy option with even more probiotic bacteria. Raw milk kefirs are richer and creamier than regular kefirs. They also contain more probiotics because the fermentation process is slower.

Instructions: How to make kefir with raw milk

Ingredients:

  • 1 litre milk of your choice (room temperature is best)
  • 3 tablespoons kefir tubers
  • a clean glass jar
  • a sieve
  • a cheesecloth

Preparation: Here’s how to make kefir

Pour the milk into the glass jar and add the kefir grains. Stir well and cover the jar with a cheesecloth. Alternatively, you can also lightly cover it with a blanket. Leave the milk with the kefir grains at room temperature for about 24 hours.

After 24 hours, strain the kefir through a sieve lined with cheesecloth into another glass jar. Cover it and put it in the refrigerator. The kefir will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Where to buy kefir tubers?

You can buy kefir tubers online or in some health food shops. However, it’s best to buy them from a trusted source, such as a friend or family member who has made kefir before. That way you can be sure you’re getting high quality grains that you can use to make delicious and healthy kefir!

How can you use kefir?

Kefir can be used in many ways. You can drink it pure or add it to smoothies, yoghurt or porridge. By the way, kefir can also be used as a skin care product. 

Who should not drink kefir?

If you are lactose intolerant, you should not drink milk kefir. This is because the fermentation process does not completely break down the lactose in the milk. However, some people with lactose intolerance can tolerate small amounts of kefir. If you are unsure whether or not you can drink kefir, it is best to consult a doctor or other therapist.

Water kefir and fruit kefir, on the other hand, are a good alternative for people with lactose intolerance.

When should you drink kefir?

Kefir can be drunk at any time of the day. However, it is best to drink kefir in the morning or afternoon because it is a probiotic-rich food and you want to give your gut bacteria a chance to do their job.

Which kefir is the best?

There are many different brands of kefir on the market. However, not all kefirs are the same. Kefir from the supermarket is usually heavily pasteurised and contains a very low bacterial spectrum. You can recognise it by the name “kefir mild”. So to get the most benefit for your gut flora, you should make your own kefir. 

Some kefirs are also made with fruit juice or pureed fruit. These kefirs usually contain less fat and calories than milk kefirs. However, they also contain less protein and calcium.

Recipe Summer Green Kefir Smoothie
Summer Green Kefir Smoothie

A summer recipe with kefir

For inspiration, we now have a delicious recipe so you can vary your homemade kefir: Summer Green Kefir Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • Mint to taste
  • 1 handful spinach leaves
  • 1 frozen banana
  • juice of half a lime
  • 250g kefir

Instructions:

  1. Put all the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.
  2. If you like, you can sweeten your smoothie with honey.
  3. Enjoy!

Kefir is a delicious and healthy probiotic-rich food that you can enjoy every day. Try incorporating it into your diet and see for yourself how it affects your gut health.

Get in control of your gut health

Our gut (microbiome) affects our overall health and wellbeing. By checking it regularly, you can find out how your gut health is doing and take steps to maintain or optimise your health. With myBioma, you can test from the comfort of your own home and receive personalised nutritional recommendations for your gut microbiome.

Note: This article is intended for informational purposes only and is not meant to be medical advice. The recipes are for inspiration and are not intended as a therapeutic measure. If you have any health problems, we recommend contacting a doctor or other professional immediately.

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References

  1. Marth, E. H., Steele, J. L. (2001). Applied Dairy Microbiology. 2nd edn. Marcel Dekker, New York, 317 pp.
  2. Batt, C. A., Tortorello, M.-L. (2014). Encyclopedia of Food Microbiology. Second Edition, Academic Press, Oxford. 3248 pp
  3. de Oliveira Leite, A. M., Miguel, L., Peixoto, R. S., Rosado, A. S., Silva, J.T., Margaret, V., Paschoalin, F. (2013). Microbiological, technological and therapeutic properties of kefir: A natural probiotic beverage. Brazilian J.Microbiol,, 44, 341–349
  4. Hamet, M. F., Londero, A., Medrano, M., Vercammen, E., Van Hoorde, K., Garrote, G. L., Huys, G., Vandamme, P., Abraham, A. G. (2013). Application of culture-dependent and culture independent methods for the identification of Lactobacillus kefiranofaciens in microbial consortia present in kefir grains. Food Microbiol., 36, 327–334
  5. Irigoyen, A., Arana, I., Castiella, M., Torre, P., Ib, F.C. (2005). Microbiological, physicochemical, and sensory characteristics of kefir during storage. Food Chem., 90, 613–620

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