Kefir is a fermented dairy food that contains probiotics (live bacteria) and compounds called kefiran which may help ward off infections and viruses. The lactic acid bacteria found in kefir (lactobacillus) are known to help with gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). These bacteria pre-digest the lactose in kefir which makes it ideal for those with lactose intolerance. Kefir also has potent antibacterial properties. Lactobacillus kefiri can inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria such as Salmonella, H. pylori and E. coli. Kefir is also a good source of calcium, vitamin D and vitamin K2 which improve bone health. One serving of kefir can contain approximately 2 billion active cultures. This is double what you would get in a probiotic yogurt or drinkable yogurt. Kefir is also a source of magnesium, riboflavin, folate and B12.
Depending on the brand, 1 cup of plain kefir contains 100 calories, 6-8 grams of protein, 2.5-6g of fat depending on the milk used and 10-12g of carboydrates. If it is flavoured this can add 10-15g of sugar and 50+ calories.
Difference between buttermilk and kefir: Traditionally buttermilk was the milk leftover after churning butter. Now you can find commercially made buttermilk produce by adding lactic acid bacteria and fermenting it, called cultured buttermilk. Cultured buttermilk contains much less bacteria than kefir. Kefir can often be made with yeast and lactic acid bacteria giving it an effervescent taste.
Kefir comes in plain as well as flavoured such as vanilla and strawberry. It’s important to note that the sugar in the plain kefir is the lactose naturally present in milk.
Some kefir comes in a bottle and others come in plastic containers with a foil seal. If it has a foil seal, look for the container that has a bulging seal. Contrary to our natural instinct to avoid a bulging container, the bulge here is actually a sign of ripe kefir. It is a build-up of carbon dioxide from the bacteria indicating it is properly fermented.
Be sure to store your kefir in the fridge at 4 degrees and eat it before the best before date. Do not freeze or cook at high temperatures as this will kill the bacteria.
Kefir has a tangy fizzy taste. Shake before consuming.
There are many ways to enjoy kefir, some simple ways to get started are in a smoothie, on your breakfast cereal, museli or granola. Stir it into a warm squash soup or use it in a muffin or pancake recipe instead of buttermilk. It can also be used as a salad dressing or as a dip for fresh fruit.