Nutrition Q & A – Kefir
For this weeks Nutrition Q & A, I received a note from Eren, and she asked…
“I would love to hear your thoughts on kefir, both plain and the tasty sugary stuff!”
What is Kefir
Kefir is a fermented milk product, that’s made by taking milk – cow, goat or sheep, and combining it with beneficial bacteria. Similar to yogurt, it has a slightly sour taste, however it has more beneficial bacteria, which is important for a healthy gut.
Kefir is a fermented milk product? What does that mean?
Fermentation starts the process of breaking down food. When we eat fermented foods, we get healthy bacteria, called probiotics.
Can kefir improve or enhance your health?
One of Kefir’s best attributes is its impact on digestive health.
For example, if you are lactose intolerant like I am, because much of the lactose has been broken down, it’s easier to digest, which means you won’t end up feeling bloated, and gassy…or at least not as much compared to if you were to drink milk.
Also, because the beneficial bacteria in kefir help maintain a healthy balance in our gut, it can help improve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea and constipation.
Kefir may also help boost your immune system, so it is particularly beneficial during the cold and flu season.
Kefir vs Yogurt?
Nutritionally, kefir is high in protein and calcium while it is low in calories. Compared to yogurt (dependent on the brand), 1 serving has the same amount of protein and calories, give or take a couple of grams.
What does kefir look + taste like?
I have to admit, this was my first time trying kefir.
First, I tasted the Liberty natural, organic one. It didn’t have the effervescent effect I was expecting, which most articles I came across in my research highlighted. Liberty brand even referred to kefir as the “champagne of probiotic milk beverages”, so needless to say my expectations were quite high with respect to “fizz”.
It was however quite tangy, which I had expected. It wasn’t as thick as yogurt, but was the perfect consistency for a smoothie.
If you aren’t a fan of tart flavored beverages, you could add a little honey or banana. Then, the sweetness from fruit or honey would balance nicely with the tanginess from the kefir.
Next, I tried strawberry flavored kefir.
Natural kefir vs sweetened
This tasted just like yogurt, and didn’t seem sour at all. Also, again there weren’t any bubbles. The downside however – 29 g sugar; and 21 g of this is added sugar. What does that equal in teaspoons…?
5 tsp of sugar per cup of strawberry kefir!
Can you cook with kefir
Unfortunately it shouldn’t be cooked, if you want to get the beneficial bacteria, because the heat will destroy them.
What would I recommend?
If you haven’t yet tried kefir, but have been thinking you might like to, go for the plain organic one. Taste it first as it is to see if you enjoy the flavor. If you like it as is – wonderful!
If it’s a bit tart for your taste buds, try mixing in a little coconut or add 1 teaspoon of honey or low sugar preserves, or of course, fresh or frozen fruit.
For simplicity’s sake, I’m a fan of ripe bananas, as they can be mashed easily and quickly with a fork, which is key when my son is suddenly yelling for a snack!
More ways to use Kefir
At the end of cooking a spicy dish such as curry, drizzle some kefir on top. I’ve seen Jamie Oliver do this many times with yogurt, so why not kefir! It’s an easy way to get the healthy bacteria, and gives you more options than only drinking it.
Other places to use kefir…
• Drizzle a few tablespoons into a bowl of soup
• Homemade Salad dressing (use kefir instead of mayo or yogurt)
Have you had kefir? If yes, do you mix it with something else or drink it straight?
One more thing…I used Liberte brand kefir but there are a few different brands on the shelf, so try out a few different brands to figure out which one you enjoy best!