Kefir (pronounced kee-fer) is a fermented milk drink that is thought to have originated in the Caucasus Mountains in Eastern Europe many centuries ago. It is believed the name comes from a Turkish word ‘keif’ meaning good feeling. The Europeans have been enjoying its creamy texture, refreshingly sour flavour and amazing health benefits ever since.
Kefir grains appear like small cauliflower florets, irregularly shaped, lobed, white to yellowish-white in colour, with a soft, slick but firm texture.
Kefir is enjoyed commonly as a milk drink. It is the product of injecting kefir grains, which are abundant in good bacteria and yeast, into a milk source that is usually cow’s milk.
The kefir grains are kept viable and full of all their benefits by swapping the milk with fresh milk daily. This mixture is stored at room temperature or at 4 degrees Celsius for at least 20 hours.
The bacteria and yeast thrive together in the milk, maturing and generating a number of health-promoting bi-products. The end result is a drink rich of probiotics, amino acids, peptides, vitamins, minerals, and other bio-active compounds, as well as small amounts of ethanol.
The westerners of the world are only just discovering the remarkable health benefits of this muddled mixture of creamy goodness. Although there is a lack of scientific evidence to date, the research that has already been undertaken is promising.
The probiotic properties of kefir are exceptional and promote efficient digestion, metabolism and immune system function.
Kefir’s vitamin and mineral contents are boosters for general health and well-being. The minerals are especially beneficial for promotion of good structure and integrity of the bones.
Some research suggests the bioactive compounds found in kefir work as a resistance against disease, including reducing the size and number of tumour cells in animal studies. This however, is yet to be proven on human subjects.
Take home message: Kefir proves nutritious and can be a health aid when added to your diet. It is yet to be clinically proven to prevent or cure specific health conditions, and should not be classified as a “cure all”.