The Wonder of Kefir
By Claudia Jones
Kefir is revered for its health giving properties and has been enjoyed by generations living in the Caucasus region since ancient times. The origin of kefir is steeped in legend; grains of kefir are said to have been a gift from the prophet Mohammed to his people who guarded them fiercely from non-believers for millennia. Kefir grains were considered to be part of a family’s wealth and were protected accordingly. Travelers to this region would occasionally hear mysterious stories about this secret elixir which was able to perform miracles on ill-health. It was not until the end of the nineteenth century that the word about kefir and its health benefits spread beyond the Caucasus region where it had been used to successfully treat tuberculosis, intestinal and chronic diseases.
What is Kefir?
Kefir is a fermented milk drink made by adding fresh milk to original kefir grains. Kefir is a natural antibiotic, high in strains of beneficial bacteria and yeasts, believed to have a greater therapeutic value than yogurt as the bacteria and yeasts are more active and therefore more valuable to the digestion process. Kefir grains are white or yellow jelly like particles ranging in size from a grain of cottage cheese to a cauliflower floret. To make the kefir drink, milk is added to the kefir grains and the mixture is left to ferment until ready, up to 24 hours.
Health Benefits of Kefir
The word kefir in Turkish means ‘feel good ‘and when you know the benefits of milk kefir, its easy to see why.
- Kefir made from milk is a complete protein containing all the essential amino acids. Kefir also contains many minerals including calcium and magnesium. Tryptophan an essential amino acid in kefir combines with the calcium and magnesium to give a tranquilizing effect on the nervous system. The body converts tryptophan into serotonin, helping to alleviate depression and constipation and promoting deep and restful sleep. In addition, kefir is an excellent source of phosphorous, an important mineral in utilizing food for growth, cell maintenance and energy.
- Kefir increases the level of friendly bacteria in the gut by creating a layer of clear mucus in the intestines upon which they can thrive. The beneficial yeast and bacteria restore the pH balance to the intestines making it impossible for unfriendly bacteria and parasites to survive.
- Kefir becomes alkaline-forming once in the body so can help to keep our blood in the slightly alkaline zone, ensuring good health.
- Both vitamins B and K require a certain level of friendly bacteria to be present in the gut before they can be used by the body. By drinking kefir the body is able to produce enough of the bacteria itself and therefore able to use the vitamins effectively.
- Kefir made from cow’s milk is an excellent source of folic acid (essential in the diet of a pregnant woman for the formation of a healthy baby).
- After drinking kefir, food cravings disappear because the body has had all of its nutritional need met.
- Kefir is cooling in the case of any heat related conditions and can be applied externally as well as used internally.
- Kefir is very helpful as part of the healing process from Candida (yeast overgrowth). Once the ‘leaky gut ‘has been repaired, kefir can be taken to rebalance the growth of yeast and friendly bacteria in the intestines.
Kefir has many, many more health benefits, try it for yourself and see…
How can I make my own Kefir?
Kefir can be made easily at home by obtaining some original kefir grains or a kefir starter culture kit.
Once you have some grains or starter culture, all you need is fresh milk, raw, unpasteurized goat’s milk is best if you can get it, otherwise any fresh milk will do. You add the milk to the grains or starter culture and leave at room temperature for up to 24 hours until ready. When the milk congeals and there are patches of separation of curds and whey, the kefir is ready to strain. Pour the mixture into a bowl through a strainer to catch the grains. Do not squeeze the grains. Store the kefir grains in a separate jar in the refrigerator and feed them a little milk regularly to keep them alive. Your kefir is ready to drink. Store the kefir in a refrigerator.
When making kefir it is important to use only plastic, wooden or glass containers and strainers, NO METAL.
The kefir grains multiply when they are fed with milk. You will soon find you have more grains than you know what to do with, so you can give them away to friends or eat them yourself!
Kefir is sour tasting and can have the consistency between liquid and a watery yogurt. You can play with the quantities of kefir grain or starter culture to milk, and with the fermentation times to achieve the consistency and taste that you like best.
Original grains are available from firstname.lastname@example.org and can be shipped worldwide for a nominal fee. Starter culture can be obtained from Body Ecology in the USA www.bodyecology.com .
We serve kefir daily as part of our breakfast buffet to keep guests healthy and experience all its benefits at Samahita Retreat. This simple addition to your diet can change your health forever.
Written by Claudia Jones, Wellness Director of Samahita Wellness, Samahita Retreat
Gates, Donna and Schatz, Linda Body Ecology Diet Recovering your Health and Rebuilding your Immunity , B.E.D. Publications, USA, 1996
http://www.kefir.org Kefir Manual
Jarzembski, Marilyn, Kefir Recipes, http://www.kefirlady.com