Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Kefir

My friend Lissa asked what kefir is for, so I thought I'd make a post about it, rather than just respond to her.

My husband actually taught me about kefir. He drinks a protein shake every morning with kefir and homemade yogurt. Culturing your milk is much healthier than regular milk, not only for the probiotic benefits, but for the protein content as well. Brent is always trying to get me to eat better, and this is a really easy way to improve your diet. I'm not great at it yet, which is why it's a goal on my 101 list. But I digress. . . .

Kefir is a live-cultured food, much like yogurt or homemade sauerkraut (store-bought sauerkraut has been pasteurized and thus has killed all the living enzymes). I believe you can make non-milk kefir products, but I've only ever done it with milk. The difference between kefir and yogurt is that kefir remains thin and has WAY more strains of culture, resulting in not only a much higher protein content, but a tangier taste (think plain yogurt flavour, but much stronger and a little yeasty) and considerably more healthy intestinal flora.

Brent and I make our own kefir and yogurt rather than buying commercially prepared substitutes. We do it because 1. it's way cheaper and 2. that way you don't get all the extra sugar and whey and preservatives and gunk.

The flavour does take a little getting used to, but I really like it now. When I first started drinking it I could only manage to get it down (like I said, it's REALLY tangy) by putting it in a smoothie with lots of fruit. Now I can just drink it straight if I'm in too much of a hurry to make a smoothie.

So if you have any digestive troubles, I highly recommend drinking kefir, or at the very least taking an encapsulated probiotic supplement. It really helps the IBS that accompanies Fibromyalgia for so many people.

If you're interested in making your own kefir, first you obtain some kefir grains. I think Brent bought our grains freeze-dried over eBay or something. In a glass jar we put the grains and fill the jar with milk. We let it sit over night (or longer in cold weather) until it's a little bubbly and frothy on top. Be careful not to let it go too long, or you will end up with a curds and whey substance which is not very pleasant. Then we strain it, put the grains in a separate container, and put both in the fridge.

Making kefir, like making yogurt, is an ongoing process. You need continually to make it and consume it to keep the grains and strains of bacteria live and healthy. One batch will last about a week in the fridge.

I've had several people tease me or roll their eyes at me for doing this type of thing. I mean, honestly, who makes their own sauerkraut? It is definitely not the mainstream anymore, but when you've been plagued with health problems for years and western medicine and pharmaceuticals are of no help to you, you begin to look elsewhere. And what you'll find is that natural, healthy living is better for your body, better for your budget, and better for the environment. Yeah, it takes a bit more work and I am FAR from where I ought to be in the green and healthy living department, but I'm working on it.

6 comments:

Emily said...

i am in awe of you and your health efforts. and intrigued by your third paragraph. you can make non-milk kefir? like orange crush kefir? turky jerky kefir? butterfinger? i'm telling you, there's a fortune waiting to be made in this untapped market.

We are HamakerLove! said...

Maren, you are so awesome. I never thought about putting homemade kefir in my smoothies. I will put my herbal tea in my smoothies if it is the end of the day and I haven't drinken my quota yet. I have SUPER overactive yeast and need to balance my intestinal flora, but there is something about fermented foods that I have a hard time with. BJ loves miso(he served his mission in Japan). I need to make this one of my goals too.:)

Wendy said...

intriguing. I wonder if this would help Evan's problem.....

Lissa said...

Thanks for explaining. I was wondering if it had to do with the FMS so I googled it after I asked you. Sometimes I forget that all the information in the world is a click away.

I found interesting articles about FMS and RSD (the other pain disorder I have) being Autoimmune disorders. At Stanford they are currently studying low doses of a drug called Naltrexone which boosts the immune system. Contrary to the current theory that autoimmune disorders involve an overly active immune system that attacks the body, they think the fibromyalgia symptoms come from an under active immune system. This makes way more sense to me since I have NEVER been accused of having a properly functioning immune system. When I was still teaching I had a cold turn into pneumonia twice because I couldn't shake it for months.

Now I'm looking for natural ways to get an immunity boost during pregnancy (not there yet, but fingers crossed). I think I'll try to grow me some kefir... although I find your description less than appealing. I did get used to the apple cider vinegar eventually, so I guess there's hope.

End of novel.

shelley said...

I could barely digest the contents of your message let alone trying the real thing.

I vote for Emma's orange crush kefir.

Menner said...

Maybe you could make an orange crush kefir. Hmm. Something to try.

Actually I've heard of kefir-izing water and flavouring it with lemon and ginger. Sounds interesting anyway. It's sort of like making your own ginger ale.