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Kefir Basics

What's the difference between kefir and yogurt. Both are probiotic and both are cultured. However, true kefir is cultured by the means of kefir grains. These grains are only grains in the sense that they are small, and look like grains. They can be used indefinitely to culture batch after batch of kefir. It's a bit magical really. The result can be liquidy like buttermilk, or thick like yogurt, depending on how you go about it.

The great difference between kefir and yogurt is that kefir is thought to be much more probiotic. It contain around 30 and up to 50 strains of beneficial bacteria and yeasts, whereas yogurt typically only has a handful.

A lot has been said about probiotics, or beneficial bacterias, recently and of course the result is all kinds of probiotic pills, powders and potions that you can pop. However, kefir has been around for thousands of years. It's not a fad, but it truly is a miraculous and healing probiotic food. So why are probiotics important? Well, that's something for another post, but suffice it to say, probiotics are absolutely essential to our health and the best probiotics come from your own kitchen. Real Food is always better assimilated than processed stuff in a capsule.

I recently took a survey of kefir drinkers to ask why they like it and if they had noticed any specific benefits from it. Here are some of the responses I got.

It will change your life! I use to have a hard time functioning and had to sleep a lot during the day. Now I never take a nap and have plenty of energy throughout the day.

I don't drink it regularly enough, but on the days that I do, I seem to have more energy.

I can't remember the last time we were sick. Not sure if it has anything to do with that, but I like to think it does.

My favorite is Kefir Cheese. I use it in guacamole with lacto-fermented salsa. My kids love it.

I love kefir because I use to have a really hard time digesting dairy. After eating kefir every day for 4 months, I could digest cheese much better (only eating it once in awhile) and other dairy was not giving me any issues. Kefir gave the the enzymes to enjoy other dairy. It also helped me recover from sugar addiction by bringing extra fat and probiotics source to my diet. My two year old drinks it plain every day. We love kefir.

My dad has had a lot of gum disease issues, but he swears that swishing once a day with kefir has solved his problems.

I love all the probiotics. I feel better and have more energy when I regularly drink kefir.

When I was pregnant, I use to get terrible leg cramps in the night. I noticed that when I would drink a smoothie with kefir, I wouldn't get cramps. I learned after that kefir has a lot of potassium.

Kefir keeps me regular, I don't get backed up like I use to before I drank it.

It's a cheap way to have buttermilk on hand. It works in any recipe that calls for buttermilk. We know a lot of the good health benefits cook out, but it tastes delicious in food. We also substitute it for sour cream, or plain yogurt in a lot of recipes.

It has a wonderful profile of probiotic yeasts and bacterias that populate your gut and bring many health benefits.

I noticed it helped my stomach stay settled when I had chemo.

Kefir helps control my high blood pressure.

My last two pregnancies have been my best and I attribute a lot of that to daily drinking kefir.

We like it with peaches and fruit.

I am a bit sensitive to it and react with psoriasis flair ups, but if I ferment longer than 24 hours, it seems to help. (Note: The bacteria eats up most of the lactose, helping those who have trouble digesting and react to lactose, but I strongly suggest using raw milk for culturing kefir, which contains the enzyme lactase that helps to digest lactose.)

I make a smoothie with fruit, pure maple syrup and honey from my bees and drink it for breakfast every day.

I drink kefir because, it's fast; it tastes good, it's probiotic and good for me.

We drink kefir because it helps our digestive tract to work better. It has been especially beneficial to my son who had tummy aches for several years. After he started to drink kefir his aches improved. Then during summer vacation he stopped drinking it and the aches returned.

It saved my husband's life! My husband had an infection, for which he was given increasingly stronger and stronger antibiotics over a period of time. He did not improve, but kept getting worse. His healthy gut bacteria became so depleted from the antibiotics that he had no immune system left. He was literally on the verge of death. The doctors were not able to help him, so he took matters into his own hands. He found out about kefir and had some grains shipped to him overnight. The first day he drank kefir, he noticed a difference. As he drank kefir each day, he quickly improved. Shortly he went from death's door to a functioning and very active adult.

Perhaps your interest is peaked now? Good! Let's talk more.

10 Reasons Why Homemade is Better

Most grocery stores carry kefir. However, what you get in the store is inferior to what you can make at home. Here's why:

1. Store purchased kefir is almost always made from a powdered culture, versus kefir grains. It's not true kefir, but kefir like. Using a powdered culture makes it much more efficient and cost effective for the commercial producer, but much less healthy for the consumer. A powdered kefir culture is made from strains of bacteria that have been identified in kefir and then cultured in a lab. Mother Nature always produces a better product than someone in a lab. Kefir cultured with grains is much more probiotic and diverse than kefir cultured with a lab produced powder.

2. The sweetened kefir you can purchase from a grocery store is more akin to ice cream than a healthy beverage. If you are drinking kefir for it's health benefits, you're not getting what you might think you are from the sweetened store bought kefir. When you make your own, you can control how you flavor and sweeten it.

3. You can choose to make a thin drinkable beverage, or a thick yogurt like product.

4. You can make kefir cultured cream.

5. You can make kefir cultured butter.

6. You can choose what kind of milk you prefer, cow milk, sheep, goat milk, buffalo and even camel milk. Whatever type of milk you choose, keep in mind that responsibly produced, raw milk from pastured animals will provide you with the most probiotic and healthy kefir possible. Yes, it's possible to produce kefir with milk alternatives such as coconut milk, soy milk etc. However, it can be a bit tricky and the grains don't grow and multiply like they do in animal milk. It just isn't the preferred medium for kefir to thrive in. The grains won't be as healthy and your kefir won't be either. Might I suggest taking another look at and researching responsibly produced, raw milk? If you're going to drink kefir, it really is the best way to go. You can read more about raw milk under raw dairy, on this page.

7. It's less expensive when you make it yourself.

8. It is not stored in plastic, which affects both the quality and taste of kefir.

9. Less waste. When you make your own, there are less plastic bottles to fill up a landfill somewhere.

10. When you make it at home, you can choose a higher quality milk source. Of course, by this I mean a responsibly produced, raw milk from pastured and grass fed animals. Pasteurized milk is dead milk. Sure it's been heated to kill the harmful bacteria from the filthy dairies in which it is produced, but in the process the nutrients and beneficial bacterias have also been killed. Few nutrients in pasteurized milk are actually bio-available to your body. Notably, this includes the enzyme lactase which helps you to digest lactose. While it's true that the bacteria in kefir and yogurt consume most of the lactose, there are other reasons for consuming a higher quality dairy. For one, when you drink pasteurized dairy, you are introducing dead material and unavailable nutrients to your body. This causes stress on your body which results in health issues. There's a reason so many people react poorly to conventional dairy. It's a very low quality food. We can do better; much better. Read here and here and here for more information.

I say, if you're going to the trouble of drinking kefir, you might as well go for the highest quality and most nutritional kefir you can get. It's easy to make, so why not! Read my next post to find out how. Read this post for trouble shooting and how to use kefir that's past it's prime.

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