Kefir is one of Leslie Beck's power foods because it's low in calories, high in protein and calcium. One serving of plain, non-fat kefir (3/4 cup or 175 ml) has only 87 calories while providing 10.5 grams of protein and 20 percent of the daily value for calcium. This fermented dairy food is also a good source of magnesium, riboflavin, folate and vitamin B12.
Aside from being nutrient-dense, kefir delivers a healthy dose of "friendly" lactic acid bacteria to your intestinal tract. Research has shown that probiotic bacteria, like the kind found in kefir, is good for people with common gastrointestinal upsets like lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation and diarrhea.
Here's the nutrition information for plain, non-fat kefir and strawberry-flavoured kefir:
|Plain, non-fat||Strawberry, 1% M.F.|
|87 kcal||130 kcal|
|Protein||10.5 grams||10.5 grams|
|Fat||3.5 grams||3 grams|
|Carbohydrate||8 grams||24 grams|
|Calcium||225 milligrams||225 milligrams|
|Magnesium||26 milligrams||26 milligrams|
|Riboflavin||0.3 milligrams||0.3 milligrams|
|Folate||20 micrograms||21 micrograms|
|Vitamin B12||1 microgram||1 microgram|
This probiotic food contains health-enhancing lactobacilli and yeasts, and also compounds called kefiran. Kefiran appears to have positive effects on the immune system and may help ward off infections and viruses.
Kefir can be made from a variety of different nutritious liquids. Traditional kefir uses cow, goat or sheep's milk. As with yogurt, kefir made from milk can be full fat, partly skimmed or non-fat milk. It also comes in natural or added fruit flavors. Fruit flavored varieties are higher in calories and sugar.
Kefir is available in grocery stores across Canada. Choose low fat, plain kefir flavor if you are watching your sugar intake.
"Ripe" kefir has the most desirable tangy flavor. Look for a container that has a slight bulge in the aluminum seal. This bulge, known as the Champangsky Effect, is caused by a pocket of carbon dioxide gas that is produced when the kefir has been perfectly fermented. The gas is released when seal is broken.
Kefir should be stored in the refrigerator at 4 C. Be mindful of the "best before" date on the top of the container and enjoy the kefir while it's still at its best.
Preparing from scratch
Kefir is easy to make at home once you've obtained some "starter" cultured kefir grains. Simple put 7-8 tablespoons of milk and one tablespoon of kefir grains in a clean glass jar. Cover loosely and store at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, for 12-24 hours. Strain the fermented liquid and enjoy!
For thicker kefir, let the mixture ferment for up to 36 hours. Kefir grains can stored in the refrigerator and reused for several batched of fresh kefir.
Kefir is a naturally fizzy, tangy liquid. It can be enjoyed as a beverage or eaten with a spoon. Keep in mind heat kills the beneficial bacteria; avoid cooking probiotic kefir at high temperatures.
Health Ways to Enjoy
Blend up a powerful probiotic smoothie with half a banana, a half cup of blueberries and a half cup of low fat kefir.
Add some tang to your morning by enjoying a wholesome bowl of muesli topped with strawberry-flavored kefir.
Have kefir juice with your breakfast cereal, instead of orange juice, by mixing half a cup of probiotic kefir with half a cup of pure fruit juice.
Use kefir instead of buttermilk in your favorite pancake or waffle recipe.
Add good bacteria to your salad greens by tossing them with a light and refreshing kefir salad dressing.
Stir a quarter cup of plain kefir into a creamy bowl of butternut squash soup. Enjoy with a sandwich made with toasted sourdough bread made with kefir.
Try thickened kefir atop perogies instead of sour cream for a twist on an Eastern European favorite.
Instead of sour cream, spoon thickened kefir onto a baked potato for a probiotic boost. Top with chives and serve along side a grilled steak and side salad.
Stir in a quarter cup of kefir to your favorite cream soup - just before serving - for a touch of appetizing tartness.
Top a savory mutton stew with creamy kefir. Serve with a slice of whole wheat crusty bread.
For a perfectly tenderized steak, marinate your choicest cut in half a cup of kefir overnight. Season to taste and grill. For a complete entree, serve with a generous helping of green beans and julienne carrots.
Pour chilled kefir over sweet concord grapes. Top with toasted almonds and enjoy!
For malt kefir, mix one tablespoon of OvaltineTM, a milk flavoring powder made from barley malt, cocoa and whey protein.
Drink half a cup of kefir straight up with a piece of fresh fruit or a small homemade muffin.
Dip fresh, sliced up fruit into a sweet and tangy thickened kefir with a touch of honey stirred in.
Mix a half cup of cold, refreshing kefir with one tablespoon of maple syrup and half a shredded apple. Top with few crushed pecan nuts and enjoy this sweet and nutritious treat!
Blend a mango, a few strawberries and a peach together with one cup of plain kefir. Freeze in a Popsicle mold and enjoy as an alternative to frozen yogurt.
Did you know?
Kefir can be made from soy milk, rice milk or even sugar water.
Longer fermentation time increases the folate content of kefir.
In the olden days, Russians would make kefir in skin bags that where hung near a doorway. The movement of the door would keep the kefir grains and milk will mixed.