Until a couple of weeks ago, for me, kefir was just some mystery health food that was gaining popularity online and in healthy living communities. I didn’t know enough about it to judge one way or the other. Then I had an opportunity to try a commercial brand, for a post, and I created a recipe to use it in. I did quite a bit of research as I prepared for that post, which made me even more intrigued and curious about the reports I was reading. I figured out fairly quickly that the cost of commercial brands was not going to fit our grocery budget, if I was going to use kefir in the amounts I was hoping to and that for the greatest health benefits, I would be better off to learn to make my own. I also knew that if my family caught on to what I was doing, they were probably going to sidestep my attempts to get it into their diets. So, I quietly embarked on Operation Kefir, nearly three weeks ago.
On a day, like any other day, dehydrated, heirloom kefir grains surreptitiously arrived in a plain wrapper in my mailbox. When I opened the tiny packet, it looked like I had purchased a pinch (Literally, I don’t think it was even a quarter of a teaspoon.) of white dust. Undaunted by its appearance, I followed the super simple instructions to rehydrate and activate the grains. Over the course of the next four days, no one in my household questioned that I was keeping a cheesecloth-covered half-pint jar of milk out on the counter. When I switched to a full pint, and a few days later, a full quart, no one batted an eye or questioned the wisdom of keeping milk, unrefrigerated on the kitchen counter. Really? There was a definite lack of interest and attention. ( At this point, I’m trying to think of all the things I could pull off without being noticed. Do you think they realize there’s a wall between the kitchen and the dining room, ’cause I’d really enjoy opening that up and adding an island. lol)
Okay, back to kefir. What is it, exactly? Creamy, cultured probiotic amazingness! That’s the scientific definition, of course. lol Actually, milk kefir grains aren’t grain at all. They are live active cultures of both bacteria and yeast. It’s the good bacteria – the bacteria that should be naturally occurring in our gut, the bacteria we kill with sugar, (Did you know sugar’s an antibiotic? It kills bacteria, indiscriminately — both good and bad.), chemicals and unhealthy eating. Our digestive systems require healthy bacteria to function properly, to effectively remove toxins from our bodies and to help us absorb nutrients. Without them we fall prey to a host of allergies, illnesses and food intolerances. Kefir is loaded with vitamins, minerals and amino acids that promote healing and repair and the “good” bacteria that allows our intestines and digestive system to function properly.
Kefir is believed to help prevent and heal gastrointestinal problems and my family now knows, from firsthand experience, that it can eliminate decades of living with lactose intolerance. It’s actually gone! Poof! Over! I never dreamed that would be possible. It is easy to digest kefir and it cleans the intestines. Some people have seen relief of colitis symptoms because kefir can help with inflammation in the intestinal cells. It’s an excellent source of Vitamin K2, a vitamin critical to bone health and growth, which so many Americans are grossly deficient in. Some of the compounds in kefir are helpful in regulating our immune function, allergic reactions and inflammation. It’s a great source of digestible protein, too. It’s believed that kefir may prove to be a help in preventing and treating tuberculosis, ulcers, diarrhea, colitis, reflux, urinary tract infections, prostate cancer, colon cancer, and autoimmune diseases. Many report that it has helped them to control hypertension, blood sugar and diabetes. There is some evidence that it may also have positive effects on the nervous system, creating a calming sensation, helping with depression, anxiety and ADHD.
Science, studies and other peoples’ personal anecdotes, aside, we know firsthand that members of our family who have suffered from lactose intolerance, who had given up everything dairy or resorted to taking pills to try to enjoy some treat, are now eating ice cream, drinking glasses of milk and melting cheese on their burgers with no stomach cramps, gas, bloating or nausea. That’s after decades of lactose intolerance and a little over two weeks of me sneaking kefir into their food. (That last week, they knew it was happening and were excited, because of how good they felt.) For me, kefir seems to give me more energy and I feel like I sleep better. If I miss a day, I can tell the difference. I just have that heavy, sluggish feeling that reminds me, I didn’t eat or drink any kefir, that day.
I can’t say how kefir might improve YOUR health. I can tell you that it is making the members of MY family feel healthier — that more than one of us is losing weight that we had been unable to take off, previously, and that my husband’s blood pressure has been reduced by nearly thirty points, since starting to use it. Coincidence? Maybe, but I’m willing to bet it’s not. It’s the only significant change he, or any of us, have made in our lifestyle. Based on our short experience, I am definitely going to continue to learn as much as I can about kefir and its uses. Maybe it could be beneficial for you and your family, too.
I have only recently discovered that my kefir grains can also be used to make sour cream, cultured butter, cream cheese and even hard cheese. You can bet I’ll be giving those a try, very soon. The beauty of working with kefir grains is that they can be reused, indefinitely. I could actually pass them on to my children and grandchildren. They are easy to care for and can actually multiply over time, (I’m already experiencing this.) and you will be able to divide them and give some away. For the cost of one set of kefir grains, I can make a multitude of healthy foods for my family to use in recipes that we all enjoy. Making kefir at home makes health sense and money sense, to me. That’s the final decision clincher.
I hope you’ll give yourself a chance to make some kefir, at home. It’s incredibly easy and it can begin a lifetime legacy of healthier choices for your family. I’m not saying we’re going to eat ONLY “healthy” food. No way! But, I feel good about balancing what we do eat with some really beneficial and nutritious options that make noticeable improvements in our health and lives. We haven’t reached the point of drinking kefir straight, yet, but it’s amazing in smoothies and I’ll be sharing some of my favorite recipes, as time goes by, like my delicious Apple Cinnamon Refrigerator Oatmeal or this incredibly close Copycat Ranch Dressing. 🙂 Please, let me know if you start culturing your own kefir. I’d love to swap some recipe ideas!