Kefir is traditionally a bubbly milk drink, however it is also possible to find and make water kefir. You might prefer water kefir if you are lactose intolerant or vegan. It can also add variety to your diet.
What is Kefir?
Kefir is a fizzy drink, usually made from milk and kefir "grains", or bacteria colonies. It can taste sour, so kefir is usually mixed with fruit, honey or sugar. Kefir is similar to yogurt in that it is made by adding friendly bacteria to milk. However, you can also make kefir with coconut milk, soy milk, rice milk and water. The bacteria in kefir have their own benefits, distinct from yogurt. They are better at colonising your digestive tract and may help with digestion.
Kefir has been shown to be an anti-oxidant, which means that it may help prevent you from developing heart disease, cancer and the visible signs of aging by protecting your cells from damage. Studies have also found that kefir may lower levels of blood cholesterol, which can also help to lower your chances of heart disease. If kefir is left to ferment too long it may contain alcohol, but if prepared properly, it should only contain less than .1%. If you can find live kefir grains, you can easily make your own milk or water kefir at home.
The Nutrition of Milk Kefir
Milk kefir is the traditional form of kefir, and has been made for hundreds of years. It contains many of the benefits of milk, including a high protein content, calcium and other minerals. Kefir is also a rich source of B vitamins, including folic acid. Milk kefir is usually low in lactose, and if you are lactose intolerant you may be able to drink it. It also contains some dietary fiber.
Milk kefir does contain some saturated fat, so you shouldn't drink more than a few servings per day. It may also upset your stomach if you aren't used to it, so it is recommended that you start with small amounts at first. It does contain some lactose, so if you are lactose intolerant you will also have to drink it in moderation, or perhaps stick to water kefir.
The Nutrition of Water Kefir
Water kefir, also known as tibicos, is made from water, sugar and water kefir grains. It contains different strains of bacteria to milk kefir. Water kefir is more versatile than milk kefir and you can add lemon and different kinds of fruit or vegetables to the mixture. It makes an nutritious fizzy drink alternative to soda. Because the bacteria cultures in water kefir break down sugar to produce the fizziness of the drink, it has a relatively low GI, meaning that it probably won't raise your blood sugar levels suddenly. However, sugar levels can vary, so use caution if you are diabetic or insulin resistant. Water kefir also contains B vitamins and can aid in digestion.
The different types of kefir have different benefits and drawbacks. Milk kefir is an excellent protein and calcium source, but contains some saturated fat and lactose. Water kefir may have a higher sugar content, but has many of the same vitamins and is more versatile. Each type has different strains of beneficial bacteria and they are easy to make at home, so, if you can, you might like to try both.