Depending on your perspective, kefir probably resembles liquid yogurt or thicker milk. That’s because it is a cultured milk product, which means it begins as milk and has healthy bacteria added to it. It can be made from any type of milk (though it’s traditionally made from cow’s milk). If you’ve heard of kefir, you’ve probably also heard it’s great for your health. In fact, its name is derived from the Turkish word “keif,” which means “good feeling.”
So, what makes it so nutritious? While it appears to be drinkable yogurt, kefir actually has more friendly bacteria than its cousin. Kefir is chock full of actively growing probiotics (good bacteria), which help keep our digestive systems in order. Probiotics also help keep our gut health in tip-top shape and prevent the growth of bad bacteria. Plus, kefir is loaded with vitamin A, vitamin D and calcium, in amounts comparable to those in milk. Kefir delivers 8 to 11 grams of protein per cup, and it has all nine essential amino acids.
On top of all that, studies show bacteria in kefir aids in lactose (milk sugar) digestion, which means it can be beneficial to those who are lactose intolerant. It helps to reduce the miserable symptoms related to lactose intolerance (think bloating and diarrhea).
This probiotic superstar is also incredibly versatile. Typically, kefir is mixed into smoothies or protein shakes, or poured over cereal or granola. But there are tons of other, less expected ways to use kefir. Its tangy taste and silky texture lends itself well, when stirred into a creamy salad dressing, used in a veggie dip, combined in a rich pasta sauce, or even when making ice cream. Kefir is also a wonderful medium for soaking grains, as it helps ease digestion of the grains. Plus, kefir can serve as a nutritious substitute for ingredients typically used in baked goods, like buttermilk and cream cheese.
Around here, Lesley is a little kefir crazy. She has probably tried almost every brand she can find in the Atlanta area and has landed on her favorite brand, Wallaby. (Side note: Her kids will only eat Wallaby yogurts as well…picky!). Their kefir and yogurt were inspired by Australian style kefir and yogurt. Lesley lived in Australia for 2 years and LOVED their kefir and yogurt so this is definitely the draw towards this brand. She eats kefir daily on a big bowl of fruit, nuts, and granola! Yummy!
To help get you started with using kefir in your own kitchen, we have some delicious recipes to share with you, all of which use kefir as one of the key ingredients:
For a nutrient-dense fall side dish, try the Cranberry and Kefir Quinoa Salad.
For the brunch and breakfast lovers, the Chard and Cheddar Quiche uses kefir as a secret ingredient to cut the fat content.
Or try a healthier spin on buttermilk biscuits with our Whole Wheat Biscuits that use tangy kefir in place of the buttermilk.
For a great smoothie recipe using kefir, check out this Berry Kale Kefir Smoothie by our colleague Kara Lydon.
What is your favorite way to use kefir?
This post was written by Caroline Young Bearden. Caroline is a lover of both delicious and healthy foods, and believes all foods can be a part of a well-balanced diet. Caroline is completing her dietetic internship and earning her masters degree in nutrition at Georgia State University. Caroline is also a journalist and yoga instructor. Connect with her at https://www.linkedin.com/pub/caroline-bearden/34/282/7b4.