About Kefir (and Yogurt)

April 24, 2012

If you live in North America, this may likely be the first time you have heard the term “kefir”. However, I am certain you have been hearing the term “probiotics” frequently for quite some time now. Well, kefir (and yogurt) is the result of combining milk with probiotics (aka live bacteria), resulting in fermented milk.

More specifically, kefir is made by using kefir grains, a combination of Lactobacillus bacteria, yeasts, protein, fat, and sugar to ferment milk. This takes approximately 24 hours, during which time the bacteria and yeast change the texture, taste, and nutrient composition of the milk. Carbon dioxide is also produced, which gives kefir a hint of natural carbonation. Kefir is best described as a naturally sweet, yet tangy, liquid yogurt.

Studies suggest that regular consumption of foods that contain probiotic organisms can stimulate the immune system, prevent allergies, improve symptoms of lactose intolerance, help treat inflammatory bowel disease, and possibly even lower elevated cholesterol levels. Emerging research also hints that probiotic bacteria may guard against colon cancer.

You can add unflavoured yogurt and kefir to muffins, pancakes, and other quick bread recipes to add moistness and a hint of tartness, however cooking at high temperatures kills probiotic bacteria. The best way to reap their probiotic benefits is to enjoy them fresh.

Here are ways to add a serving of kefir (and yogurt) to your daily diet:

Breakfast

  • stir a large spoonful into a hot whole-grain cereal, such as oatmeal
  • alternate layers of yogurt, low-fat granola, and chopped fresh fruit for a breakfast parfait
  • toss fresh berries into plain yogurt or kefir and top with a drizzle of honey
  • top pancakes and waffles with a spoonful of kefir, toasted walnuts, banana slices, and a drizzle of maple syrup
  • make a breakfast smoothie with plain yogurt or kefir, berries, banana, and 1 Tbsp ground flaxseed

Lunch and Dinner

  • toss shredded raw carrots and drained or crushed pineapple with plain low-fat yogurt for a refreshing salad
  • mix plain yogurt and dijon mustard with diced chicken breast or canned light tuna for a low-fat version
  • spoon plain yogurt or kefir onto sliced fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, and red onions for a tasty side salad
  • add chopped cucumber, fresh dill, and minced garlic to plain yogurt – serve as a dip for grilled meats and chicken
  • for tasty grilled salmon, mix plain yogurt or kefir with an equal amount of low-fat mayonnaise; add 2 – 3 Tbsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice, freshly grounds black pepper, and plenty of chopped fresh dill; spread on top of salmon fillets before grilling
  • top a baked potato with plain yogurt or kefir and snipped chives; or mix plain yogurt with salsa for a Mexican-inspired topping for baked potatoes
  • make a yogurt- or kefir-based salad dressing by blending yogurt or kefir with water to desired consistency; add your favourite herbs and salt and pepper to taste

Snacks and Desserts

  • swirl vanilla or plain, low-fat yogurt into applesauce or other strained fruits for a nutritious, kid-friendly snack
  • for an afternoon fruit smoothie, blend low-fat yogurt or kefir with your favourite chopped fruit and ice
  • add a dollop of plain or vanilla low-fat yogurt to desserts – try it on apple crisp and puddings

The above information is taken from Leslie Beck’s “Foods that Fight Disease”. You can find more detailed information about kefir on her website:  http://www.lesliebeck.com/ingredient_index.php?featured_food=94

Do you already incorporate kefir into your daily diet? If so, what are your favourite ways to enjoy kefir? If not, will you give it a try?

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