Some of you reading this may be thinking “what in the heck is kefir“?, and, “How do you pronounce that?”, or maybe, “Oatmeal is awful boring goop.”
Well, I have heard it pronounced both “kef-eer” and “keef-er” and I don’t have a strong opinion on which is correct. If anyone knows for sure feel free to comment below. But call it whatever you want, what it is a superfood that has many proven health benefits of kefir supported by research. It is essentially fermented milk.
Now, before you go all “ewww, fermented stuff is gross!” hear me out. This is a drink which has been around for many many years, used by different herding cultures and passed down through the ages. Many peoples mostly lived on milk from their herds as they were nomadic, and they would store milk in leather pouches for days at a time. This would gradually ferment into a sour, thicker, yogurt-like liquid that they could store even longer. These people were known for their health and vigor. “Elie Metchnikoff, a Nobel-prize winning biologist at the Pasteur Institute, first suggested that lactobacilli might counteract the putrefactive effects of gastrointestinal metabolism in 1908. ” (source)
The fermented milk would contain chunks of symbiotic cultures of various lactobacilli (a type of bacteria), yeasts, and other microorganisms which are useful for healthy digestion. For those with a scientific curiosity: “Microorganisms present in the grains include lactic acid bacteria, Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis, Streptococcus thermophilus, Lb delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus, Lb helveticus, Lb casei subsp. pseudoplantarum and Lb brevis, a variety of yeasts, such as Kluyveromyces, Torulopsis, and Saccharomyces, acetic acid bacteria among others. ” (source)
Kefir has antibiotic and antifungal properties. It’s been used in the treatment of a variety of conditions, including metabolic disorders, atherosclerosis, and allergies, tuberculosis, cancer, poor digestion, candidiasis, osteoporosis, hypertension, HIV and heart disease. It may also help restore a better balance to the gut flora, alleviating conditions such as diarrhea, constipation, gas, and bloating. Many lactos-intolerant people also find they are able to drink kefir without difficulty, as the fermentation breaks down much of the problematic sugars in the milk. If you’re interested, feel free to read about the differences between kefir and yogurt .
In addition to beneficial bacteria and yeast, kefir contains many vitamins, minerals, amino acids and enzymes. Among these small health benefits are: calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, B2 and B12, vitamin K, vitamin A and vitamin D, and many amino acids. In particular, tryptophan, one of the essential amino acids abundant in kefir, is well known for its relaxing effect on the nervous system. Kefir in the diet can have a particularly calming effect on the nerves due to this and other salts important for a healthy nervous system.
So now that I’ve hopefully convinced you to give kefir a chance, how do you get it into your diet? Well, of course one option is to just eat/ drink it as if it were yogurt, as a snack or part of a meal. You can also use it like milk and pour over cereals for breakfast. You can whip it up into a smoothie just as you would with water or milk. Or you can try this delicious recipe to make Kefir Oatmeal!
- 1/2 can of peaches (in juice or water, not syrup, or home canned)
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup oats
- 2 tbsp – 1/4 cup kefir
- Optional: Sprinkle of cinnamon
Step 1: Pour the oats and water into a bowl with the peaches, and microwave on high about 3 minutes. You can also cook this in a slow cooker on low overnight, or simmer on the stove top for 5-7 minutes. Feel free to use any type of fruit you have and like here, frozen berries work well, as do bananas, pears, cherries, or apples.
Step 2: Sprinkle on some cinnamon if using, stir well. Let the oatmeal sit and soak for a few minutes. When it is cooled enough that you can put your finger in it and not get burned, add the kefir and mix it in. (You don’t want to boil alive all the healthy micro organisms we just talked about!)
You can also make this at night, and let it sit at room temperature, covered, overnight for some extra fermentation. You will get great digestive benefits from both the whole grain oats and fiber as well as the beneficial bacteria. Add more or less kefir to your own tastes based on how sour you like it. If you absolutely must, you can add in some maple syrup or honey, but I like it just plain as is. Enjoy!