Kefir is a cultured, fermented milk drink similar to yogurt — though not as thick as yogurt, kefir has been shown to contain a lot more nutrients than your regular yogurt.
And what’s more — kefir is easier to make and can easily be prepared at home with only the kefir grains (starter grains) and milk. It is prepared with Kefir grains. These grains are the main ingredient of this whole process, as they contain all the yeasts and bacteria needed to ferment the milk into creamy kefir.
Though not as popular as yogurts in Nigeria yet, Kefir has been around for millenniums and is a staple food in most cultures around the globe. This article will discuss the nutritional value and health benefits of kefir. And you will also find out how to make kefir in Nigeria.
Nutritional Value of Kefir
A 1 cup (240mL) serving of low-fat kefir contains:
- Protein: 9 grams
- Carbohydrates: 12 grams
- Fat: 2 – 3 grams
- Vitamin B12: 29% of the daily value (DV)
- Calcium: 24% of the DV
- Potassium: 8% of the DV
- Phosphorus: 20% of the DV
- Vitamin A: 10% of the DV
- Riboflavin (B2): 25% of the DV
- Magnesium: 7% of the DV
- Sodium: 5% of the DV
- Vitamin D: 12% of the DV
One cup of kefir contains 110 calories. It contains a number of bioactive compounds, such as organic acids, probiotics, and peptides.
Health Benefits of Kefir
Based on its nutrients, here are some of the health benefits of kefir.
1. Improves gut health
Our gut is an ecosystem that contains several different types of bacteria. These gut bacteria are called good bacteria because they aid in food digestion and sometimes even help the body to synthesize some nutrients that are not readily available in the foods that we eat but are necessary for the body.
For instance, bacteria like the Bacteroides, Bifidobacterium, and Enterococcus are known to synthesize vitamins that most people are often deficient in. Kefir contains a healthy amount of some of these essential bacteria called probiotics to improve your gut health.
2. Boosts heart health
One of the major causes of heart problems today is an unhealthy lifestyle. A lot of our foods contain an unhealthy amount of unsaturated fats and cholesterol that could easily become deposits in blood vessels, narrowing the passage for blood cells.
Studies have shown that kefir may help lower high blood cholesterol as well as serum triacylglycerol, which are often responsible for heart problems and high blood pressure. The numerous probiotics in kefir have also been shown to be effective in fat metabolism and bile production.
3. Good for liver health
The liver is your body’s purification or filtration center. It filters out toxins from your bloodstream right before the blood moves to other parts of the body. Hence the liver gets an unhealthy deposit of fats whenever you consume foods rich in unsaturated fats.
Kefir can help protect your life by increasing fat metabolism and lowering cholesterol levels and triglyceride deposits in the liver.
4. Possesses Antibacterial properties
Bacteria are micro-organisms that cause diseases. Bacteria are the causes of some of the most common diseases in the world.
While kefir contains a healthy amount of bacteria, those bacteria in the drink are the ‘good’ bacteria and are not responsible for diseases. Some of these ‘good’ bacteria even help fight off other bacteria that are harmful to the body, such as Escherichia coli, Salmonella, and Staphylococcus aureus.
Kefir also contains a type of carbohydrate called Kefiran, which is believed to have antibacterial properties
5. Necessary for healthy bone development
Calcium is the most important nutrient when it comes to strong bone development. Without sufficient calcium in the body, your bone may become very fragile and soft.
Kefir contains a high amount of calcium to help your body form stronger and more rigid bones for easy movements. It also contains vitamin k2, which the body needs to absorb calcium for bone formation as well as to prevent calcium deposits in your blood vessels. In addition, drinking calcium-rich foods like kefir is an effective way to improve bone health and slow the progression of osteoporosis.
6. Excellent source of essential nutrients
Kefir is an excellent source of essential nutrients for the body. Aside from the high protein contents of this milk drink, kefir also contains other important nutrients, minerals, and vitamins such as magnesium, calcium, potassium, vitamin K, C, A, and Bs.
7. May prevent cancer
According to medical studies, probiotics in fermented dairy products have been said to reduce tumor growth by boosting your immune system. Hence, it is possible that drinking kefir may help in preventing cancer.
8. Low in lactose and gluten-free
Kefir is a fabulous choice for many people who suffer from lactose intolerance, celiac disease, or gluten sensitivity. Kefir milk is low in lactose because its lactic acid bacteria have already pre-digested the lactose.
Furthermore, kefir grains are not related to wheat or oats. Therefore, there is no gluten in a typical kefir drink containing only milk and live cultures.
How to Make Kefir in Nigeria
Before learning how to make kefir in Nigeria, you need to find a way to get the kefir grains. If you know someone that already makes kefir, you can ask them to help you out. Conversely, you can also purchase kefir grains online.
- Kefir grains – 1 tablespoon
- Glass jars
- Plastic lids (Do not use metal lids)
- Plastic mesh strainer or sieve
- Cow’s milk, goat milk, or coconut milk
- Plastic spoon or wooden spoon (Do not use a metal spoon)
- A slice of lemon, cocoa, or cinnamon (optional).
- Put the kefir grains into a clean glass jar and add about 3 cups of fresh milk.
- Make sure you leave about 1-inch of space at the top of the jar.
- Place a plastic lid on top of the jar, but don’t tighten it.
- Place the jar in a warm place, away from sunlight, for about 24 hours. This way, it’ll ferment.
- You will know when it has turned to kefir when the milk has thickened or is bubbly.
- Next, tighten the lid over the glass jar and shake well.
- Then place a plastic strainer or sieve over a clean jar, and strain the kefir into the jar.
- Stir the kefir with a wooden spoon and refrigerate. You can also and a slice of lemon and fruits at this stage.
- Also, you can start the process over again with the kefir grains you have in the strainer or sieve.
While a lot of people are turning to kefir in different parts of the world as a healthier and more nutritious alternative to yogurt, the drink is still a little unpopular in Nigeria. But Kefir is, without a doubt, a healthy drink with loads of health benefits for your body.
The above health benefits of kefir should encourage you to try this nutrient-dense drink.
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