I admit to having a slightly alternative lifestyle, but I’m not usually one to preach why I think my way is better, or even that it necessarily is better.
When it comes to kefir, though, there is something you really need to know.
Kefir is magic. It will change your life. Try it for 30 days, even 14 days, and you will wonder how you ever lived without it.
I was doing some research on eating to improve mood when I discovered kefir. The word is said to mean ‘feel good’ and it is listed as one of the best ways of improving mood using food. The cultures within will improve your digestive health. It can even help the lactose intolerant to tolerate lactose.
Kefir is described simply as a fermented milk drink, and it contains yeasts and cultures. To make it, you simply add kefir grains to milk and let it sit at room temperature with a cloth over the top to allow air in but keep other things out. Depending on ambient temperature, your kefir will take between 18 and 48 hours to ferment the milk. Once it is ready you strain the grains from the milky liquid, add more milk to the grains, and put them back in their place. The liquid you are left with is your kefir, and it benefits greatly from a second ferment. Another 12 hours at room temperature, in an airtight container, tempers the flavour. You can flavour the kefir during the second ferment, by adding fruit, honey or spices.
When I first started taking kefir, I noticed a difference within days. For the first week I didn’t sleep as much, but I had plenty of energy. My sleep patterns normalised after a while, but I don’t have the same need for naps and sleep-ins that I used to have. I don’t get that bone-deep tiredness at the end of the week. I find it easy to get out of bed in the morning.
I convinced Matt to try it. He is a shift worker, doing 12 hour shifts. Two days, two nights, four days off. He was tired all of the time. During his work days he did nothing but work and sleep. During his days off he slept a lot, but was still constantly tired.
He claimed at first that the kefir did nothing, but I soon noticed that he was not as tired. After a day shift he could stay awake long enough to eat dinner and watch some TV, rather than crashing within an hour of getting home. His days off became more productive and his sleep in general improved.
I went through a stage where I decided that the kefir wasn’t working. I was having trouble with anxiety and becoming very frustrated that I wasn’t able to get on top of it. I didn’t have any kefir for about a week.
The first thing I noticed was that my ability to concentrate at work took a massive dive. My mind just felt dull and unresponsive. I was sleepy and irritable. Matt went back to being tired and grumpy a lot. I fired up the kefir again, although we now only take it every second day, depending on the weather and how quickly it ferments.
Obviously I use raw goat milk for my kefir, but you can use anything that resembles milk. I have used UHT milk at a pinch and the kefir grains didn’t mind.
Your grains will grow and reproduce and you can either discard the excess or give it to others who may want to try it. Kefir must be looked after, if you don’t feed it and keep it warm it will die. You can put it into hibernation in the fridge for a couple of weeks if you need a break from it, but it won’t keep indefinitely.
Looking after kefir is quite a commitment. I found straining and changing the milk every day to be a bit of a drag. I have a tea strainer type of thing that sits in the top of my jars and lets the kefir strain through without letting the grains through. This makes straining it a lot quicker. I also only run one jar of kefir now, so in the cooler weather I only have to strain it every other day.
Here’s another thing. Kefir is for the extreme priority good health. You won’t drink it for fun. It tastes like fizzy, yeasty milk. Even after the second ferment. Matt has his fermented with berries and drinks it from the jar. I make mine into my breakfast smoothie with banana, berries, yoghurt and wheatgerm. If I have something else for breakfast I will still blend my kefir with some frozen berries. There are a lot of alternatives for flavouring on the second ferment, from Milo to citrus slices or honey and cinnamon. You have to find a way that you can make it palatable.
Kefir is amazing. Everyone should have a colony in their kitchen. It really might change your life. Take the kefir challenge and let me know how it works for you.