Based on some of the feedback I’ve been getting from my readers, drinking water kefir for first time users is better recommended than milk kefir. Again experimenting on the two is still the best option. However to have a better understanding of the two, here are some things I’ve found about the two types of kefir. Let’s start with milk kefir. Somehow it makes more sense to talk about the dairy version first for its interesting history.
A drink as magical deserves an origin that is equally legendary and shrouded in mystery. Kefir grains, the ones that we use to ferment the milk to produce milk kefir, are referred to as “Grains from the Prophet”. Imagine the sound of that when you tell your friends, “I’m drinking a beverage produced by using Grains from the Prophet.”
The name refers to the Prophet Mohammad based on a story that talks about his trip to a Tibetan monastery on his way to the Caucasus Mountains. He handed the monks a special gift – grains with superb healing powers. You guessed it right; those grains were milk kefir grains.
Others believe the grains have Biblical beginnings. Users see an uncanny similarity between kefir grains and the manna sent by God to his traveling nation as they wondered around the wilderness. Both the grains and the manna were white, fluffy (creamy and probably looked like tiny cauliflowers), promoted good health (the Israelites consumed only the manna but were kept in good health for days), and spoilt easily when not fed with milk.
Today, when we say kefir, we almost always refer to milk kefir first. Kefir, therefore, is commonly defined as a cultured dairy food that looks very much and tastes a bit like yogurt. Some describe kefir as drinkable yogurt. Kefir is packed with phosphorous, folic acid, lactic acid, biotin, vitamins K, vitamin B, and beneficial bacteria.
The drink is prepared by allowing the bacteria culture to ferment the milk. The friendly bacteria and yeast exist in symbiotic relationship to form a colony. The colony takes shape as a kefir grain, which is a matrix of sugars, proteins and lipids.
These grains look like cottage cheese or white tiny cauliflowers. They are lumpy, gelatinous, creamy, sour, and pungent. Each grain is made up of several and varying strains of helpful bacteria.
The three best things about milk kefir are it’s health benefits, it is easy to acquire and prepare, and it has no known side effects.
The health benefits from it (and equally true with water kefir) are the following. Regular doses boosts your immune system, improves natural resistance to diseases, regulates blood pressure, maintains blood sugar level, lowers cholesterol level, positively affects the heart, improves blood circulation, protects the prostate, helps produce enzymes and bile, regulates metabolism, improves digestion, helps lose weight, slows ageing, reduces depression, increases energy, and flushes out pathogens. It treats a variety of illnesses including eczema, acne, bronchitis, asthma, tuberculosis, diabetes, migraine headache, diarrhoea, leaky gut syndrome, candidiasis, urinary tract infection, hepatitis, ulcer, inflammation, lactose intolerance. Some say cancer and HIV/AIDS but it’s going to take a long time to properly test that.
It’s amazing to think that just one organic drink can do all these though. Kefir grains are inexpensive and you can order them online anytime. But the real good news is that you only need to buy the grains once. As you learn to use, store and grow them, you will quickly have more kefir grains than you can handle.
And to top all that, kefir has no known side effects. It is organic and very helpful. Perhaps the only known side effects is that it tastes too sour and pungent at first that it could cause you to vomit or run to the toilet.
Another seeming downside is the lactose content. Some people are concerned about the proteins and lactose in milk. However, both of these are broken down and pre-digested by the friendly bacteria making it very easy to digest by its human user, even for those with lactose intolerance.
There seems to be nothing negative to say about milk kefir now, but how does it compare with water kefir? Let’s check it out.
Water kefir, or tibicos as known by many, is made from water kefir grains, sugar and water. Just like milk kefir, a water kefir drink is packed with millions of probiotics but the bacterial strains are different from those that are found in milk kefir. Water kefir is slightly less concentrated than its dairy equivalent, which is why users feel they need to consume more water kefir than they would milk kefir.
There are two clear upsides to water kefir. One, it is dairy-free, which makes it very attractive to vegan dieters, and two, you can add lemon and different kinds of fruit or vegetables to the mixture anytime.
While you can turn your milky kefir into a smoothie or ice cream, water kefir is much more versatile. You can use coconut water or fruit juice as base, or basically any liquid with sugar contents. The probiotics munch on the sugar, which is primarily why water kefir is fizzy and bubbly. As sugar is broken down and consumed by the friendly microbes before you do, the glycemic index (GI) drops relatively low, which means it probably won’t raise your blood sugar levels suddenly. However, sugar levels can vary, so use caution if you are diabetic or insulin resistant.
Both kinds of kefir are very beneficial for everyone. While it is a guarantee that both types of bacterial colony promise the nutritional and therapeutic benefits already mentioned above, they do offer slightly different benefits. Milk kefir is an excellent source for protein and calcium with very little sugar. Water kefir, on the other hand, may have higher sugar content, but it contains basically the same vitamins and is dairy-free.
Each type has its own advantages and both are easy to make in your own kitchen. So if you can, you might like to try both to find which one goes best with you.