Monday, March 25, 2013

Water Kefir - What It Is and Why I Drink It

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Everyone wants to be healthy, right?  And we know that those with food allergies usually need a little extra help supporting the digestive and immune systems.  One easy (and tasty) way to do that is by adding water kefir to your daily diet.  So what is it, anyway?

Water kefir is a natural, dairy-free probiotic beverage that you can make at home.  If you've been thinking about adding lacto-fermented foods to your diet, but haven't taken the plunge, this is a great place to start.  Its main benefit is its wide variety of beneficial necessary yeast and bacteria.  Although the  specific strains will vary batch to batch, the list, which you can read here, is wonderfully long.  Other benefits include:
  • Immune System Support:  A huge percentage of our body's immune system resides in the gut (70%-80% according to a study published by the American Journal of Physiology).  The probiotic bacteria in water kefir can help to strengthen this.
  • Leaky Gut:  If you suspect leaky gut, as is common in those with food allergies, one of the first and best things to do is add probiotics to help balance the internal gut flora.  You can do this by taking a probiotic pill, but as with most nutrients, its better to get it through real food/beverage because you'll also get the other nutrients that help promote colonization and healing.
  • Candidiasis:  Many people who suffer from issues with Candida/yeast infections benefit from water kefir.  That's because it contains friendly yeast that can starve out Candida Albicans.
  • Children:  Probiotics are important for kids too, and, depending on the cause, may help with things like atopic dermatitis (read more here).  Its easier to get kids to drink a tasty beverage than to take a pill, so water kefir is a good probiotic option for kids.
  • Antibiotic Use:  After killing off the good with the bad, you'll need to replenish your natural internal flora.
So how is water kefir made?  I'm glad you asked!  Its really quite a simple process and doesn't take much hands-on time at all. The most helpful resource I've found is this video tutorial.   Here's what you need to make 1 quart of water kefir:
  • Water kefir grains (about 1/4 cup):  These are not grains at all, but get their name from the way they look.  They are actually a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.  If you have a friend who is already making water kefir, you should be able to get some grains from her as the grains tend to multiply.  If not, you can order from a reputable source such as Cultures for Health.
  • Water:  Pure water.  Avoid using chlorinated water, but if you must, you can boil it beforehand to get the chlorine out.  I use reverse osmosis water (read more about water filtration here) which means my water doesn't contain chlorine or fluoride (yah!), but I do add mineral drops to keep the kefir grains happy.
  • Sugar (1/4 cup):  This should be an unprocessed sugar like sucanat, rapadura, or evaporated cane crystals (just avoid bleached white sugar as the chemicals in it are likely to damage the kefir grains).
To make water kefir, put 1/4 cup sugar into a quart mason jar.  To this, add a bit of hot water and stir to dissolve.  Once sugar is dissolved, fill the jar the rest of the way with cold water.  Add a few drops of mineral drops if your water is lacking minerals.  Lastly, add in kefir grains.  Cover with a clean cloth or coffee filter and let sit for 24-48 hours (I usually let mine sit for about 36 hours).  Once made, strain out kefir grains to use for the next batch.  If cared for properly, your kefir grains will continue to produce water kefir indefinitely.  I like to pour my water kefir into a glass pitcher.  Now it's time to add flavor!

There are tons of flavor options, but here are my family's favorites:
  • Lemonade/Limeade:  To 1 quart water kefir, add 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice or lime juice.  This makes a lightly sweet and very refreshing beverage!
  • Cream Soda:  While making the water kefir, add 1 tsp molasses to your sugar.  Once water kefir has been prepared, add about 2 tsp vanilla extract to it.  Yum!
  • Blueberry:  To 1 quart water kefir, add about 1/2 cup blueberry juice. 
So there you have it.  A beneficial probiotic beverage that's easy to make and tastes good.  There's tons more info available on making water kefir.  I encourage you to follow the links I've provided to get a fuller understanding of it all.  And I hope you'll give it a try!

In addition to personal experience, information for this article was obtained from these sources:  Cultures For HealthYemoosWhole Traditions: Water Kefir InstructionsVitabase


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I am an affiliate of Cultures for Health and will get a small percentage of any purchases made through those links.  Thank you!



19 comments:

  1. I've always wanted to start making this, I even bought the equipment. I need to figure it out one of these days.

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    1. And its so easy! I've been surprised at how little work/attention it requires. You should definitely give it a try! Maybe it'll help your little one with her tummy troubles (in addition to avoiding dairy, of course).

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  2. We started probiotics just about a year ago and since then, I have wanted to research this. Thank you for making it easy! It is now going on the list of to-do's...sooner than later:)

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  3. Thank you for explaining what kefir is! I've been seeing recipes around but had no idea what it was. Thank you for sharing on Foodie Friday

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  4. Great Post! Thank you so much for sharing your awesome post with Full Plate Thursday and have a great weekend.
    Come Back Soon!
    Miz Helen

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  5. Thank you for your submission on Nourishing Treasures' Make Your Own! Monday link-up.

    Check back tomorrow when the new link-up is running to see if you were one of the top 3 featured posts! :)

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  6. I was recently given some water kefir grains but haven't used them yet. I like the suggestions you gave for serving the kefir!

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    1. Since you already have the kefir grains, you gotta try making some! Easy as pie! Please let me hear about it when you make some!

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  7. I am going to have to try this. Kefir is one of my goals for this year, and I need to make water kefir for my son since he can't have dairy. Thanks for linking up to Healthy 2Day Wednesday!

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    1. Anne,
      Such a good goal! My kids and hubby (and myself) are all enjoying our water kefir - take the plunge! Try it out!

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  8. This lays it out so simply. I'm very interested in making water kiefer, having recently learned how to make kombucha. Thanks for posting!

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    1. Eileen,
      Good for you making kombucha! I haven't tried making kombucha yet, but from what I hear water kefir is a much easier process with similar (though not exactly the same) benefits. Either way, its all good stuff!

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  9. Thanks for this great post about water kefir!! And the Veg Mamma logo looks great on your side bar! :) Thanks for linking up at our Gluten Free Fridays party! I have tweeted and pinned your entry to our Gluten Free Fridays board on Pinterest! :)

    The party will be GREAT this week! We are giving away a tote full of goodies from Namaste Foods! The items are gluten free and allergy friendly! Can't wait to see what you bring to the party!

    Cindy from vegetarianmamma.com

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  10. I should give it a try to probiotics...I like your post.

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  11. Paige, I sure wish I had found your site after my daughter was born. I had to go gluten, dairy, egg, peanut free (amoung a few others) and had to reinvent how I ate...

    My boys love regular kefir, but Greta and I can't have it because of the dairy. You've inspired me. I think we definitely need to give this a try!

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    1. Heather - We are all really enjoying the water kefir! The kids enjoy the refreshing (and sweet) flavors and I notice the health benefits.

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    2. Heather - and might I add that Im really enjoying your series on Brain Boosting!

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  12. Love your awesome sandwich bread! All my kids eat for bread:) our dietician was happy with it and asked for a copy! (It has a link to your blog). Quick question - I have a kefir starter from body ecology from Dr. Mercola. It talks about only using it with milk. (I was going to try it with coconut milk). Can I use this for water kefir or do I need a different starter? Thanks!

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    1. Water kefir grains and milk kefir grains are different. Im not sure what would happen if you used milk kefir grains in water, but my best guess is that it would not work. They talk about the differences on the Cultures for Health website - that might help. And so glad to hear your family is enjoying the bread recipe! Thanks for posting!

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