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Kefir grains come in two varieties. The more common and easily recognized one is milk kefir grains while the other is water kefir grains. Water kefir grains are a relatively new discovery while the history of milk kefir is more than 2,000 years old.
Kefir users agree that the first users of kefir grains were the people living in the Caucasus region. This area between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea includes the countries of Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, as well as the southern provinces of Russia. Stories tell of how the shepherds in Turkey accidentally allowed kefir grains to ferment their milk inside leather bags. Soon, the local people started to intentionally culture their milk having discovered a number of health benefits from this fermented beverage.
Milk kefir grains turn regular milk into healthy living beverage. The grains were so special that the early users guarded them as a prized heritage. It was the Russians who first conducted official medical studies and declared that milk kefir was effective in treating tuberculosis. Users, however, know very well that it can treat more than that.
Somehow, after thousands of years, kefir reached my own kitchen in the United States. Today, I regularly drink milk kefir and experiment with water kefir from time to time. I enjoy the benefits. By taking kefir regularly (not only when I feel like it or when I’m sick), I feel protected from a number of digestive-, immuno- and neural-based illnesses.
Both milk kefir and water kefir are known to prevent and treat tuberculosis, ulcer, diarrhea, colitis, reflux, urinary tract infection, prostate cancer, colon cancer, and HIV/AIDS. They also help control hypertension, blood sugar and diabetes. Users also observe a calming sensation, and so kefir is known around the world as a cure against depression, anxiety and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).
Both milk kefir grains and water kefir grains are rich in probiotics although they have different bacterial strains. There are much, much more probiotics in kefir than yogurt or any other health drinks. Yogurt (considered a very helpful health drink by many) contains only two types of bacterial strain with billions of helpful microorganisms; kefir, on the other hand, has 10 strains with trillions of helpful bacteria. Kefir is clearly 10 times more beneficial than milk or yogurt. The people in Caucasus knew this by heart, now we know this based on medical studies and documented cases.
However, there is a slight yet distinctive difference between the two drinks. Milk kefir has more nutrition, which comes naturally from the milk, while water kefir is less fattening.
Milk is the life source of all mammals. We cannot think about babies without thinking milk. As newborn and infant mammals we began our journey in this planet by sucking life-giving milk from our mother. What’s so special about milk anyway?
Milk is rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and protein, which are all essential for the growth and development of our bones, teeth and over-all health. It also has carbohydrates, protein, zinc, vitamin A and vitamin B. You get all of these plus more when you drink milk kefir.
It gets even more nutritious with raw milk, although you have to be careful finding a source. Some states prohibit the drinking of raw milk because of potential harm and infections. This makes a lot of sense, but if you are perfectly sure that your raw milk came from clean, grass-fed cows or goats, then go ahead.
If you ask me, I prefer organic food over processed foods anytime. I buy raw cow’s milk from a farmers market and use this to make kefir. Raw milk tastes better, too, but that’s just me. Some use raw sheep or goat’s milk. If these are not available and you would rather take pasteurized milk, then go ahead. That’s perfectly fine, too.
Meanwhile, water kefir has its own set of advantages. For one, it allows you to stay away from dairy if you’re on a vegetarian diet.
Going dairy-free is also good for lactose intolerant. Yet, milk kefir is also good for lactose intolerant since the bacteria eat the lactose before they can harm the human consumer. It there’s one milk that is friendly to people with lactose intolerance, it is milk kefir.
Two, water kefir also allows you to stay away from the fat contents of milk. Although skim, low fat and non-fat types of milk are widely available, water kefir has zero fat content, which makes it non-fattening compared to milk kefir.
Water kefir also has low glycemic index (GI). This means it releases glucose to your bloodstream at a relatively slower rate making you feel full for a longer time, and therefore not crave for food. This is why weight watchers love water kefir.
And three, it is more flexible. You can experiment more with water kefir grains since they work with any kinds of liquid as long as they have sugar contents. You can add any fruit or vegetable to make your water kefir drink more nutritious and with more exciting flavors. The result is a fizzy, soda pop-like drink, which could be your healthy soda alternative. You might also want to try using apple cider with ginger juice as medium, and be surprised just how tipsy you can get.
Water kefir is also called tibicos.