Yogurt has been a part of the human diet for years. But lately, its fermented cousin and the "It" food of the 21st century has gained all the limelight. Yes, we are talking about none other than kefir.
You might have noticed how kefir has started popping up in almost all the grocery stores. And you cannot deny the fact that this drink has been getting a lot more mainstream attention too, mainly because of the probiotic goodness it brings.
So what if you wish to try out kefir? Sure, go ahead. But what if you are lactose intolerant or simply don't like consuming dairy? Fear not, for there are many varieties of non-dairy kefir that you can try. This article will help you understand what kefir is, its benefits, and some of its non-dairy variants that you can try without any lactose hassle.
What Is Kefir, Anyway?
Traditionally speaking, it is a fermented food item made by mixing kefir grains into cow or goat milk. Kefir grains are naturally rich in certain live bacterial strains and yeast. Both of which work together to ferment the milk over a span of 24 hours. As a result, you get a rich, tangy yogurt drink to enjoy!
While this whole process of kefir production may sound new to you, research suggests that it has been there for centuries. (1) With the passage of time, this process was modified and enhanced in several ways and consequently, we have multiple types of kefir available today, both dairy and non-dairy.
What Can Kefir Do For You?
In addition to being an exotic fermented food, kefir contains a lot of healthy compounds that can benefit your body in multiple ways. Let's take a peak at what kefir can do for your body and overall health.
It Is An Immune Booster
This one certainly does not come off as a surprise since it's the number one reason why a lot of people prefer consuming kefir in the first place.
Kefir is naturally rich in multiple probiotics and other nutrients including folate and biotin. These nutrients can boost your immune system and make it work more actively against diseases. Kefir exclusively contains a certain probiotic strain called Lactobacillus Kefiri which can protect your body against some dangerous bacterial strains like E. coli and Salmonella. (2)
It Strengthens Bones
The kefir varieties derived from whole fats are a great source to achieve good calcium and vitamin K levels, both of which are immensely important for maintaining bone health.
But what if you are using the non-dairy kefir?
It will still be beneficial for the bones since certain bioactive compounds in kefir, irrespective of its variety, actively enhance the calcium absorption in your gut. (3) As a result, your risk of experiencing bone degeneration is significantly reduced.
It Can Help Suppress Cancer
Probiotic drinks like kefir have been known to have beneficial effects on patients with cancer. One particular study has found that it stops the cancer cells from spreading to the stomach. (4) Other studies suggest that such drinks can also considerably suppress the growth rate of tumors and may even stop the normal cells from becoming carcinogenic. (5)
It Is Gut-Friendly
Researchers believe that probiotic-rich foods like kefir are a natural way to restore the gut balance. They can also protect the gut and help it heal from several ailments like Crohn's disease and IBS. (6)
If you are sick and have been taking antibiotics for a long time, these medications can likely alter the natural flora of your gut. Kefir can help restore this lost balance and help aid in recovery. Additionally, it will also fight any other side effects usually caused by antibiotics, such as diarrhea.
It Relieves Allergies
Are you tired of constant asthmatic attacks? Kefir can be of help!
Most types of allergies arise due to an underlying inflammatory issue in the body, and kefir can help resolve them naturally. Research has also backed the inflammation-reducing properties of kefir. One of the studies found that kefir is particularly good at reducing inflammation in the lungs and can also clear the mucus blocking the airways. (7)
Non-Dairy Kefir: What Is It Really?
Did you think kefir can only be made using goat or cow milk? Think once more!
For all those who wish to try kefir but are not really fond of dairy products, there is a separate category of dairy-free kefir and there are a wide variety of options for you to try. Let's explore some non-dairy kefir varieties and see what they are made of.
8 Non-dairy Kefir You Should Try
#1 - Water Kefir
Looking for a non-dairy variant of kefir? Water kefir is the easiest and simplest option. Not only is it dairy-free but can also be carbonated or flavored per your liking. If you are a fan of soda pop, you are definitely going to enjoy water kefir.
The process of making water kefir is not complicated. In fact, it is quite similar to making dairy kefir with the only exception of replacing culturing milk with sugar water. As a result, you can get a versatile fermented drink that can be flavored in multiple ways.
#2 - Coconut Milk Kefir
Another famous alternative to the regular dairy kefir, coconut milk kefir is a tangy drink that requires little to no exposure to dairy. You can culture this type of kefir with the help of water kefir grains or milk kefir grains as per your preference.
#3 - Coconut Water Kefir
Coconut water is a healthy electrolyte drink and a delicious substitute for those wishing to try out a fermented drink without using dairy. To make this type of kefir, you will need fresh coconut water taken directly from young coconuts. If you are unable to find fresh coconut water, its pasteurized varieties can be found in most supermarkets. Add some water kefir grains to this coconut water and voila! You will get your very own fermented kefir with no traces of dairy.
#4 - Juice Water Kefir
Juice water kefir is pretty similar to water kefir. Instead of using water, you just use any fresh juice of your liking. These fruits may include watermelon, grapes, oranges, sweet lime, and grapefruit.
#5 - Rice Milk Kefir
For those with lactose intolerance, rice milk kefir can be a savior. It simply replaces the regular milk with rice milk and gives you a chance to enjoy this fermented drink without bearing the consequences of dairy. The kefir made with rice milk is less sour and usually lighter.
#6 - Oat Milk Kefir
In case of lacrosse intolerance, oat milk is one of the best replacements for regular milk. Oat milk contains starch that can help make kefir richer, sweeter, and way creamier than its regular varieties. Additionally, oats are a rich source of fiber, and using oat milk to make kefir can further enhance its beneficial effects on the gut. Oat milk kefir is also a great choice for people looking forward to shedding some extra pounds.
#7 - Nut Milk Kefir
Nut milk is usually made by mixing nuts soaked in water and it can easily be used to create non-dairy kefir. However, you must remember to remove any fine bits of nuts from the nut milk via straining before using it to make kefir. Kefir made from nut milk is not only extremely delicious but also highly nutritious, particularly because it has a high protein ratio.
The type of nuts to use for preparing nut milk kefir depends on your personal preference. However, to maximize the taste, the following nuts are recommended:
- Macadamia nut
- Pecan nuts
#8 - Seed Milk Kefir
In addition to nuts, you can also use seeds to get lactose-free milk and use it to make non-dairy kefir. But make sure you steer clear of any strongly-flavored seeds, such as sesame seeds.
The following seeds are recommended for making dairy-free kefir:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Quinoa seeds
- Chia seeds
- Flax seeds
- Sunflower seeds
How Much Kefir to Drink Every day?
To gain maximum benefits from kefir, experts recommend consuming one cup of this fermented drink every day. If you are new to kefir, start with a low dose and slowly increase the quantity as this is the best way to assess your tolerance while minimizing the side effects, if any.
The Final Thoughts
Non-dairy kefir can provide you with almost all the benefits of the regular milk kefir. It is extremely easy to make and requires minimum effort and time. Additionally, there are so many different varieties of dairy-free kefir and you can choose any one of them according to your taste and preference.
So if you are lactose intolerant or just not a fan of dairy and do not wish to miss out on this fermented drink that everyone's been talking about, give non-dairy kefir a try! You just might like it.