K. Water Kefir
I’m probably coming a little late to the natural gastrointestinal health party, so bear with me if you are already heading out the door to the next shindig. But a friend of mine (who may or may not be the person still giving me remedial knitting lessons) just introduced me to water kefir (and other things that I will talk about at the end of the month).
Can we say mmmmm? I’m a bit particular about tastes and smells. I’ve tried kombucha tea and it was just too pungent for me. So I was a little skeptical about water kefir. I shouldn’t have worried. I like the stuff. So now I am planning and imagining the fermented drinks I will be able to get my kids to drink.
And the science! Organisms living in symbiotic relationships – it makes me drool more than the taste of the drink.
What is water kefir?
Water kefir is a drink made from water kefir grains. It is a probiotic drink – one that promotes a healthy gut through the use of “good” bacteria and yeast. It is made by growing the grains in a sugary solution, usually either sugar-water, fruit juice or coconut water. The grains ferment the sugar solution and produce a finished product in about 24-48 hours. Depending on how it is made and the starter culture, the finished product can contain just under 20 probiotic bacteria and 7 different types of yeast.
Water kefir has different tastes depending on the sugar solution you use for fermentation. It can be sweet but may taste flat if it isn’t bottled. Often people add the kefir to other drinks.
Water kefir’s claims to fame include boosting immunity, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, preventing colon cancer, preventing irritable bowel syndrome and colitis, and reducing inflammation. Unlike dairy kefir, water kefir is fine for people that are lactose intolerant. It is a dairy-free food (and gluten-free if you travel in those circles).
I generally don’t buy into the newest fad to promote health, but kefir has been promoted as a healthy drink since ancient times. And the science is too juicy to ignore.
Grains is a misnomer
The starter is called water kefir grains, but they aren’t grains at all. They are called grains because that is what they look like. But they have nothing to do with wheat, barley, rye, etc. They are also called tibicos, tibi, sugar kefir grains, Japanese water crystals and California bees, among other things.
Now this is where the awesome science comes in. The “grains” are actually bacteria and yeast that exist together symbiotically. The bacteria create a “polysaccharide biofilm;” essentially a sugar life raft that teems with healthy bacteria and yeast. If you treat your grains nicely, they can grow indefinitely, giving you a lifetime supply of the healthy elixir.
What does this have to do with my kids?
One of the byproducts of the water kefir fermentation process is gas. As the sugar is fermented, the healthy organisms release lactic acid, ethanol (yes, alcohol), and carbon dioxide, which makes the liquid carbonated. Add a little flavoring and you have a homemade carbonated drink. In fact, some websites has described a water kefir drink as a ” flavored soda minus all the processed sugar, artificial colors, flavors and preservatives.”
I don’t want my sins to be revisited on my kids (I am a bit of a Pepsi addict), so if I can give them a healthy alternative to soda, I’m willing to give it a try (and did I mention it would be a science experiment as well?). I’ve already started collecting recipes, like this one on wellnessmama. com.
Am I going to get drunk? (is this safe for kids/will they sleep well?)
You might have noticed that I mentioned that ethanol is produced during the fermentation process. This might make some parents nervous, or others happy. I mean, alcohol could make you or the kids drunk, which might lead to inappropriate behavior at the PTO meetings and/or kids that fall asleep quickly if the drink is given at bedtime (just sayin’). But you have no need to be concerned/excited. The amount of alcohol produced is <1%, so you really don’t have anything to get
excited worried about. In comparison, beer has almost 4 % alcohol in it. So you might not get a good night’s rest from this drink.
And I also noticed a warning. The longer you keep your water kefir drink in the fridge, the more carbonation it will produce. This can lead to an explosion if the bottle is capped too tightly. Kaboom in the fridge; another science experiment gone awry.
But I think it’s well worth trying.
Blogging my way from A to Z as part of the 2016 April A to Z Challenge. Come blog through the alphabet with me.
Photo courtesy of Tim Lucas.