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What is Kefir?

YINI - Fermented milk of the world - What is Kefir

For centuries, fermented milks have provided essential nutrients and health benefits in human diets.
Milk fermentation is as simple as adding live ferments to milk, leading to dozens of popular recipes around the world. How different are they? Get the science facts about Greek yogurt, lassi, skyr, laban, ayran, kefir… and many more.

Fermented milks around the World : Kefir

Kefir is a drink, started with the kefir grains that clump together various bacteria and yeasts (vs only 2 bacteria in yogurt).
This leads to a double fermentation (lactic + alcoholic) and develops the sour & fizzy attributes of kefir.

Kefir drinks can also be prepared by fermenting fruit juices, coconut water or molasses. This factsheet will focus on milk kefir.

The cultural origins

The name of “Kefir” comes from Turkish “Keyif”, meaning good feeling.
It is originates from Caucasian mountains in Russia & Central Asia and is popular in Middle East, Eastern Europe and Sweden.

Kefir is now emerging in North America (USA) & Japan for its nutritional goodness.

A specific double fermentation process : milk+bacteria+yeasts

Lactic acid bacteria: Lactobacillus, Lactococcus, Leuconostoc or Streptococcus

  • Feed on lactose
  • Yield lactic acid: lower pH which coagulates milk proteins
  • Release aromatic diacetyl & acetaldehyde

Acetic acid bacteria: Acetobacter occasionally present

  • Feed on sugars to yield organic acids

Yeasts

  • Some feed on lactose (i.e. Candida or Kluyveromyces)
  • Some feed on other sugars (glucose) (i.e. Saccharomyces or Kazachstania)
  • Yield CO2 (self-carbonated drink) + alcohol (below 0.05 %)  by alcoholic fermentation

Nutrition & health benefits

As all fermented milk product

  • Improved digestibility vs milk
  • Higher calcium uptake vs milk
  • Other effects under study (changes in blood lipid profile, anti-inflammatory properties)

Increased micronutrient density

  • After kefir’s yeast fermentation (vit B1, B2, B6, A, niacin, folates)

All the information about Kefir in one infography

YINI - fermented milk of the world - what is kefir - part 1 YINI - Fermented milk of the world - what is kefir - part 2 YINI - Fermented milk of the world - what is kefir - part 3

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