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kefir vs buttermilk both are probiotic-rich drinks full of gut-healthy bacteria
FAQs Kefir

Kefir VS. Buttermilk

Kefir Vs. Buttermilk

Both milk kefir and buttermilk are probiotic-rich drinks full of gut-healthy bacteria. The main difference between kefir and buttermilk is in the number of beneficial bacteria each has to offer. Depending on the variety that you use, milk kefir grains may contain up to 60 strains of beneficial bacteria and yeasts. See the full list here (1). While buttermilk only has one strain, either Lactobacillus bulgaricus or Lactococcus lactis, depending on the manufacturer.

So if you are trying to decide which one is better for your gut health, then kefir is the answer.

What are probiotics?

 

Probiotics are living microorganisms that help balance the good and bad bacteria that live in the digestive system.

Good bacteria in the gut ensure the appropriate absorption of vitamins and minerals and synthesizes them as well. A well-functioning gut with healthy gut flora holds the roots to good health; the rest of the body cannot thrive without a well-functioning digestive system.

A healthy gut provides a more balanced metabolism, body weight, and a stronger immune system. It also helps produce essential vitamins and nutrients for your body, improves brain function, and elevates your mood.

The diverse and multiple functions of gut flora reach far beyond the gut itself. A build-up of negative microbes or bad bacteria in our digestive system can cause toxicity build-up. So, no matter what you do, you can’t get better.

One of the easiest ways to balance your gut microbiome is by consuming fermented foods, i.e., kefir and/or buttermilk.

Nutritional Differences Between Kefir and Buttermilk

 

Actually, kefir and buttermilk have quite a few similarities in their nutritional profile. The following stats are for a one-cup serving.

Nutrients

Protein
Calories
Carbohydrates
Fat
Potassium

Kefir

6 grams
162
15 grams
2 grams
376 mg

Buttermilk

7.83 grams
150
11.9 grams
8.08 grams
370 mg

 

Both kefir and buttermilk contain a similar amount of potassium. An 8 oz. serving of Lifeway plain kefir contains about 376 mg of potassium (2) and 2% buttermilk just surpasses it with 439 mg of potassium. (3)

Benefits of Kefir

 

kefir vs buttermilk which is better for you

 

Kefir grains are a mixture of bacteria and yeasts in a matrix of proteins, lipids, and sugars. Many say this symbiotic matrix forms grains that look like tiny cauliflower florets. Kefir is packed with many vital nutrients and vitamins.

  • magnesium
  • riboflavin
  • vitamin B12
  • phosphorus
  • calcium
  • protein
  • vitamin D
  • vitamin K2
  • bioactive compounds
  • organic acids and peptides

Milk kefir is rich in calcium and vitamin K2, which can increase bone health and with regular consumption it has been shown to reduce the risk of bone fractures by 81%. (4)

The K2 vitamin helps calcium metabolize and get into the bone to prevent fractures and keep your bones strong.

While it is true kefir is a source of K2, it actually depends on the quality of the milk used to make the kefir. If the milk is from grass-fed cows then the amount of K2 will be higher. Furthermore, the bacteria in the kefir grains also produce some K2.

Nailing down the exact amount of K2 that is in kefir was difficult. I was able to find one scientific study that states there are 5 µg/100 g (or 3.5oz.). However, it did not list the type of milk used in the kefir sample or how much derived from the milk or the bacteria that is also in kefir grains. (5)

Compare that to other sources of K2 (6)

Natto 939 mcg
Goose Liver  370 mcg
Beef Liver 263 mcg
Kimchi 42 mcg
Kefir 5 mcg

Per (100g) or 3.5 oz. of food*
µg and mcg are the same measurements.

To make a dairy-free version of kefir, you can substitute coconut water, coconut milk or other sweet liquids for the milk. However, these will not have the same nutrient profile as dairy-based kefir.

Benefits of Buttermilk

 

buttermilk compared to kefir which is better for you

Buttermilk is similar to yogurt, and it’s highly popular in India, Asia, Europe, and the Balkans.

Buttermilk packs a lot of nutrition into a small serving.

  • calcium
  • magnesium
  • lactic acid
  • vitamin B12
  • vitamin A
  • vitamin D
  • riboflavin
  • potassium
  • phosphorus

 

2% buttermilk has 250 mg of calcium per cup, which can be helpful in preventing osteoporosis, making it especially good for people concerned with their bone health. (7)

Buttermilk has the same amount of protein as skim milk and less fat than regular milk because the fat is skimmed off the top during the process of making butter. The leftover liquid is now lower in fat.

It is very versatile since you can buy it in a few different forms. Fresh, frozen, and powdered are all available on the market, making it easy to incorporate into any recipe.

The probiotics in buttermilk help with digestion and aid with stomach issues like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn’s, flatulence, and acid reflux. It can lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

Buttermilk is full of electrolytes and is a great drink to prevent dehydration. If you are working out in the hot summer sun, buttermilk can help the body maintain its fluid content.

Flavor and Consistency of Kefir and Buttermilk

 

Buttermilk and kefir both have very similar tastes, with kefir being a bit tangier. Buttermilk has a very tart and sour taste, similar to unsweetened yogurt or sour cream. They both have a similar appearance, being a white liquid that could be tinged a slight yellow or brown.

They may have bubbles, and they’re known for having a very thick and creamy texture, much thicker than regular cow’s milk. You may also notice a slightly sour scent, but again, don’t be alarmed. It’s perfectly normal, and drinking it won’t hurt you, and you just may find yourself a little bit surprised by the flavor and scent.

It’s absolutely worth it for the health benefits you’ll receive by incorporating it into your regular diet, and there’s plenty of ways to use both drinks that don’t involve drinking it straight if you find yourself truly put off by the flavor.

How Kefir is Made

 

Kefir starts with grains that are small colonies of proteins, yeast, sugar, and bacteria. Milk is added to the grains. It doesn’t necessarily need to be cow’s milk, sheep or goat milk can be used as well. Once the kefir has fermented for approximately 12 -24 hours, the active cultures are strained out. What is left behind is a smooth and tangy flavored drink.

How Buttermilk Is Made

 

Buttermilk has been around for hundreds of years and originally was made with unpasteurized cow’s milk. Back then, people would make butter by letting the whole milk stand to allow the cream to separate. After the cream rose to the surface it was skimmed off, leaving “skim milk” behind. Buttermilk is the byproduct or liquid that’s left behind, as a result of making butter from cream. As you can probably guess, this process was not sterile, resulting in a natural fermentation of the skim milk.

The lactose, which is milk sugar in the cream would mix with bacteria in the air. It would then metabolize into lactic acid which is the reason for the tangy flavor.

Today, buttermilk is made by adding lactic acid to pasteurized skim milk to increase the acidity. This acidification gives the buttermilk it’s unique, tart taste and adds additional proteins to the milk.

How to incorporate Kefir and Buttermilk into your diet.

 

Now that you have all of the details about kefir and buttermilk, you’re probably wondering what the best way to incorporate each one into your diet.

Of course, you can drink each just as they are and it’s probably the most efficient way to do it, but why not have a little fun with it? Your food doesn’t have to be boring.

For starters, buttermilk is a great substitute for butter or sour cream, especially because it has a very yogurt-like flavor.

Add buttermilk or kefir to your smoothie.

A simple smoothie recipe to include these in your diet might look like a ½ cup of kefir or buttermilk, ½ cup of frozen strawberries, one tablespoon of lemon juice, one teaspoon of honey and run it through a blender. You could add some cacao nibs or chia seeds to the recipe. It sounds like the perfect start to a morning. Try my kefir smoothie recipe.

add buttermilk or kefir to your next fruit smoothie

Buttermilk pancakes and buttermilk biscuits are two tried and true recipes.

 

Buttermilk pancakes and buttermilk biscuits

 

Kefir, makes fantastic bread, like lemon loaves or carrot loaves. You can use them as a sourdough starter if bread baking is your thing.

Both make excellent meat tenderizers.

To make a deliciously moist chicken, on the inside and crispy outside, first, soak the chicken breast in kefir or buttermilk.

make a deliciously moist chicken first soak the chicken in kefir or buttermilk

Kefir or buttermilk can also be used for frozen treats like ice cream or popsicles.

Buttermilk salad dressing is delicious on a blend of collard, kale, and mustard greens for a Southern-inspired summer salad.

Kefir also comes in flavored fruit varieties, so as long as you’re mindful of your sugar intake, that could be a great option as well.

In Conclusion

 

Both drinks have amazing qualities and a very similar nutritional profile. However, because kefir is made up of approximately 60 strains of beneficial bacteria and yeasts compared to buttermilk’s one strain of good bacteria I believe kefir is your best option.

Whichever you choose, you’ll know that you’re making a great choice with your health in mind, and you can look forward to reaping the benefits every single time you use them.

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4854945/
  2. https://lifewaykefir.com/products/plain-lowfat-kefir/
  3. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/336086/nutrients
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16801507
  5. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814618317072?via%3Dihub
  6. https://innovixlabs.com/blogs/insights/foods-that-contain-vitamin-k
  7. https://www.healthandwellnessalerts.berkeley.edu/topics/nutrition-weight-control/buttermilk-healthier-than-it-sounds/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4626640/
  9. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/9-health-benefits-of-kefir#section1
how to freeze kefir grains without ruining them
FAQs Kefir

Freezing Kefir Grains (without ruining it) – Everything you must know

How To Safely Freeze Kefir Grains For Later Use

Creamy and tangy, kefir is one of life’s little pleasures. Whether it is blended into a fruit smoothie or poured on top of berries or granola, it is an easy and delicious way to add some fantastic probiotic bacterial cultures to your diet. But, what do you do with it if you are going on an extended vacation or decide to take a break from this gut-healthy probiotic food?

Both milk kefir and water kefir grains can be frozen and stored in the freezer for a few months and with a little luck for several years. Follow my steps on how to freeze kefir grains without ruining them. No kefir grains should ever go to waste again.

 

Why Freeze Kefir

You might find yourself with an overabundance of kefir piling up in your kitchen.
Let’s face it; sometimes, our little fermentation projects can get a little out of hand. I recommend once you have enough grains, it’s a good idea to have a backup set of grains either dehydrated or frozen in your freezer. Then if for some unexpected reason you lose your grains, all is not lost; you grab your spares.

 

How to Freeze Kefir Grains for Several Months or More

  1. Rinse milk kefir grains thoroughly with milk and drain.
  2. Lay them on a cookie sheet that is covered with a piece of clean unbleached parchment paper
  3. Dry at room temperature for 2-5 days, depending on humidity and room temperature.
  4. Place the sheet in an area that will not be contaminated.
  5. Place dried kefir grains in a bowl and add a little powdered milk to coat the grains. This provided a protective shield on the grains. Organic powdered milk is best, but regular will work fine.
  6. Place dried milk kefir grains in a ziplock bag or glass jar with a plastic lid. To prevent freezer burn double or triple bag your frozen kefir or consider vacuum sealing it.
  7. Store in the freezer for six months to a year.
  8. If you are freezing water kefir grains, skip rinsing with milk or water and just drain them. Also, omit the powdered milk.

how to freeze kefir milk grains without ruining them

 

Tips for safely Freezing Kefir Grains:

  • The reason for removing as much liquid as possible is to prevent water molecules from expanding during freezing and thus damaging the live organisms which are the grains.
  • There are many reports of people storing kefir grains for a year or more. However, in my opinion, it is wise to err on the side of caution and avoid this long of a freeze if you can.
  • Don’t rinse your kefir grains in water. Cleaning kefir grains does more harm than good because it removes the protective coating of bacteria and yeasts. Says Donna over at Culturedfoodlife.com

    “I get so many emails from people, who in attempt to help their kefir grains, will rinse them in cool water. You should NEVER EVER EVER do this. It damages them and rinses off the protective bacteria that make them thrive. So many times they will either die or stop reproducing or not make kefir very well after rinsing. Some kefir grains will survive this and be ok, but it still slows them down and damages them and gives me huge amounts of anxiety.” Source: Culturedfoodlife.com

Reactivating Frozen Kefir Grains

How to Defrost Milk Kefir Grains

When you are ready to use your kefir grains again, follow these simple steps on how to defrost kefir grains.

  1. Place the frozen kefir grains in the refrigerator overnight.
  2. Once the grains have thawed, rinse the powdered milk off with fresh milk.
  3. Drain and add a small amount of fresh milk, just enough to cover the grains and set on the counter to ferment for two days.

**If it is water kefir, then add sugar water

The room temperature should be between 65-75°F (18-25°C). Remember that temperature does play a factor: if it is to warm the fermentation will occur much faster, possibly within 12 -18 hours. If it is colder than it can take up to 48 hours.

If the first batch does not taste right to you then drain and dump the kefir liquid and start a new batch with the grains.
A healthy kefir grain will produce the kefir liquid within 24 hours.

How Do You Know the Kefir is Ready

The kefir is ready when it starts to clump and resemble cottage cheese or rice pudding. it will also produce a clean sour odor that may be slightly yeasty.

At this stage, strain the liquid into a container for drinking and then refrigerate it. You can drink the kefir plain or mix it with some berries for fruity-flavored kefir. Try my delicious banana Kefir smoothie recipe.

After the grains have been stored for some time, they usually need some time to reactivate before you start using them again. To re-use the kefir grains; add them back into the glass jar with another 2 cups of fresh milk to start the fermentation process all-over again.

It could take 2-3 tries or several weeks before the kefir grains are back to producing deliciously flavored kefir.

Final Thoughts…

If you are taking a break from kefir or just have a surplus of kefir grains you want to store, then these steps will help you freeze the grains successfully. With proper care and storage of the grains, you will be able to wake up the grains successfully right away and continue making kefir as before.

You can always share them with your friends and family and spread the joys of this healthy probiotic food.

How to make Kefir
Fermented Drink Recipes Kefir

How to Make Kefir

How to Make Kefir

Kefir is a cultured milk drink that after fermentation acquires a wonderful sour, and sometimes effervescent, taste. This tanginess brings a whole new flavor to smoothies, lassis, and other drinks just as you would use yogurt or regular milk.

What are the health benefits of drinking Kefir?

 

Milk kefir is full of probiotics, similar to yogurt and other cultured and fermented products. The probiotics aid in healthy digestion. The fermenting process also changes some of the protein structures in the milk, making it easier to digest. Some people who can’t tolerate milk feel better drinking milk kefir.

 


Ingredients for making Kefir:

 

One tablespoon of Kefir Grains

2 cups of whole fresh Milk (raw milk is the best option, however, unhomogenized is also acceptable. Never use skimmed or low fat)

Milk kefir is full of probiotics, similar to yogurt and other cultured and fermented products
Milk Kefir is full of probiotics, similar to yogurt and other cultured and fermented foods.

 

Directions for making Kefir:

 

Place both the milk and kefir grains into a wide-mouth, quart-size jar. Toss the mixture by gently shaking the jar to ensure that the grains are completely coated in milk.

Loosely place the lid on the jar and cover with a fine cloth.

Store in a cupboard for between 24 hours (at least) and two days (for an excellent sour, tangy flavor!) – the longer you leave the milk to ferment the more lactose is consumed by the grains, and the more enzymes are created.

This is the fermentation stage. During this time, the healthy bacteria and yeast in the kefir grains will ferment the milk, preventing it from spoiling while transforming it into kefir.

During this stage, it is important to gently shake the jar every now and again to ensure a proper and even fermentation.

Don’t be alarmed when your milk separates into a thick white yogurt (on the way to becoming curd) and a yellowish clear liquid (whey). This is a sign that the process is successful.

Strain out the kefir grains from the liquid: Place a small strainer over the container you’ll use to store the kefir. Strain the kefir liquid into the container and catching the grains in the strainer.

The whey liquid it the finished product that you will drink or add to your favorite kefir smoothie recipe.

Once you are satisfied with the consistency of the kefir (thickness and fermentation) you can either drink it immediately in its natural state or turn it into your favorite smoothie! Check out my kefir smoothie recipe with bananas.

The good news is that as long as they stay healthy, you can reuse kefir grains indefinitely to make more kefir. The best way to keep them healthy is to keep making kefir! You can make a new batch of kefir roughly every 24 hours (the temperature of your kitchen can affect the exact time) just by putting the kefir grains in a fresh cup of milk.

Over time, the grains will multiply and you can either discard the extra or share it with friends & family. You can also take a break from making kefir by putting the grains in a new cup of milk and storing it in the fridge.

 

Want to know more about the health benefits and differences between kefir and buttermilk? Read my post Kefir vs. Buttermilk.