Kefir nutritional value and health properties. How is kefir produced?

Kefir is a fermented milk drink made using the so-calledkefir grains. It has many health-promoting properties – includingis a very good probiotic, prevents osteoporosis, improves immunity and protects against bacterial infections.Kefir is very popular in Eastern Europe, and Poland is its second largest producer in the world.

Kefir is a fermented milk drink made using the so-calledkefir mushrooms (grains), composed of suitable bacteria and yeasts. It has a white or light cream color, slightly viscous consistency, has a distinctive, sour taste. There are bubbles of carbon dioxide in it, which makes it slightly sparkling and refreshing. Kefir contains health-beneficial lactic acid bacteria and small amounts of alcohol, as kefir grains are capable of both lactic and alcoholic fermentation. The composition and flavor of kefir depend on the amount of kefir mushrooms used and the fermentation conditions specific for each producer. Kefir is most often made from cow’s milk, goat’s milk and sheep’s milk. However, it can also be made on the basis of plant drinks such as coconut, soy or rice milk, and even with fruit juices and water.

The history of kefir


Kefir most probably comes from the Caucasus, where it was made by shepherds. They poured milk into leather sacks in which fermentation occurred due to the specific microflora. At the beginning of the 20th century, the kefir mushrooms came to Russia thanks to Irina Sakharova – a worker of the Moscow dairy, who tricked them from the Caucasian prince Bek-Mirza Bacharov.In 1909, the production of kefir in Moscow began, and in the 1930s it was already popular throughout the Soviet Union.Currently, the largest producers of kefir in the world are Russia and Poland.Kefir is very popular in the area of ​​the former Soviet Union, Hungary, Poland, as well as in Sweden, Norway, Finland or Germany.Interest in it continues to grow in the United States and Japan.


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Kefir mushrooms – characteristics

Kefir kernels are a symbiotic set of microorganisms with a specific composition that behaves like one organism.They have an irregular shape, size from 5 to 35 mm in diameter and 1-3 cm in length, white or cream color, and the shape resembles boiled rice or small cauliflower rosettes.Kefir mushrooms are composed of lactic acid bacteria (streptococcus and sticks), acetic fermentation bacteria, yeast fermenting lactose and non-fermenting yeast.Lactic acid bacteria occur most frequently.Microorganisms are kept in one structure in the form of grains thanks to the polysaccharide – glucose-galactan called kefiran.Kefir kernels are propagated by immersing in fresh milk for about 20 hours.Their production from pure cultures of bacteria and yeasts is not practiced.Depending on the origin, kefir seeds have a different composition of microorganisms.The characteristics of the final product and the benefits of kefir depend on the specific composition of kefir mushrooms.

Composition and nutritional value of kefir

The composition of kefir is variable, depending on the origin of milk, its fat content, type of kefir grains and the conditions of the production process.The main compounds formed during the production of kefir are lactic acid, carbon dioxide and ethyl alcohol.Diacetyl and acetaldehyde are also present.All these substances are responsible for the taste and flavor typical of kefir.Very valuable from the health point of view are bacteria and yeasts present in the kefir. Kefir is a good source of vitamins B B1, B12 and folic acid, as well as vitamin K and biotin.It also provides significant amounts of calcium and magnesium.The kefir contains essential amino acids, includingtryptophan, which has a positive effect on the nervous system and has a calming effect.Kefir is a low-calorie milk drink (50-70 kcal in 100 g), which thanks to the protein content is very filling.It contains lactose, but often does not cause digestive problems in people with intolerance to this sugar.Better tolerance results from the presence of bacteria and yeast in the kephir, which partially break down lactose.


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The composition and nutritional value of kefir in 100 g:

Energy 65 kcal

Protein 3.3 g

Fat 3.5 g

Lactose (milk sugar) 4 g

Water 87.5 g

How is kefir produced?

The production of kefir on an industrial scale is as follows

  1. Homogenized milk is heated to 90-95 ° C for 5-10 minutes.
  2. They are cooled to a temperature of 18-24ºC and added kefir grains in a ratio of 130 to 150. The amount of starter culture added to the milk determines the acidity, density and composition of the final product.
  3. Fermentation lasts from 18 to 24 hours.
  4. After this time, the kefir is poured into glass or plastic packaging and left to mature for 24 hours at 3-10ºC or 12-14ºC.
  5. The finished kefir is stored at 4ºC.



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Health properties of kefir

Kefir has been used for thousands of years and during this time has found many uses in folk medicine. Currently, its numerous health-promoting properties are confirmed by an increasing amount of scientific research. Kefir is very often used in sanatoriums and hospitals in the countries of the former Soviet Union as an aid in the treatment of metabolic disorders, atherosclerosis and allergies. It is also used in the treatment of tuberculosis, cancer and gastrointestinal disorders when pharmaceutical preparations fail or are unavailable.Regular drinking of kefir may help to treat intestinal problems, regulate the bowel movement, reduce bloating and support the health of the digestive system.

Kefir as a probiotic

Kefir is a great probiotic – a source of microorganisms that support the development of the proper microflora of the body and prevent the growth of pathogenic bacteria.The bacterial balance of the body is associated with many health aspects, among which the following are mentioned:proper digestion, regular bowel movements, irritable bowel syndrome, leaky gut, and even mental well-being and autism.In the western diet the most known probiotic is yogurt, however kefir is a much better source of beneficial microorganisms.It contains over 30 different bacteria and yeasts, making it very rich in a variety of probiotic strains.Canadian studies have shown that eating kefir helps to cure irritable bowel syndrome and reduce inflammatory processes in the intestine.

Antibacterial activity of kefir

Studies show that many bacteria of the genus Lactobacillus exhibit antibacterial activity, thanks to which they have the ability to inhibit the growth of pathogenic microorganisms.This property is used in the protection of food against deterioration, but above all in the treatment and prevention of gastrointestinal intoxications and intimate infections.Antimicrobial activity of kefir for Staphylococcus aureus, E. coli, Listeria, Salmonella and others has been demonstrated.Kefir does not have the ability to inhibit Candida yeast growth.

Kefir reduces the risk of osteoporosis

Kefir is a good source of calcium and magnesium – elements essential for healthy, strong bones.At the same time, it contains vitamin K, which is responsible for calcium metabolism and, as research shows, reduces the risk of fractures.Animal studies have shown that kefir increases calcium absorption in skeletal cells, which results in higher bone density and lower fracture risk.Due to the presence of probiotic bacteria in the kefir, the absorption of calcium, magnesium, vitamins D and K – the ingredients necessary for the skeletal system present in this drink is increased.

The influence of kefir on the immune system

In animal studies, it has been shown that both probiotic bacteria present in the kefir and bioactive peptides produced during fermentation stimulate the immune system and enhance its response to antigenic attack.Higher concentrations of antibodies in the blood of animals administered kefir were found than in the control group.At the same time, the positive effect of kefir in the prevention of asthma and allergies has been demonstrated.Drinking kefir caused a decrease in the inflammatory markers in the subjects.It has been shown to have a strong anti-inflammatory effect, which can be used in the prevention of asthma.

The ability to inhibit the development of cancer

Studies on animals and human tumor cells have shown that kefiran polysaccharide and kefir extracts have the ability to inhibit tumor cell development and prevent metastasis of breast, lung and melanoma cancers.Attempts are made to develop an anti-cancer mechanism of kefir, but the problem requires more detailed research.It has been shown that kefir has an antioxidant effect even stronger than vitamin E. This is one of the theories explaining its anticancer activity.


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Effect of kefir on cholesterol

In a clinical trial in 2002, a group of 13 subjects examined 500 ml of kefir every day for 4 weeks, and the control group – milk.In the study group, there was a decrease in triglyceride levels and an increase in the level of good HDL cholesterol.One of the theories explaining the anticholesterol action of kefir says that the microorganisms of kefir.