The fermented beverage kefir is the stuff of legend. Marco Polo wrote about kefir in his diaries. The grains for traditional kefir are said to have been a gift of the Prophet Mohammed. Perhaps the most intriguing tale is that of Irina Sakharova, the Russian temptress sent to charm the secret of kefir from a Caucasian prince.
Today, kefir enjoys popularity throughout the world as a healthful and refreshing beverage. But a new product, coconut kefir, eclipses the health benefits of traditional kefir by combining the benefits of kefir with the health rewards and delicious flavor of coconut water.
Traditionally, kefir has been made from cow, goat, or sheep’s milk fermented with kefir grains. Kefir grains are not actually grains, but a combination of ingredients, including:
- lactic acid bacteria (found in plants, animals, and soil)
- lipids (fats)
These ingredients form a gelatinous substance. They’re live, active cultures, similar to those found in a sourdough bread starter. They cause the kefir lime to ferment when combined with milk or coconut water, in much the same way yogurt, sour cream, and buttermilk do.
Coconut water is the clear or slightly cloudy liquid that you find when you crack open a green coconut. It’s different from coconut milk, which is prepared with grated coconut meat from a mature, brown coconut.
Coconut water contains potassium, carbs, protein, minerals, and vitamins. It’s low in cholesterol and fat. Unlike water, coconut water contains electrolytes, minerals that are crucial to the function of your body’s cells. It’s important to replace electrolytes when you lose them through sweating, vomiting, or diarrhea.
Pure coconut water has been used as an intravenous fluid to hydrate critically ill patients in remote areas where medical resources are limited. For example, the case of a stroke patient in the Solomon Islands who was successfully hydrated with coconut water appears in American Journal of Emergency Medicine.
Coconut kefir is coconut water that has been fermented with kefir grains. Like dairy kefir, it provides fuel for the beneficial bacteria in your gut. These good bacteria fight unhealthy bacteria as well as infection. They also help stimulate digestion and boost your immune system.
All the nutrients in coconut water are present in coconut kefir. The downside of coconut kefir? It’s higher in sodium than other kefirs, and most of its calories come from sugar. That said, coconut water kefir has nutritional and health benefits worth noting.
Packed with Potassium
Coconut water kefir contains about as much potassium as a banana. Potassium can help prevent the loss of bone mineral density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. According to one study, high dietary potassium is associated with reduced risk of stroke and reduced incidence of death from all causes in older women. Another study asserts that potassium protects men from stroke.
It’s a Probiotic
Probiotics are live bacteria or yeast that line your gut. The presence of these healthy bacteria can thwart unhealthy bacteria’s efforts to enter the body and take up residence in the gut. They aid digestion and help maintain a healthy pH in your intestines.
According to an article in Nutrition in Clinical Practice, there’s evidence that probiotics may be useful in treating or preventing a number of conditions, including:
- urinary tract infections
- respiratory infections
- bacterial vaginal infections
- some aspects of inflammatory bowel disease
It’s Well Tolerated
Because it’s dairy-free, coconut water kefir is well tolerated if you’re lactose intolerant. It’s also gluten-free and suitable for people who have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.
How to Make Your Own
Coconut kefir is a tasty, nutritious drink. You can buy it at a number of stores, particularly stores that specialize in natural foods. Or you may want to try your hand at making your own.
All you need to do is combine a packet of kefir grains with water from four green coconuts. Let the mixture sit for about a day until it’s milkier in color and topped with bubbles.