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If you keep up with recent food trends, you’ve likely heard of kefir. Perhaps you’ve even tried it. Over the years, many food and nutrition trends have come and gone. As a dietitian, I’m hoping kefir is here to stay!

Kefir, a fermented milk beverage, can be likened to a thin, drinkable yogurt. Kefir is made when kefir grains, a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts, are added to milk. The grains ferment or feed on the milk’s natural sugar, lactose, producing lactic acid, ethanol and carbon dioxide as byproducts. The end product has a slightly bubbly appearance and carbonated taste. For this reason, kefir is often referred to as the “champagne of dairy.” This makes kefir different from yogurt and other sour milk products where only bacteria ferment the lactose into acids. Because of the fermentation process, very little lactose remains in kefir making it suitable for many people with lactose intolerance.

Kefir contains several key nutrients in amounts similar to unfermented milk. Kefir is a good source of calcium, vitamin D, phosphorus and potassium. It can be found with varying amounts of fat. Low-fat and nonfat options will have all of the same nutrients with less saturated fat and calories. Kefir can also be purchased flavored or plain. Flavored varieties will contain added sugar, similar to flavored yogurts. To reduce your intake of added sugars, consider purchasing plain kefir and sweetening it yourself by blending in fresh or frozen fruit. One cup of plain, low-fat kefir supplies 104 calories and 9 grams of protein.

Jamie Pronschinske

Jamie Pronschinske, RDN

Because of the fermentation process, kefir is very rich in probiotics. Probiotics are live microorganisms or “good bacteria” found in fermented foods like kefir and yogurt. Research suggests that ingesting probiotics may help to maintain a desirable community of microorganisms in our bodies and protect against the growth of undesirable microorganisms. Probiotics may also help stimulate the immune response and help the microorganism community of the digestive tract return to normal after being disturbed by antibiotics or an infection.

Because of its blend of carbohydrates and protein, kefir makes an excellent breakfast option or pre-or post-workout snack. Kefir can be enjoyed as a beverage, over the top of cereal, sprinkled with granola or blended into smoothies. If you are new to kefir or are just looking for another way to enjoy it, consider trying one of these recipes:

Berry Quick Kefir Smoothie

  • 1 cup low-fat kefir, flavor of choice
  • 2 cups berries, frozen
  • 1 cup spinach, fresh

Place all ingredients in blender. Blend and serve.

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Makes 2 servings.

Per (1-cup) serving: Calories 120, Fat 0 g, Saturated fat 0 g, Sodium 63 mg, Carbohydrates 20 g, Fiber 4 g, Protein 4 g

Creamy Ranch Kefir Dressing

  • 1½ cups low-fat kefir, plain
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill, finely chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried dill)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried parsley)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chives, finely chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried chives)
  • 2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon black pepper

Whisk all ingredients together, cover and chill in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Makes 12 servings.

Per serving (2 tablespoons): Calories 14, Fat 0 g, Saturated fat 0 g, Sodium 112 mg, Carbohydrates 2 g, Fiber 0 g, Protein 1 g

Kefir, a fermented milk beverage, can be likened to a thin, drinkable yogurt. It is a good source of calcium, vitamin D, phosphorus and potassium. It can be found with varying amounts of fat. Low-fat and nonfat options.

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Jamie Pronschinske is a registered dietitian at Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse.

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