Your Guide To: Water Kefir
You may have been told (perhaps by me!) that eating more fermented food raises your chances of having a flourishing and diverse microbiome. So many groundbreaking studies like this one and that one are drawing links between the human gut microbiome and overall health. In fact, our bodies are more bacteria than they are cells. The relationship between us and our bacteria is symbiotic for the most part. The helpful micro flora that live in our gut help us digest our food, maintain a healthy immune system, keep our hormones balanced, and even make some of our B vitamins. Researchers now believe that many immune disorders such as psoriasis or rheumatoid arthritis have links to an imbalance in gut bacteria.
Why are more and more of us experiencing an imbalance in gut bacteria? The answer is complicated and very unique to the individual, but there are factors that contribute to a decreased micro flora, and moreover, ways we can counteract this. The prevalent usage of antibiotics, especially for a prolonged period of time, chronically, or starting from a young age have a huge impact on our gut bacteria. While antibiotics certainly have their place in the world of medicine and have saved many lives, they don’t distinguish between the harmful invading bacteria and our beneficial bacteria. Slowly, over time and with increased usage, they can eradicate species of bacteria that help us thrive. The health of our mother’s micro flora and whether we were breast fed has profound effects on our immunity and personal gut well being. Choosing farms who certify that their animals weren’t given antibiotics ensures we aren’t consuming antibiotics unintentionally through our food supply. Birth control and other prescribed medications have an effect on bacteria as well.
As a society we don’t eat as many fermented foods and therefore don’t expose ourselves to a wide variety of bacterial strains found in them. Even supplemental probiotics may not be colonizing the way they’ve been promised to. Some studies are finding that the strains found in common probiotic supplements are slightly different than the ones that would colonize our gut, and can’t withstand the acidic environment of the stomach.
This is such an excellent reason to consume fermented foods and beverages on a regular basis. The bacteria they contain are more likely to colonize the human gut and we’re more likely to expose ourselves to more strains of bacteria, thereby increasing biodiversity.
Benefits of eating fermented food:
Fermented food contains live bacteria that are feeding on yeasts and sugars. This actually translates to a lower-sugar food because the bacteria digest sugars
They are living foods with enzymes and organic acids. Whatever is fermenting is partially digested for us, and any active ingredients are far more bioavailable for absorption
Bacteria make B vitamins which help our metabolism, immune system and nervous system function properly
85% of the immune system resides in the gut. Healing the gut is the ultimate way to increase immune function
Fermenting food eliminates anti-nutrients found in food such as phytates and oxalic acid
RECIPE: Gut-Loving Elderberry Water Kefir
This recipe is:
Caffeine free because no tea is being used - as opposed to kombucha
Free of added sugar - the kefir grains eat the naturally occurring sugars in coconut water and elderberry crystals
Immune enhancing due to the addition of elderberry, naturally occurring beneficial bacteria, and B vitamins which are made by bacteria during the fermentation process
Easily digested: ginger aids digestion
Perfectly spiced - ginger and cloves are a great compliment to elderberry
Preparation time: 24-48 hours
Makes: 4 cups of water kefir
3 cups raw coconut water at room temperature
1 cup boiled spring water*
1 heaping scoop Flora Elderberry Crystals
1 tbsp grated ginger
1 tsp cloves (whole)
1 packet activated water kefir grains
| Pour the coconut water into a large 4-cup measuring glass. Stir in grated ginger and cloves, and set aside.
| In a separate glass, add the Elderberry Crystals into the hot water and stir to mix. Let this elderberry mixture cool until it reaches room temperature. Then, add it to your coconut water and stir to mix.
| Strain the kefir grains through a nylon or silicon strainer (it’s important not to let metal touch the kefir grains*) and add the grains to a quart-sized mason jar. Add the coconut water mixture over top and stir briefly just to mix everything together.
| Use a towel or cheesecloth to close the mason jar. Don’t fasten the metal lid as fermentation requires some air flow*. Let this ferment for 24 hours at room temperature (22-25 C). I put mine in a closet in my house that stays pretty warm. At 24 hours, give it a taste and decide whether you want to continue fermenting for 12-24 more hours, or if you like the taste as it is. The longer it ferments, the tangier and more carbonated it will taste, therefore the time you let it ferment is up to your taste preference! I let mine ferment for about 35 hours.
| Finally, use a nylon or silicon strainer to strain the water kefir into a large measuring cup. Use a plastic or silicon funnel to transfer it to a pitcher and let it chill in the fridge for 2-3 hours*.
| Use spring water instead of tap or distilled water. Kefir grains won’t grow in fluoridated or chlorinated water, and they need minerals like the ones found in spring water. Using coconut water, ginger and elderberry also provide minerals.
| Don’t let the kefir grains touch metal at any point as this causes a chemical reaction that will alter the taste and efficacy of the fermentation.
| Fastening a lid on this process may create too much pressure or prevent fermentation altogether
| Don’t discard your grains! You can use them for a second ferment by refrigerating them in a closed glass container covered just barely with spring water. They will keep in the fridge for 2 weeks.