What Is Coconut Kefir?

Cynde Gregory

Folks who pay attention to nutrition are likely to have at least heard of the probiotic-rich beverage called kefir even if they haven’t already tried it for themselves. Marco Polo himself referenced the feel-good qualities of the fermented milk beverage. While kefir has been firmly ensconced in Asian diets for millennium, it’s a relative and very welcome newcomer to Western shores. Its cousin, coconut kefir, also offers probiotic advantages but uses fermented coconut water as its foundation rather than sheep, goat, or cow’s milk.

Enzymes, vitamins and minerals are found in coconut kefir.
Enzymes, vitamins and minerals are found in coconut kefir.

Making coconut kefir is actually fairly simple. It begins with water kefir grains that go for a longish swim in the coconut water. All that dipping and diving makes the little guys hungry enough to consume the sugar that is naturally occurring in coconut water. This ultimately results in a kind of mildly fizzy drink that is soothing and healing to uncomfortable guts with bacterial imbalances.

Coconut kefir can be used to correct bacterial imbalances in the stomach.
Coconut kefir can be used to correct bacterial imbalances in the stomach.

Kefir’s main claim to fame is in its ability to calm a cranky tummy, but in fact, the health benefits go far and wide. Research suggests and kefir fans substantiate that the drink can help with atherosclerosis, hypertension, and even cancer. Kids and adults who suffer from allergies might find relief in the drink, and those with metabolic disorders may discover that a daily sip offers get up and go.

Vegans are especially happy about coconut kefir because it offers a yummy way to access probiotic support and skip the dairy component as vegans don’t eat animal products. Home cooks, too, cheer it because making it at home is a cinch, though a slightly pricey one. The water kefir grains, which can be purchased online or in some health food stores, are a bit on the costly side, but in exchange for the health benefits, many say they’re worth it. The grains are composed of a combination of more than 30 types of live microflora, such as yeast and bacteria, that create the fermentation necessary to kefir.

Water kefir grains used in coconut kefir are a variation on milk kefir grains that are used to ferment milk. Both water and milk kefir grains self-propagate, so cooks with a little know-how can keep a starter going and save a bunch of bucks in the long run. As the Pasteur Institute’s Nobel-prize winning Elie Metchnikoff surmised, tribesmen from the Caucasus mountains where kefir originates live exceptionally long and healthy lives.

This may be due in part to the cornucopia of enzymes, vitamins, and minerals that abound in coconut kefir as well as in dairy-based kefir. Vitamins A, B2, and B12 join their buddies vitamins K and D as well as high doses of phosphorus, magnesium, and the ever-popular calcium. Many converts claim kefir not only tastes great and supplies a tremendous nutritional load, but it also soothes jagged nerves.

Kefir is a fermented milk-based beverage.
Kefir is a fermented milk-based beverage.

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