Milk kefir is, to put it lightly, an acquired taste. Sour and pungent, milk kefir is a cultured dairy food originally from the Caucasus the region where Europe meets Asia. There it has been, traditionally heralded as an elixir of long life and health. It seems that there's wisdom in this tradition: milk kefir is rich in beneficial bacteria, phosphorus, vitamin K, biotin and folic acid nutrients that are essential to health and well-being. A single component of milk kefir kefiran may prove particularly beneficial as it successfully protects beneficial bacteria from damage in the hostile environment of the digestive tract.

Milk kefir is strongly anti-inflammatory and may prove helpful in combating gastro-intestinal distress caused by infections from bacillus cereus, salmonella, e. coli and helicobacter pylori. Milk kefir is also particularly important in recovering from clostridium difficile infections and associated gastrointestinal discomfort and diarrhoea which often accompanies use of antibiotics. Despite the fact that milk kefir is, itself, a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeasts (or SCOBY), milk kefir also acts as a powerful antimicrobial food helping to limit the growth of pathogens while encouraging the proliferation of beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract.

Milk kefir, like other cultured dairy foods, may also play a role in the prevention of cancer as it exhibits antitumoural effect. Cultured dairy foods, including milk kefir, have been found to play a role in the prevention and treatment of bladder cancer, breast cancer and colon cancer. Indeed, some researchers have concluded that milk kefir may be one of the most promising foods when it comes to cancer prevention.

Milk kefir is cultured from a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeasts (SCOBY) that is coloquially referred to as kefir grains. The appearance of these small colonies of bacteria and yeast vaguely resembles that of cottage cheese or even cauliflower. Milk kefir grains are white, lumpy and gelatinous and are comprised primarily of lactic acid producing bacteria including lactobacillus brevis, streptococcus thermophillus, lactobacillus casei, lactobacillus helveticus, lactobacillus delbrueckii as well as yeasts that include candida maris, candida inconspicua and saccharomyces cerevisiae. Though, of course, strains of bacteria present may differ from one culture of grains to another.

Obscure and exotic as it may seem, milk kefir is not difficult to prepare. As with many traditional foods, its beauty lies in its simplicity. It's easy to begin preparing kefir and incorporating it into your familys dietary rotation. Once you've acquired kefir grains, simply mix them in with milk and allow it to culture at room temperature for 24 hours. As it cultures at room temperature, the beneficial strains of bacteria and benign natural yeasts will proliferate, metabolize the milk lactose and create a sour, thick beverage/ yoghurt replete with vitamins, probiotics, kefiran and other nourishing components. The longer milk kefir cultures the more sour and folate-rich it becomes, but take care not to culture it too long, as it becomes unpalatable.

Preparing milk kefir at home is remarkably easy and very affordable. It takes considerably less effort than homemade yogurt and homemade yogurt requires very little effort, indeed.