Water kefir is made from kefir grains, also known as sugar grains, tibicos, tibi, or Japanese water crystals. The grains make up a cultures of various strains of healthy bacteria and yeast, held together in a polysaccharide matrix created by the bacteria. The symbiotic relationship of the microbes produces a stable growing culture. The microbes feed on sugar and produce lactic acid, alcohol (ethanol), and carbon dioxide, yielding a fermented carbonated beverage. The alcohol content is usually very minimal, less than 1 %.
Water Kefir vs. Milk Kefir
There are two types of kefir grains, milk and water. Though similar in function, milk grains are quite different than water grains. They are white, cottage cheese-looking with slimy feel to them. Water grains, however, are translucent, cauliflower-like and easily break apart under pressure. Also, milk grains feed on the lactose in milk whereas water grains feed on sucose.
Health Benefits of Water Kefir
The health benefits of consuming water kefir are substantial being a natural source of probiotics to our digestive tract. Probiotics (meaning for life) refer to the health promoting bacteria in our stomach and intestines. Overgrowth of the wrong type of bacteria (pathogens) can lead to many illnesses, some of which include fungi, yeast infections, indigestion, obesity, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohns Disease, skin disorders, etc. By drinking it you will bring balance to your internal microflora. Many people take a probiotic supplement daily for this particular reason but it is much more effective with many more probiotic strains. Plus it is tastier and more affordable in the long run.
Dr. Gabriel Cousens, a leading expert in the raw food community, writes in his book Rainbow Green Live Food Cuisine Kefir grains produce right-rotating L (+) lactic acid, which is an important constituent of the human body. It is particularly important in the prevention of cancer and has been used experimentally with success in the treatment of cancer. In addition, right-rotating lactic acid may help maintaining healthy functioning of the heart. According to some researchers, the cells of the heart muscle obtain their energy primarily from right-rotating lactic acid.
Another health advantage of water kefir is that people who do not wish to consume dairy or have a vegan type diet may find that it provides the living probiotics without the need for dairy or tea cultured products, like kombucha. Vegans also may like to know that through the fermentation process kefir becomes an excellent source of vitamin B12, and is high in vitamins B1 and B6.
Diabetics, in particular, could greatly benefit from drinking water kefir. Since the finished product, if bottled, will produce a carbonated beverage, it provides an alternative to sweet soda drinks. In that sense, anyone from children to adults can enjoy it guilt-free, with the knowing that it is beneficial to your body.
Check out our beginner friendly water kefir making kit: