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Kefir: The Elixir of Life or Just Some Nasty Milk?

Kefir is a drinkable cultured milk product that is similar to yogurt, but don't get the two confused. A kefir lover is likely to snatch their bottle of fermented dairy deliciousness right out of your hand if you refer to it as its bacteria-laced cousin.

The drink is popular in Eastern Europe and Russia, where it is referred to as "sour milk," and it contains many of the live cultures found in yogurt. Many people pound the stuff looking for a good way to end digestive problems because, unlike yogurt, it is said to be loaded with certain yeasts that kill other unhealthy yeast and bacteria in the body, can strengthen the intestines, help the digestive process, and keep the colon happy.

Fans also say that kefir fortifies immune systems while providing anti-aging and antioxidant properties. Hey, what doesn't this stuff do?

Get our guinea pig's response to kefir after the jump.

The hippie history: Kefir was discovered in ancient times by nomadic shepherds who left milk in their leather pouches for too long, creating a fizzy, fermented drink.

Kefir grains
Kefir grains
Courtesty of Webaware via Wikimedia Commons

They liked the funky milk so much they developed a method of making it with cauliflower-esque kefir grains and milk, and hung the leather pouches filled with the potent combination in their home's doorway, where it would be knocked around and kept well-mixed.

The crunchy conclusion: To someone who is not big on dairy (like yours truly) kefir is just weird. The bottle screams, "SHAKE REALLY WELL BEFORE DRINKING!" which gives off a slightly fearful pretense. The smell is identical to that of yogurt, giving the comfortable feeling of familiarity but the sourness from the first taste will make your mouth water. It is similar to drinking a very thick blend of sour cream and yogurt - and leaves you looking at the bottom of your white-coated glass thinking, "Why did I just drink that?"

Kefir can be found in the dairy section of most health food markets like Whole Foods and Sprouts. Believers say to drink it in the mornings on an empty stomach - but be warned: because your "tolerance" to the elixir's healing powers may need to build up a little bit, start small before you go taking pulls straight from the jug.

Stick it to the man and make it yourself: Order a kefir culture online, put on your old tie-dye and get fermentin'. All you need is the culture (aka grains), some cow's milk (or goat's milk, or coconut water will work, too) and a jar for making kefir magic. And in case you decide to go absolutely kefir-crazy, there are also recipes for homemade yogurt and cheese.


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