Common myths about milk kefir

The myths and legends shrouding kefir

Common myths about milk kefir

As a supposed “superfood”, kefir is often shrouded in myths and legends. Although most myths are based on scientific facts, some of them result from ignorance and exaggeration.

This article will draw a clear line between real scientific facts and myths.

No metal should be used to handle kefir

Fact:
Indeed, the prolonged contact of kefir’s acids with some metals could lead to chemical reactions that could harm the microorganisms in kefir. That’s especially true for household utensils and cutlery made of aluminum, copper, silver, or iron. So, to handle your kefir, you’d better not use kitchenware made of these metals.

Myth vs. Reality:
However, this does not apply to stainless steel – the metal used to make most household utensils. Thanks to the presence of chromium in the alloy, stainless steel is considerably less reactive to acids. Besides making it resistant to corrosion, it also makes it perfectly safe for kefir.

While you should still avoid using household utensils made of raw aluminum, copper, silver, or iron, stirring your kefir with a tablespoon (usually made of stainless steel) will not harm your kefir in any way.

Kefir grains should be rinsed at each milk change

Fact:
The slimy substance that usually surrounds the kefir grains after you strain them out of your brew is called kefiran. That’s a polysaccharide naturally secreted by the bacteria in kefir grains, creating for them a friendly environment. This slimy substance also acts as a sort of “antifreeze” that prevents kefir grains from freezing if you put them in the freezer.

Kefiran is not a product of any putrefactive process and cannot be harmful in any way. Instead, it is a beneficial substance creating a proper living environment for the grains of kefir.

Myth vs. Reality:
Many kefir users find this slimy substance “disgusting” and advise rinsing the grains to get rid of this “unpleasant slimy stuff”. While rinsing kefir grains and removing their kefiran would do no real harm, it will only slow down the fermentation process until the kefir grains regenerate their new layer of kefiran.

So, if you still find kefiran “too slimy” or “disgusting”, you may rinse your grains with clear water without hurting them, but this will only force kefir grains to rebuild their layer of kefiran that would be nothing but a waste of time and energy.

The best kefir is made with raw, unpasteurized milk

Fact:
Unpasteurized milk can be dangerous. As simple as that! It may contain extremely hazardous bacteria like Brucella, E. coli, Listeria, Salmonella, and even Bacillus anthracis, causing Anthrax. So, our clear advice is: never use unpasteurized milk or non-pre-boiled milk to make kefir.

Myth vs. Reality:
A common myth is that “raw” milk contains more beneficial substances because pasteurization (or pre-boiling) kills most bacteria in milk. While this is true, the real benefits of fermented milk products, kefir included, are acquired during fermentation, which happens after pasteurization.

Some cheesemakers advocate using unpasteurized milk to obtain a more flavor-rich product, and sometimes they are right. However, the ferments used in cheesemaking and the long maturation periods applied in the industry make unpasteurized milk less risky. Unfortunately, this doesn’t apply to kefir, and the use of unpasteurized milk in kefir production may be really hazardous.

Moreover, pasteurization or milk boiling before fermentation cannot affect the probiotic bacteria that develop during the fermentation. On the opposite – pasteurization kills potentially harmful bacteria in milk, creating favorable conditions for the development of beneficial bacteria during fermentation.

No UHT milk should be used to make kefir

Fact:
Milk that has been pasteurized under Ultra-High Temperature (UHT) is the type of milk with the longest shelf life. It also contains the lowest possible levels of potentially harmful bacteria.

Myth vs. Reality:
This almost complete “sterility” of UHT milk is probably the reason why many kefir fans suggest that it shouldn’t be used to prepare probiotic products. However, this allegation has no scientific justification.

UHT processing doesn’t affect the lactose in milk, which is the leading food for probiotic bacteria in kefir. So, as long as lactose is still present in UHT milk and can feed the bacteria, UHT milk won’t affect the fermentation process and decrease the probiotic potency or kefir.

Commercial kefir products are as good as homemade ones

Fact:
Since natural, homemade kefir keeps on fermenting even in a refrigerator, its shelf life cannot be longer than a couple of days. After that, it gets too tangy and acidic to be sold commercially.

Of course, such a short shelf life is not acceptable on a larger commercial scale. So, to extend their shelf life, most commercial producers of kefir and kefir derivatives are forced to add preservatives or pasteurize their products after fermentation.

Myth vs. Reality:
Commercial kefir products look and taste similar to homemade ones, so they should be equally good for our health, right? Wrong! They can’t be equal.

Commercial kefir producers can’t cope with the need for extended shelf life without the application of different methods of preservation that inevitably interfere with the probiotic properties of their products.

Kefir starters and kefir grains are no different

Fact:
Commercial kefir starters (a.k.a. “kefir starter cultures”) are powdery substances composed of lyophilized or freeze-dried kefir extracts. They should normally contain the same range of probiotic bacteria kefir grains have, but they rarely do. Moreover, kefir starters are intended for single use. Although most starters can be re-used a couple of times, finally, the bacteria weaken and stop fermenting milk.

Myth vs. Reality:
Kefir starters can make a kefir drink that looks, smells, and tastes like kefir made with natural kefir grains. However, the only advantage of kefir starters is that they can provide consistent content and quality throughout large production batches. Additionally, the way kefir starters are produced prevents them from containing the full range of probiotic bacteria that healthy kefir grains can provide. Moreover, unlike kefir grains, starters are intended for single use only.

If you choose, always prefer making your kefir with healthy kefir grains instead of kefir starters. If regularly fed, kefir grains may last forever and provide a more healthful and probiotic-rich drink.

You can either get Kefir grains from another Kefir user or purchase them from Amazon together with a comprehensive tutorial.

While, as we said, Kefir starters are intended for a single-use, they are much easier to handle and provide constant quality and taste. You can purchase high-quality Kefir starters by clicking here or here.

Kefir can cure diseases and can replace drugs

Fact:
Kefir is undoubtedly a potent probiotic drink that has a myriad of positive effects on human health. Kefir can be a valuable dietetic addition to the treatment of severe diseases like colitis, ulcers, diabetes, and even cancer. Kefir has proven positive effects in controlling cholesterol, decreasing blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and preventing heart attacks and strokes.

However, kefir is just a food, not a medication. Kefir can support but cannot replace medications.

Myth vs. Reality:
The benefits of kefir for our health and well-being are undeniable but often exaggerated and shrouded in myths and legends.

For instance, while the anti-carcinogenic effects of kefir are well studied and proven, we should not expect to fight cancer by just drinking kefir. While the positive effects of kefir in preventing heart attacks and decreasing blood pressure are undeniable, if you have a heart attack, you’d better call 911. Drinking kefir won’t help.

Briefly, kefir may be a valuable addition to almost any medical treatment but will never replace it.

This page is for general information purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for professional judgment, neither it is intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. You should always consult a qualified healthcare professional regarding any health-related condition. This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and it may contain affiliate links to Amazon.com.