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Enjoyed in Russia and central Asia for centuries, the oldest health drink on the block is now gaining fans over here


What is it?

It’s a drink made from kefir ‘grains’ (a yeast/bacterial culture in the form of tiny grain-like florets) fermented in cow’s or goat’s milk. Kefir originated in the Caucasus and has been a diet staple for more than 2,000 years in eastern Europe. It’s widely available online and it’s popping up in many UK stores, too.

The health benefits

In Russia, Kefir is consumed daily by adults. Being particularly rich in probiotic bacteria (it contains more healthy bacteria than yogurt), it’s thought to improve digestion and strengthen the immune system – although the impact on immunity is thought to be minimal in people who are already in good health. Kefir has also been found to reduce symptoms in people with lactose intolerance. Some people believe it has the power to protect against cancer, although far more studies involving humans are needed to confirm this. Nutritionally, it’s high in protein and calcium – a 200ml serving provides roughly a third of our recommended daily calcium intake. However, kefir can be high in calories and flavoured varieties often contain added sugars, so check labels and choose those with the lowest.
READ: How I stay healthy: Tim Spector

How is it used?

Kefir is refreshing with a slightly tart flavour and a consistency somewhere between milk and yogurt. It can be poured over fruit or cereal or served as a drink. Experiment with it as an alternative to yogurt or soured cream in salad dressings and smoothies, too.

From the shop to your table

You can buy either plain or flavoured kefir (the smoother, flavoured varieties are delicious but cost more). You can also try fermenting your own at home for a ready supply, using the Mad Millie Kefir Kit (£9.99, Lakeland).

Wloszczowa Kefir
Morrisons, 87p/400g
Nutritional information per 100g: 45kcal, 1.5g fat, 1g saturates, 3.4g sugars, 0.1g salt

Bio-tiful Dairy Honey & Mint Kefir Smoothie
Ocado, £1.99/250ml
Nutritional information per 100ml: 71kcal, 2.9g fat, 1.9g saturates, 8.6g sugars, 0.1g salt

Biona Organic Kefir Natural
Planet Organic, £2.20/250g
Nutritional information per 100g: 53kcal, 1.5g fat, 1.1g saturates, 5.5g sugars, 0.2g salt

Related article: What are the benefits of umami?