Dec. 1 2017 07:00 AM

This cultured dairy product gets some attention.

In the laboratory, kefir grains are ready to be strained
University of Idaho-Washington State University
It is quite rare to find popular culture discussing dairy products – and in a positive light, no less. But, that is just what I found when reviewing Consumer Reports.

Was the product butter or Greek yogurt? Both have seen recent upticks in popularity. Nope, it was kefir, pronounced “KEE-fur.” I am sure that product is not in the top 10 dairy foods you can name. But, what is kefir?

I was first introduced to kefir when I worked for the California Milk Advisory Board. We traveled throughout the state evaluating grocery stores and dairy products. One afternoon while in the store, our supervisor pointed out kefir. Since it was unfamiliar to us as college students, we purchased a few quarts and tried it.

As far as consistency, I think of it as a thin liquid yogurt. It had a tart taste, but it was not too strong for my palate. Some compare it to a cross between cultured buttermilk and yogurt.

It is a fermented milk product just like yogurt, so it contains those “good bacteria.” The amount of yeast and probiotic bacteria that are beneficial for gut health, improved digestion, and immunity are higher in kefir as compared to yogurt.

Kefir can be drank and consumed as a beverage, or used in cereals or smoothies. The thicker version can be eaten with a spoon. Kefir comes in various flavors. Some may have added sugars and flavorings, so read labels if that is a concern to you. But, the sweeter fruits may balance the tartness in the plain kefir and provide an ideal combination for your taste buds.

Where do you find kefir? It is in the dairy case, usually by the yogurt. It can be in bottles for the drinkable form. The newer, thicker version comes in cups, similar to yogurt or cottage cheese cartons.

Mix up some of your holiday mainstays with some kefir this season. See what you think!

Patti Hurtgen

The author is the online media manager and is responsible for the website, webinars, and social media. A graduate of Modesto Junior College and Fresno State, she was raised on a California dairy and frequently blogs on youth programs and consumer issues.