can you eat kefir grains

Can You Eat Kefir Grains?

As kefir grows and grows over time you will be left with more and more grains after each batch. It seems like such a shame just throwing them out, so what are some other things you can do with extra kefir grains? Can you actually eat them?

You can eat milk kefir and water kefir grains since both are just composed of bacteria, yeast, and proteins. Not only will they make for a delicious gelatinous snack but will also give your gut a probiotic boost.

Introduction

In this post, we will answer the question whether kefir grains are edible. I’ll also go over some of the benefits of eating both milk and water kefir grains. Lastly, I wanted share some of the ways I have been eating kefir grains and how you can make them even more delicious.

Are Kefir Grains Edible?

All kefir grains are edible. This includes milk kefir and water kefir grains. Of course, as with anything in life, too much of a good thing can is a bad thing. Since kefir grains are fully packed with probiotics and bacteria they can have a strong influence on your gut biome.

If you are not used to probiotic immune boosts eating too many kefir grains at once might have some negative consequences. Since your gut is not used to so many extra bacteria it might react with bloating, gas and similar side effects.

So, this begs the question: how much is too much?

A good rule of thumb is that the surplus of kefir grains that comes with a finished batch of kefir is always fine to eat. Especially, if you have been drinking kefir and perhaps eating other fermented foods your gut will be ready to handle the extra boot of bacteria.

When I make my kefir at home I usually split up the kefir grains once a week. This way I make sure that the ratio of grains to milk always stays more or less the same. I do this by eyeballing the amount on a wooden spoon (don’t use metal) and putting the extra kefir grains in a separate jar.

Then, I either eat these extra grains immediately or keep them in the fridge for a day or two. Eating kefir grains immediately after fermentation provides the most benefits since there are still plenty of live bacteria on the yeast.

Can You Eat Milk Kefir Grains?

Milk kefir grains are definitely my favorite kefir grains to eat. The texture is kind of glibbery and slimy and their taste is something you have to get used to over time. But once your pallet has accepted the sour nature of fermented foods milk kefir grains should come as a delicious snack.

My advice would be to not wash your milk kefir grains before eating them. This removes a valuable coating of microorganisms from the grains’ surface and just strips them of nutrients and probiotic effects.

Can You Eat Water Kefir Grains?

Water kefir grains are just as edible as milk kefir grains. They are composed of the same mix of beneficial bacteria, yeast, and proteins and provide similar benefits to your gut’s microbiome as milk kefir grains.

What Are Kefir Grains Anyway?

Kefir grains are living micro-organisms. It is said that these organisms originated from the Northern Caucasus Mountain region although nobody seems to know exactly how these magical grains evolved.

Essentially, kefir grains are made up of millions of bacteria strains, yeast cultures, and proteins all encased in a polysaccharide matrix. These bacteria include the infamous lactic acid forming bacteria and are essential to our gut health.

You will also find plenty of micronutrients in kefir grains such as vitamins and minerals. Besides the basic components the remaining weight and volume is simply made up of air and water.

The Benefits of Eating Kefir Grains

Eating kefir grains provides similar benefits to consuming fermented foods in general. I have also written a post specifically about the health benefits of kefir (much of which applies to kefir grains as well):

  • Digestive Health
    One of the main benefits of consuming kefir grains is the increase in gut-friendly bacteria and the balancing of unfriendly (or bad) bacteria that come from overly processed and refined foods and sugars.

    I have also experienced less gas and bloating in general after eating the excess kefir grains from my own milk kefir production.
  • Immune System
    Fermented foods in general have also been linked to a stronger immune system that protects our organisms from infections and inflammation responses. Kefir grains are a prerequisite for producing kefir and as such should provide similar benefits as the end product.

    Especially, since kefir grains are even more closely packed with beneficial bacteria and yeast.
  • Mental Health
    Several studies have also discovered a correlation between the consumption of fermented foods (and kefir grains) and improvements in mental health, specifically relating to anxiety and depression.
  • Weight Loss
    While weight loss myths are plentiful there seems to be scientific evidence for the case of fermented foods. The balance of the gut flora seems to have beneficial effects on how nutrients are processed and stores by our bodies.

How To Eat Kefir Grains

Eating kefir grains just plain is, of course, possible but if you’re not yet used to their slimy and sour taste and texture I’d recommend starting out with something a little more conservative. As you progress with fermented foods your taste buds will slowly adapt and will come to cherish that sour-ish taste of good bacteria.

When I first started eating my kefir grains I came up with a couple of ways to make their taste just a little more palatable. So, here are a few home-made tips for eating kefir grains:

  • Don’t wash your grains before eating: it might seem natural to give your kefir grains a quick rinse before eating them but the water actually harms the polysaccharide matrix which covers the outside of the grains. Simply remove the excess kefir grains after a fresh production batch of kefir and start from there.
  • Add honey: adding some local organic honey to kefir grains takes away some of the sour taste and transforms kefir grains into a tasty dessert snack. I like to use the lighter honey from wildflowers over dark forest honey.
  • Add homemade jam: adding homemade jam to kefir grains and perhaps mixing in some yoghurt sounds like a delicious breakfast. Just make sure to keep the sugar content of the jam as low as possible to maintain the yeast to sugar balance in your kefir grains.
  • Make a smoothie: why not add an additional probiotic boost to your smoothies and throw in some of those extra kefir grains. You will barely notice the difference in taste but the bacteria will still work their magic!

While all of the above preparation methods make your kefir grains easier to consume, the simplest way is still to consume them raw. If you can stomach the taste this will also prevent the grains from being damaged in a blender or altered by the added sugars.

Conclusion

There are plenty of things you can do with extra kefir grains, and eating them is probably one of the best options.

You can eat milk kefir and water kefir grains and reap the long list of benefits that come with consuming fermented foods in general and kefir grains in particular. And why not make your kefir grain snack even more delicious with some of the tips I have laid out above?

“Kefir-Grains” by tarikgore is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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