Kefir is a fermented health drink that is based on bacterial strains found in kefir grains. If the term is new to you, kefir is like yogurt — sour, milk-based and filled with probiotics. But it’s a crime not to know kefir over yogurt since the former is much more nutritious and beneficial than the latter. While yogurt has one or two beneficial probiotic strains that cleanse your gut, kefir has ten; that’s 500% more! Also, the probiotics in kefir repopulate in your digestive tract. This means they keep growing, cleaning and protecting you from the inside.
According to Dr. Joe Mercola, an expert in alternative medicine and nutrition, kefir does way beyond what yogurt can do. Kefir grains populate your intestinal system to make sure bad bacteria could not get in. Also, kefir has good yeasts (fungi) in addition to the probiotic bacterial strains.
The bacterial culture in kefir has one distinct characteristic — they love sugar. They have a sweet tooth and can’t get enough of the lactose (milk sugar) in your milk or sugar in sugar water. It is this appetite for sugar that makes kefir beneficial for you. As kefir grains ferment your drink and munch on the lactose, they create a healthy drink that’s perfect for diabetes patients, people with high cholesterol or hypertension, weight watchers, and lactose intolerant.
But how much sugar is okay to put into my kefir drink? Is it possible to overfeed the grains and damage them in the process? Is it true that too much sugar may cause a burning sensation when you urinate?
When consuming milk kefir, you don’t need to put any sugar at all, unless you want to sweeten. Most milk kefir drinkers want it sour and tart-tasting, but adding a little sugar and fruit flavoring is also a good idea.
Milk kefir grains and water kefir grains are completely different substances, although both are packed with millions of helpful bacterial strains and both produce a sugar-based byproduct known as kefiran. While milk kefir grains feed on lactose, water kefir grains munch on sugar, which is why the most common base for water kefir is sweetened water. Coconut water and juice are the next options since they both contain sugar.
When making your own water kefir at home, having too little sugar is a bigger concern than putting too much. Believe it or not, not putting enough sugar may, in fact, end up having too much sugar in your end product since the grains have not fully activated and therefore have not consumed the sugar content in your sweetened water.
According to most kefir users, the best sugar-to-water ratio when preparing your sugar water is 1/2 sugar to 2 quarts of water or 1/4 cup of sugar in a quart of water (both amount to 6% sugar solution). I always keep this ratio in mind and so far it’s been perfect. A sugar level less than this could damage the grains. With just enough sugar for the probiotics to feed on, this ratio is perfect for people with diabetes and candidiasis (yeast infection).
From this much sugar, the probiotics will eat up about most of the sugar and leave just 20%, which is mostly fructose, a mono-saccharide. Fructose is a single sugar, which makes it much easier to digest than regular sugar (sucrose).
It is also important not to put too much sugar over the recommended ratio. Water kefir grains are commonly referred to as sugary kefir grains or SKG because they are already rich in sugar naturally. Too much sugar is never good, and so it is best to put just a reasonable amount of sugar in your kefir; although there is no proof that it will cause pain in urination.
Your end product should be a not-so-sweet just-right kefir drink. It should definitely be less sweet than the sugar-water base you started with. Having a fairly sweet water kefir drink means the probiotics have eaten up just the right amount of sugar and have left a few fructose behind.
Another important consideration other than the amount and ratio to water is the quality of sugar used. I use and recommend organic sugar, and this is not difficult to find. Going organic is always good, so I suggest that you use organic sugar in your coffee and other drinks or foods as well.
Non-organic commercial sugars have chemicals that could harm your grains. In some cases it could work, but it is best to stick with unrefined sugar.
And how I could I not mention about the quality of water. To make the best sugar water, use mineral water and never chlorinated water. Do not use the tap unless you boil it first then allow to cool. Some boil the water with egg shell while others put a tiny pinch of baking soda to make the water more pristine.
And while you’re at it, you might also want to consider using raw milk (goat, cow or sheep) the next time you make a milk kefir drink. Kefir (here’s an informational Facebook page you can check) is a gift from nature, not a chemical-based commercial product, which means it is at its best when coupled with everything natural, such as unrefined sugar, un-chlorinated water and unpasteurized raw milk.