What Is Water Kefir? How to Make It and Why Drink It

Have you ever seen kefir in the refrigerated section of your grocery store—or better yet, given it a taste? Kefir is a sour, yogurt-like drink that contains a healthy dose of probiotics. Kefir grains, which look a bit like cottage cheese, are actually colonies of bacteria and yeast that quickly ferment milk.

If you can’t tolerate dairy, however, there’s still a way to get these beneficial bacteria into your system. The answer is water kefir.

How to Make Water Kefir

Water kefir recipes vary, but the principle is the same: place water kefir grains in a jar of sugar water or juice, cover with a lid, and let sit in a warm room for a day or two. When the water or juice becomes cloudy and less sweet, you’ll know it’s time to strain out the grains and enjoy the finished kefir (or store it in the fridge). You can place the grains in a fresh jar of sugar water and repeat the process for a continuous supply of kefir.

It’s important to note that milk kefir grains and water kefir grains are not the same thing, and they won’t work interchangeably. The easiest way to get water kefir grains is to buy them online. Cultures for Health is a reputable source and they have a wealth of instructional videos and FAQs to help.

Worried about drinking sugar? Allow me to explain! The kefir grains break down the sugar, and this process is what produces the probiotic-rich properties. You can use organic white, raw or rapadura sugar. The sugar content will decrease as the probiotics and enzymes develop.

Once you’ve made water kefir a few times, you’ll find the process quite easy. There really isn’t much to do besides let the grains sit in the sugar water and do their work!

Take It Further

Water kefir recipes are less popular than milk kefir recipes, but they’re gaining popularity as more people discover they can get the same probiotics without the dairy. After your water kefir has finished fermenting, you can do a second ferment with fresh berries or other fruit. Simply place the chopped fruit back in the finished kefir and let sit for another day or two. The result will be a fizzy drink similar to soda—but far healthier, of course!

Curious to learn more about fermentation? I contributed an entire chapter of gut-healing recipes to The Secret Life of Your Microbiome by Susan L. Prescott, MD, PhD and Alan C. Logan, MD. These life-changing recipes were an integral part of my health and wellness journey, and I’m thrilled to share them with you. The book is out in September, but you can reserve your copy on Amazon today!

5 Spring Vegetables to Brighten Your Plate

One of the most exciting things about the arrival of spring is the bounty of bright, colorful produce that crops up, fresh and ready for indulgence. Farmers markets reopen, a sure harbinger of the sunny months to come, and I happily return to perusing my local market and browsing the bright flowers, produce and spring vegetables in all their natural goodness.

The health benefits of eating in-season produce are undeniable, and seeking these items out is also an opportunity to support local businesses and farmers by specifically looking for what’s being grown and offered in your area.

What's in Season?

What’s particularly seasonal may vary from region to region, but here are 5 staple spring vegetables that I can’t wait to eat as we welcome spring.
 
Radishes
Radishes and their fantastic crunchiness are wonderful spring vegetables to use in a variety of ways. Chop them up and toss them into salads or slice them as an addition to my Essential Sauerkraut Recipe.
 
Asparagus
Fresh, thick spears of asparagus are delicious no matter how you prepare them. Roast them, steam them or even peel them into ribbons to make a shaved asparagus salad. The choice is yours!
 
Peas
The ever-versatile pea is back and ready to be sprinkled into rice or quinoa Buddha bowls for a burst of sweetness, or to be used as a side dish to your slow-cooked Easter lamb dishes.
 
Fennel
Part of the carrot family, fennel has a number of health benefits. Good for your gut, your heart and your body as a whole, fennel can be sliced into salads (with a bright dressing for some springtime color) or even chewed raw after lunch as a natural breath freshener.
 
Spinach
Whether you’re dressing it up as a side or sneaking it into recipes for some added health boosts, spinach is full of vitamins and minerals to get your body ready for an exciting, active spring ahead. Try it in place of or in addition to kale in my superfood-heavy Protein Packed Breakfast Shake.
 
What’s your favorite spring vegetable? Let me know in the comments below! 

 

Achieve Work Life Balance from Within

For many, "work life balance" is an oxymoron. How is it possible to feel any semblance of peace when we have so much going on? 

I’m a Fermentation Coach and Yoga teacher, but balance is still a practice for me—as it is for everyone. However, my personal practice is easy and attainable, because it focuses on my state of mind rather than my to-do list. 

Simple acts of mindfulness and self-care can better equip you to deal with life’s many challenges—and appreciate the successes. As the saying goes, “Change your attitude, change your life.” 

Instead of rearranging your entire schedule overnight (which can be a shock to your nervous system), achieve work life balance with these simple steps: 

Get Moving

Had a busy day? Been sitting for 8 hours straight? End your day with gentle yoga. A walk or cardio training can also do the trick.

Getting into our bodies enables us move away from the thoughts and worries occupying our minds and helps us release endorphins (also known as one of the “happy hormones”).  

Fuel Up

If you’re like me, you might find yourself running around all weekend caravanning kids to sporting events, birthday parties and friends’ houses. This might prevent you from sitting down and eating. But hunger can throw your blood-sugar levels way off balance, making it harder to handle stress.  

To avoid an energy dip, prep gut-healthy snacks that will give you the boost you need to stay on an even keel throughout the day. Get portable snack ideas here.   

Be Present

When you’re constantly on the go, it’s easy to miss the simple pleasures of life. Sitting still for 3-10 minutes each day can help you reset at any point. Set an alarm and use the time to focus on your breath. 

Stillness can also be achieved through awareness. If you’re washing dishes, feel the warmth of the water on your hands and watch the bubbles of soap rise from the sink. If you’re taking a walk, concentrate on the air filling your lungs and the heat of the sun on your face. Just noticing the beauty of the world around us can help us gain a positive perspective. Suddenly, we're getting more done and stressing less.   

Feel inspired? Leave me a comment and let me know one action step you'll take toward achieving work life balance this week.  

 

Sugar-Free Cranberry Sauce for the Holidays

If you’re preparing a holiday meal with all the trimmings, don’t forget the cranberry sauce. My Gut Girl-approved recipe is sweet, tart and sugar free. Wondering how I manage all that? My culinary secret is Swerve!

Swerve is an alternative sweetener made from erythritol, oligosaccharides and natural flavors. It’s a no-calorie, non-glycemic substitute that can replace regular sugar cup-for-cup! (You can learn more about Swerve and where to source it here.

As you might know, refined sugars and carbohydrates can wreak havoc on your digestive system and create a breeding ground for bad bacteria to grow. It can also disturb your blood sugar, causing an energy spike followed by a crash. This can make you feel temporarily hyper and then really tired. If you get sleepy after meals, keep a food journal to see if refined sugars are the culprit. 

Now, I understand that cleaning up your diet can be extra difficult around the holidays. I keep my gut happy and enjoy the season by preparing healthier versions of my festive favorites, like this sugar-free cranberry sauce. I also make sure that I’m still eating sauerkraut and taking a probiotic daily, even if I’m travelling or visiting family. These little tricks can help you stay on track during winter, Christmas or any busy time of year. 

Sugar-Free Cranberry Sauce

Ingredients
1 cup Swerve
1 cup organic orange juice
1 ½ cups cranberries
Pinch cinnamon

Directions

  1. Bring Swerve and orange juice to a boil to dissolve the sugar.
  2. Add the cranberries, and heat for about 10 minutes, until the cranberries pop open. Stir in the cinnamon.
  3. Allow to cool and thicken. Store in a glass jar.

Gut Girl Note: I like to use fresh cranberries, but frozen cranberries will also work.

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