Before we get started, let’s talk about probiotics. Wellness experts encourage us to work them into our daily regimens because they aid the digestive system and, thus, our “gut health.” (You’ll hear that term thrown around a lot with probiotics.) So how can we introduce more probiotics to our diets? Kombucha and kefir are two increasingly popular products with high percentages of probiotics. Both can be purchased ready-made or created independently, both contain a nominal quantity of alcohol (so small that it’s no concern for children), and both begin with a K, but there are also many differences between these two fermented beverages.

Kombucha is made using a base of black or green tea. The fermentation process involves adding a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) to the sweetened tea and allowing it to sit covered and unrefrigerated for one to three weeks. Because kombucha is made with black or green tea, the end result is rich in caffeine as well as B vitamins and probiotics that help detox the liver and digestive system. The taste of the final product is effervescent and sour and often associated with apple cider vinegar. To enhance its flavor, fruit juice may be added as a sweetener.

Kefir is made using a base of either milk or water. The fermentation process involves adding a live culture of milk kefir grains (clumps of bacteria and yeast) to milk or a live culture of water kefir grains to sweetened water (or coconut water) and allowing it to sit covered and unrefrigerated for one to two days. The end result is rich in probiotics (a somewhat higher yield than kombucha) to benefit the digestive and immune systems. A secondary round of fermentation can be conducted to make a kefir “soda.” The taste of the final product is sour but can be enhanced with fruit flavoring and/or a sweetener.

As with any products created at home, there are safety concerns because the fermentation environment and ingredients are not regulated as with commercially prepared products. When purchasing ready-made or preparing your own blends, seek reputable sources and quality vendors for all of your products. These beverages are intended to improve your health, so you want to avoid any risk of contamination at all costs.

Both kombucha and kefir are very versatile beverages that can be used in a broad variety of recipes, from cocktails, smoothies, and soups to marinades, breads, and desserts.

In It 4 the Long Run

Want to turn up the health dial on your favorite cocktail? Belly up to the bar for this Kombucha Moscow Mule that substitutes the ginger beer in the traditional version with ginger-infused kombucha. You’ll save on grams of sugar and boost your digestive system all at the same time. Get the recipe.

Who doesn’t love a good smoothie? For breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even just as a vitamin-enriched snack, these blended concoctions pack a punch of antioxidants and other nutrients to help balance your daily intake and maintain a healthy weight. Trade out the nutrition-poor juices for probiotic-rich water kefir to create this refreshing Cherry Mango Smoothie. Get the recipe.

Whether accompanying a hearty salad, a decadent sandwich, or even buttery breadsticks, the right salad dressing can make or break the meal. For a new spin on an old favorite, drizzle this Kombucha Tomato-French Dressing over your next culinary creation and let the compliments to the chef start rolling in. Get the recipe.

What has beta-carotene, potassium, fiber, vitamin C, iron, and probiotics? That would be a warm bowl of Spiced Pumpkin Sweet Potato Soup with Kefir. The secret is preparing the soup in advance but not adding the live cultures of the milk kefir until the soup has cooled to the proper temperature. Get the recipe.

Cultures For Health

Bread can be sweet or savory. It can be eaten any time of day on any day of the year. It’s the perfect accompaniment to any meal, unless of course it is the meal. This Kombucha Sourdough Bread could be served with dips, cheeses, cured meats, soups, and more. Get the recipe.

Getting its roots from German cuisine, sauerkraut is a traditional dish of finely chopped cabbage that has been fermented by various forms of bacteria. Increase the probiotic content of the vegetable mixture by adding water kefir grains to the container prior to the fermentation process to yield Kefirkraut. Get the recipe.

Introduce the benefits of probiotics to your next barbecue by serving your guests these Kombucha-Marinated Pork Cutlets with Cultured Cream Sauce. By adding your favorite kombucha to the marinade then serving the pork with crème fraîche or sour cream, you can create a dish that has twice the cultured power. Get the recipe.

Would anyone like coffee or dessert? Why choose when you can have both? Getting its bold flavor from strong coffee or espresso, this Coffee Kefir Ice Cream is made with a combination of milk kefir (or kefir cheese) blended with cream and sugar. Be sure to make multiple batches, as guests will all be requesting a second “cup.” Get the recipe.

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