04/11/2016 12:05 EDT | Updated 04/13/2016 04:35 EDT

What Is Kefir And How Can You Eat It?

Mizina via Getty Images
Cold soup with yogurt and vegetables and herbs close up

Kefir. We see bottles of it on grocery store shelves and hear its name touted by our health nut friends, but most of us know nothing about it. In collaboration with iögo and their new Kefir beverage, we explain what it is and the ways you can consume it. You’re welcome.

What Is It?

Like yogurt, kefir is a fermented milk product with a good source of calcium, potassium and B vitamins. The thick beverage is a great source of probiotics -- living bacteria that are known to contribute to healthy digestive tract flora by balancing the good and bad bacteria in your body.

Where Did It Come From?

Like most traditional foods, it’s difficult to say who started drinking kefir first. According to one tale, Prophet Muhammad brought kefir grains — the bacteria-and-yeast culture used to start fermentation — to the Caucasus Mountains in Eastern Europe. Locals named it the “Grains of the Prophet” and used the bacteria to ferment milk like Muhammad had taught them.

The origin of the name “kefir” is uncertain, too. Many sources trace its use to 1880s Russia, while others say it’s derived from the older Turkish word “keif” meaning “feeling good.”

How Can I Eat It?

Kefir is thinner than yogurt, so people generally drink it rather than eat it. iögo’s new Probio Kefir drink—made with 14 active cultures— comes in strawberry and mango flavours and is now packaged in single-serving bottles. That makes it easy to sip the drink when you’re on the go.

But there are many other ways to enjoy kefir. Depending on the recipe, plain or flavoured kefir can replace milk, buttermilk or yogurt. Here are just a few ideas.

  • In A Breakfast Bowl
    margouillatphotos via Getty Images
    At night, pour a cup of kefir in a bowl with some chia seeds and your favourite flavouring—anything from cinnamon to matcha powder. The next morning, stir in some bananas, blueberries, almonds, walnuts, oat bran or wheat germ. On second thought, add in all of the above for an epic breakfast you’ve essentially made overnight.
  • In A Smoothie
    Westend61 via Getty Images
    Use kefir instead of regular yogurt or milk in your favourite morning blend.
  • In Your Lunch Bag
    nata_vkusidey via Getty Images
    Doesn’t kefir quinoa salad sound a lot more appealing than a tuna sandwich? A kefir-based dressing on top of a bowl of quinoa and veggies makes for a creamy and deceptively rich dish. Treat kefir as you would oil in a salad dressing recipe.
  • In A Soup
    Mizina via Getty Images
    The variations are endless, but one popular option is the cold, Russian-style vegetable soup called okroshka. Pieces of raw cucumber and radishes swim in a broth of kefir and water.
  • As A Marinade
    Quynh Anh Nguyen via Getty Images
    A blend of kefir and curry will give barbecued chicken an unforgettably delicious tang.
  • In Baking
    Kevin Summers via Getty Images
    Use kefir instead of milk in your favourite cookie, muffin, cake or scone recipe. You might just feel a little less guilty about scarfing down that second helping of dessert.

iögo Probio Kefir is a new probiotic drink available in a convenient individual size that provides 2 billion probiotics per bottle. Goodness on the go!