This post is about kefir. Why? Because it's awesome, and if you haven't tried it, you should.
Kefir has been rapidly gaining popularity in the States, and you can find it in most supermarkets (especially the kind produced by Lifeway, pictured below).
So what is kefir?
It is fermented milk - kind of a middle point between milk and yogurt. It is fermented using something called "kefir grains": cauliflower-shaped combinations of specific bacteria and yeasts, mounted in a mix of lipids, sugars, and proteins.
The precise composition of these grains distinguish kefir from other dairy drinks, most of which are not well known in the US (prostokvasha, ryazhenka, ayran, varenets, acidophilin, katyk, gamyk, to name a few...) They are quite widespread in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus, and growing up in Russia, I got to experience a couple of them. Unfortunately, I can't say much about the distinguishing characteristics of their taste, because I foolishly despised them all as a kid.
Thankfully, I've since realized the error of my ways. Kefir is delicious! It tastes like slightly sour liquid yogurt. It's perfect with cereal (that is my breakfast almost every day) and makes a great snack with fruit. It has the ideal consistency and flavor notes for making amazing smoothies (I recommend trying it with a berry medley).
Speaking of berries, if you see plain kefir is your store, you will likely find a few berry-flavored types there as well. I personally go for the low-fat plain one, because it's the most versatile, and I'd rather add my own berries if the mood strikes me.
Kefir is not only tasty, it is also quite healthy for you. It is high in calcium, protein, and folic acid. As any fermented milk product, kefir is probiotic and thus good for the digestive system (the bacteria in kefir help restore the microfloric equilibrium in your tummy). It does not cause an adverse reaction in lactose-intolerant people - in fact, the active bacteria in it can help lactose digestion. Finally, there are some claims about its anti-oxidant and anti-mutagenic properties, but I find those dubious, so take that with a grain of salt.
Anyhow, if you have never tried kefir before, I hope that I convinced you to at least give it a go. You won't regret it =)