Carbonated sugar and diet drinks are listed in the top worst foods for good health and yet they are popular with most consumers and artificial sweeteners give even weight watchers the urge to enjoy them on a regular basis.
I love a fizzy drink any time of the summer or with a good meal; my favourites have been colas and if I am feeling sophisticated, a ‘tiser’ with that fizzy apple experience satisfies more than my tastebuds, but my lifestyle too. But when I read this study on the effects of artificial sweeteners on your gut microbiome including natural sweeteners that replace regular refined cane sugar, the results are outstandingly not in favour of non-nutritive sugars for your gut microbiome.
While the study is technical and challenging artificial sweetners, let’s be honest and accept that, super refined cane sugar in excess has proven health consequences ,most certainly obesity and yet, fed to the right culture, it can be turned into medicine for you. So let’s have a look at fizzy drinks with raw, natural or non-nutritive sweeteners and how they compare to naturally fermented drinks that are also sweet and fizzy but have converted the raw sugar to a sugar free ferment called kefir, which you* can flavour with fruit for a better diet soda option with huge health benefits.
According to the study above, in which they studied the effects of all the usual sweeteners consumed in the mainstream by you and me, on rodents as well as in humans, there is measurable cause for concern. While not all the non-nutritive sweeteners and natural replacement sugars like Stevia and Xylitol, had noticeable impact on the gut microbiome, many of the artificial sweeteners did and the results included increased inflammation and or changed insulin levels associated with diabetes.
What left me thinking after reading the variety of results, was that vulnerable people who are avoiding weight gain or choosing alternatives to refined sugars for better health, may not be getting what they are hoping for and could instead be exposing themselves to other health risks by testing their microbiome’s ability to function properly.
Once again, I am not an academic on the topic and one study calling for more investigation over controversial results is disorientating; I find I don’t know how to navigate such a loaded topic as sugar. However, my ambition to find a natural simple remedy for good health and exciting lifestyle, leads me to the most obvious and miraculously simple alternative; ferment the sugar and flavour with fresh whole sugars from my favourite seasonal fruit creating a fizzy drink that I can enjoy with only positive consequences!
*You really can make this delicious fizzy drink at home!
This is how.
Water kefir can be tricky to make the first few times, the same as doing many things can be tricky when you first try but once you get the hang of it, it’s easy to repeat the process.
Equipment: You may find you already have most of what’s needed at home
1. Measuring cup and spoons
2. Strainer or sieve –plastic or stainless steel with a small mesh, or you will lose the baby grains
3. Jar, bowl or small bucket
4. Spoon – plastic or wood
1. Water – mineral, borehole, or purified to avoid sterilising chemicals like chlorine
2. Cane Sugar – Brown or white or even mixed is fine
3. Use 1 or more of the following depending on your preference:
Molasses, bicarb, or boiled egg shell – for the minerals which water kefir grains love
Notes regarding equipment
You will need a bowl to capture your strained kefir, a jar and breathable lid to ferment your kefir in, and a jar or bottle for storing your strained kefir in the fridge (I started off using my reclaimed sauce bottles with the lid resting lightly on the top).
Strainer/sieve – should ideally be a fine mesh plastic/nylon or stainless steel. (Aluminum and other metals can leach when coming into contact with acidic liquids such as water kefir. Stainless steel is considered safe for short term contact)
*Strainers with large holes (like pasta strainers/ colanders) don’t work well – the smaller grains may pass right through into your kefir drink, rendering it somewhat un-storable – it will continue to ferment quickly in the fridge. Though it’s not a health hazard to drink them, you will lose part of your culture (and over-ferment your drink). The results can also be explosive if your ferment is kept tightly locked up with no gas escape.
Notes regarding Ingredients
Sugar – 1 tablespoon of sugar to be used for every tablespoon of kefir grains to 1 cup of water
White, brown or whole cane sugar (or a combination of these)
Kefir eats sugar, it won’t eat honey or stevia or any other sugar replacement. It just wants plain sugar.
Water – 1 cup of water per 1 tablespoon of kefir grains per 1 tablespoon of sugar.
Non or low-chlorinated, high mineral water is preferable. If you are using reverse osmosis water (like Oasis), you will need to add some secret ingredients: You can use either a pinch of bicarb or an egg shell piece from a boiled egg which has lots of minerals or a dash of pink salt – (Himalayan salt), you can also get Real Water or minerals from Agua e Vida and add to your water. You can buy very good alive mineralised water from Agua Vida 012 654 2034.
Water kefir has a 2 part ferment process. The first ferment uses your kefir grains.
upclose image of water kefir garins/scoby
Step One: First Ferment
⦁ Take you newly acquired water kefir grains and place them with the liquid they came in, into your jar
⦁ Add your sugar (1 tablespoon of sugar to 1 tablespoon of grains to 1 cup of water)
⦁ Mix is a pinch of pink salt, molasses or boiled egg shell
⦁ Stir and cover
⦁ Allow to ferment on the kitchen counter for 24 – 48 hours. 24h in summer and 48h in winter
⦁ Strain the grains off from the water mixture after 24 – 48 hours through the sieve
⦁ Place the grains aside. These will go into a fresh sugar water mix asap or in the fridge with some sugar and water to hibernate for another time
⦁ The liquid you have drained off is now full of probiotics. You could drink it as it is as natural unflavoured kefir.
If however you want the delicious fizzy flavoured kefir water nume S.A. Foods is known for, you need to now move onto the Second Ferment. This is when the fizziness happens.
Step Two: Second Ferment (Fizz & Flavour)
Decide on the flavor you want to try. You can use dried fruit (eg raisins), fruit juice or fresh seasonal fruit (eg berries) or root (eg ginger)
⦁ Take the strained off kefir water (first ferment) and add your desired fruit in small pieces.
⦁ Cover and allow to ferment for 24 hours
⦁ If you want to strain off the fruit pieces – do it at this stage
⦁ Bottle – the kefir will keep fermenting from the fruit and this is where the fizz comes from.
By closing it into a bottle you catch the fizz.
⦁ NOTE! Make sure to leave some space in the top of the bottle for the gasses. You can
‘burp’ your bottle occasionally to let the gasses out by opening the lid for a second and closing it again. Then leave out of the fridge for a few hours to get the fermentation going and then refrigerate.
⦁ Drink and enjoy
Optional flavoring ideas:
⦁ A few slices of ginger – I’ve found this makes my kefir extra fizzy for some reason
⦁ 1/2 lime or lemon and fresh mint – so refreshing!
⦁ 1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract for a cream soda experience
⦁ You can find recipes for cherry limeade, mango colada, blackberry lavender and more on
Your favourite web browser.
The choices for flavouring are endless.
Your water kefir grains will multiply if you keep them fed, at a warm temperature. Keep using the rule of thumb 1:1:1. So if you now have 2 tablespoons of grains, you can now make 2 cups (500ml water) to 2 tablespoons of sugar. A healthy routine of as little as 40ml of water kefir a day can delivery results that include a happier disposition, regular bowl movements, proper sugar level management, energy and good breath. All as a result of taking care of your gut-microbiome.
When you have the right amount for you, separate out the extra grains. Keep a back-up batch in the fridge with some sugar and water. These grains will hibernate, but they will need fresh food (sugar) every 2 – 3 weeks. The extra’s can be eaten, added to smoothies, fed to the dogs or put into your compost. If you share with your friends, be sure to give them these instructions.
KEFIR is a LIVE probiotic – they require constant care
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Healthy Happy Tummy = Nu-me-Sa