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Kefir 101: Is It Healthy? Benefits and Nutrition
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Kefir 101: Is It Healthy? Benefits and Nutrition

HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by Edibel Quintero, RD | Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD check
Published on January 2, 2023
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8 min

Kefir is a popular beverage around the world. It has many alleged health benefits, but are they true? In this article, you can learn whether drinking kefir makes it a healthy addition to your diet.

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Whether you’re a kefir superfan or you’ve just come across it in the supermarket, you might wonder how healthy this complex drink is.

Kefir is a staple food worldwide, and its popularity has skyrocketed in recent years within the health and wellness world. This unique beverage contains various nutrients, and with it comes many reported health benefits. There are several reasons why people are now drinking kefir.

Can kefir support a healthy diet, or should it be an occasion-only drink?

This article covers all you need to know about the kefir drink, including how it’s made, what it contains, and 5 reasons why you might want to drink kefir.

What Is Kefir?

Kefir is a fermented drink cultured from kefir grains and made with dairy milk. It is slightly fizzy with a distinctive sour smell and an acidic, yogurt-like taste. The ideal kefir consistency is thick, smooth, and creamy – similar to buttermilk. It is usually made with cow’s or goat’s milk, but it may also be prepared from other animal’s milk, such as buffalo or sheep’s milk.

Adding kefir grains to milk allows the microorganisms (bacteria and yeast) to multiply and ferment the sugars present in the milk. The kefir fermentation process takes approximately 12–24 hours, creating a unique, probiotic fermented milk with a characteristic smell and flavor.

Is Kefir Healthy?

Yes, kefir is a healthy drink that provides many health benefits. It contains lots of probiotic bacteria that help maintain gut health. It also has various other nutrients that are great for your body, including calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, and riboflavin.

So, next time you question whether or not to drink kefir, you can rest assured that this fermented drink will aid your overall health. You can include it as part of a well-rounded diet to increase your intake of probiotic foods. Plus, it’s naturally sweet, and it tastes delicious.

While it boosts your digestive health, you should remain mindful of your kefir consumption. Probiotics can upset your digestive tract and cause discomfort, especially in large amounts. Gastrointestinal side effects may include bloating, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and vomiting.

5 Health Benefits of Kefir

You’re now aware that kefir is a healthy beverage. But you’re probably wondering how exactly it benefits your body. Below, we discuss 5 key health benefits of kefir to give you an insight into why and how fermented milk is worthy of joining a balanced diet.

#1 Boosts digestive health

Kefir’s popularity is mainly due to its effects on the digestive system. It contains powerful probiotics that help restore the balance between the friendly and harmful bacteria in the gut. This makes kefir and other probiotic foods effective for alleviating digestive issues and improving intestinal health.

#2 Low in lactose

Although kefir is made with dairy, those who are lactose intolerant may be able to tolerate kefir in controlled amounts without symptoms. That’s because the lactic acid bacteria in fermented dairy products convert lactose into lactic acid, reducing their lactose content.

Studies show that regular consumption of kefir improves lactose digestion. Still, some people with lactose intolerance might prefer to avoid kefir. However, you can still get the health benefits by making kefir with dairy-free and lactose-free ingredients.

You can make kefir using lactose-free or plant-based milk, such as almond and coconut milk. Water kefir, also known as tibicos, is a fermented beverage produced from water kefir grains and sugar water. You can brew this vegan drink with coconut water for added nutrients.

#3 May improve bone health

The full-fat variety of kefir is a rich source of calcium, an essential mineral for healthy bones and teeth. Consuming kefir can increase bone mineral density in patients with osteoporosis – a condition that makes the bones weak, fragile, and more prone to breaking.

It also contains vitamin K, a fat-soluble vitamin important for building bones.

#4 It has antibacterial properties

Prebiotic compounds in kefir have potent antibacterial effects that may help protect the body against infections. Lactobacilli are common microorganisms found in kefir associated with protection from pathogenic bacteria and a potentially reduced risk of allergies and cancer.

#5 Improves skin health

Kefir is associated with healthier-looking skin due to its rich nutritional content. Consuming homemade kefir can significantly improve skin condition, particularly regarding skin hydration. Its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties may also aid acne management.

Nutrition Facts of Kefir

To discover the nutritional benefits of kefir, we have to look at the nutrition facts. That way, you can understand precisely what is going into your body when you consume kefir drinks. Kefir has a strong nutritional profile with many important vitamins and minerals to aid health.

Let’s take a look at the nutrient content of low-fat kefir.

Nutritional value (per 100g)

Calories/Nutrient (per 100g)Amount
Calories (kcal)43
Net Carbs (g)4.77
Fiber (g)0
Sugar (g)4.61
Fats (Total)1.02
Protein (g)3.79

Source: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170904/nutrients 

Low in calories and fat

Kefir, made with low-fat milk, has only 43 calories and 1.02g of fat in a 100g serving. Low-calorie and zero-calorie foods make excellent guilt-free snacks or refreshments when trying to lose weight. It makes it easier to reach a calorie deficit when you cut back on calories.

Moderate amount of proteins

Kefir has a moderate 3.79g of protein. Your body needs protein to maintain, repair, and replace tissues so your body can grow and function properly. It plays a crucial role in muscle maintenance and repair, which is essential when trying to lose excess fat without losing muscle.

Low in carbohydrates

With less than 5g of carbs, those following a low-carb diet will be happy to know that kefir is a suitable drink choice in moderation. A low-carbohydrate diet is an effective strategy for weight loss as it helps induce nutritional ketosis, where the body begins burning fat for energy.

Rich in vitamins and minerals

The fermented dairy product has much to offer thanks to its nutritional content. Including kefir in your diet will provide your body with much-needed vitamins and minerals. Those found in kefir support your bones, digestion, metabolism, and blood, brain, and skin cells.

You can find good amounts of the following vitamins and minerals in kefir:

  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Sodium
  • Selenium
  • Folate
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin D

Kefir vs. Probiotics

KefirProbiotics
BenefitsKefir contains potent probiotics to improve gastrointestinal healthMay help to alleviate various digestive issuesHelp maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteriaProbiotics can help alleviate a variety of digestive issues
ProsDigestive supportRich in calciumSupports bone health Improves skin health Aids blood sugar controlNaturally sweet tasteDigestive supportMay lower cholesterol and blood pressureMay reduce allergiesComes in convenient supplement form, including powders and pills
ConsMay cause bloating, gas, diarrhea, and stomach upsetKefir contains dairy and is not suitable for vegansMay cause bloating, gas, diarrhea, and stomach upsetPossible risk of causing infection in people with weakened immune systems 

Healthy Recipe With Kefir

You don’t always have to drink kefir on its own. In fact, you can include kefir in multiple recipes for a dose of beneficial bacteria. Not everyone enjoys the sour, tangy flavor of kefir, either. If this sounds like you, it can be a great idea to add kefir to your favorite smoothie recipes.

Below, you can find the recipe for Berry Kefir Smoothie.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups frozen mixed berries (or berry of your choice)
  • 1 cup plain milk kefir
  • 1/2 medium banana
  • 2 tsp almond or peanut butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Peel and roughly chop the banana.
  2. Add all ingredients to a blender and combine until you have a smooth consistency.
  3. Add ice if preferred, and pour into a tall glass or glass jar. Now, simply enjoy!

Nutrition facts per serving

  • Calories: 304
  • Carbohydrates: 53.3g
  • Fat: 6.9g (0.8g saturated fat)
  • Protein: 15.4g
  • Fiber: 8.6g

If you’re interested in more recipes containing kefir milk, it’s worth checking out the Keto Cycle app. It has more than 10,000 healthy recipes suitable for weight loss and those following the ketogenic diet. You can even benefit from customized meal plans and calorie-tracking tools.

Keto Cycle
Smarter Way to Keto
  • Proven scientific data
  • Calorie tracker
  • Customized meal plans
  • 10,000+ easy-to-make keto recipes (including vegetarian options)
  • Full workout schedule
  • Motivational tips
Our rating:
4.7
Visit Keto Cycle

FAQs

Is kefir good or bad for you?

Milk kefir is a healthy food that is good for human health. Improved digestion, better gut health, stronger bones, and reduced inflammation are among the health benefits of kefir. Fermented foods are great for your diet, and kefir provides a creamy and tasty liquid addition.

Is kefir good for weight loss?

Consuming kefir can aid your weight loss journey because it is low in calories, carbohydrates, and fat. It contains a good amount of protein to keep you feeling full and probiotic bacteria to balance the gut microbiome. Opt for low-fat kefir over full-fat kefir to boost weight loss results.

Is kefir good for when you’re sick?

Kefir may be a good choice when you’re feeling sick, as it has properties that can boost the immune system. Research suggests that the probiotic contents in kefir may work as protective agents against viral infections, such as the common cold, influenza (the flu), and rotaviruses.

Does kefir help you lose weight?

Adding kefir to a balanced diet may help you lose weight. It is very low in calories, with 104 calories per cup. It also has a moderate amount of protein, which promotes satiety and keeps you feeling full for longer. Try swapping your morning latte for a low-fat serving of milk kefir.

Is store-bought kefir beneficial?

Store-bought kefir is still rich in protein and essential nutrients. You can find various brands of kefir in many health food stores. Homemade kefir, however, is considered healthier because it has no added sugar and contains higher amounts of cultures and probiotics.

Can I drink kefir every day?

Yes, you can drink kefir daily as part of a balanced diet. Just be conscious of how much kefir you drink because too much of this sour drink can cause digestive issues. Once your body adjusts to drinking kefir, most people can benefit from around 1 cup of fresh milk kefir per day.

A Word From a Nutritionist

Fermented dairy products are super nutritious. Kefir is created through the fermentation of milk by lactic acid bacteria and yeasts contained within milk kefir grains. These grains contain lots of bioactive compounds and organic acids, which contribute to their overall health benefits.

Kefir contains unique species of probiotics that are known to improve digestive health. Probiotics support the treatment of gastrointestinal diseases as they restore balance within the gut bacteria. They can be particularly effective for treating acute diarrhea in adults and children.

Probiotics can also help with bloating and other digestive issues. Kefir has many other benefits for your diet, too. For example, consuming kefir may aid diabetes management by improving blood sugar control and decreasing fasting blood glucose and HbA1c levels.

Although kefir can support the digestive system, those with certain digestive disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), should check with a doctor or dietitian before adding fermented foods to their diet. Sometimes, these foods can irritate or worsen symptoms.

Remember, you can make variations of kefir to suit dietary preferences, such as low-fat milk kefir and coconut water kefir. Kefir is suitable for most people as part of a balanced diet. Just be aware of how much you consume to avoid unpleasant side effects like gas and constipation.

Conclusion

So, is kefir a good choice?

In summary, kefir is a healthy beverage full of healthy bacteria. Kefir and other fermented dairy products bring multiple health benefits, from supporting the immune system to promoting a happy gut. It may even contribute to your weight loss journey in the right amounts.

Keto Cycle
Smarter Way to Keto
  • Proven scientific data
  • Calorie tracker
  • Customized meal plans
  • 10,000+ easy-to-make keto recipes (including vegetarian options)
  • Full workout schedule
  • Motivational tips
Our rating:
4.7
Visit Keto Cycle
HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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