Drinking Kefir: Types, Benefits and Nutritional Facts
If you are a fan of probiotic-rich foods and drinks, there is a high chance that you are already sipping that delicious, healthy, and tasty kefir milk. However, in a case you have only started to take an advantage of probiotics, kefir can be a discovery to you.
Kefir drink: definition and history
The healthy kefir culture has been spread through the 21st century like a blast. Originated from the Turkish word, kefir literally means “good feeling”. Being tabbed as one the healthiest foods of our times, kefir can be defined as a probiotic food containing many bioactive components, no less than 30 strains of good gut bacteria that can beat “bad” bacteria, carcinogens, tumors, etc.
A kefir probiotic drink is commonly made of the so-called starter “grains”. The kefir grains are nothing more than a combo of different lactic acid bacteria and yeasts in a polysaccharide-protein matrix interacting with raw milk. Kefir can be made from soy, rice, coconut, sheep, goat, or cow milk.
The most common types of kefir
According to the WebMD team, there are 3 common types of kefir, depending on the liquid used for its production. Keep in mind that the tastes and potential health benefits of kefir types enumerated below may vary drastically:
It is one of the most available kefir types. If you are wondering where to buy kefir based on milk, the answer is everywhere. Literally, every major store where they have the dairy section with milk, yogurts, etc. You can also find milk kefirs in any health food stores. If you are a lactose-intolerant, consider finding coconut milk kefir that doesn’t contain any “real” milk. Opt for a high-quality brand that offers organic dairy products.
The peculiarities of milk kefir:
- It is based on a starter culture, so it is a probiotic kefir type with active “live” yeast;
- It has a tart taste, similar to the taste of plain Greek yogurt;
- Not sweet but may contain natural or artificial sweeteners;
- Can serve as a great base for many recipes. For example, if you want to make a kefir smoothie, use this kind of product. You can also cook soups, stews, salads, buttermilk, heavy cream, yogurt, or sour cream based on milk kefir.
Coconut water or coconut milk serve as the base for this type of kefir. Coconut milk is basically its “pulp” (that white thick part from the inside of a coconut) diluted in water, and then strained to get a milkfish liquid. This is a great milk kefir alternative to lactose-intolerant people.
The peculiarities of coconut kefir:
- It is a clear liquid without any milk;
- It can be used as the base for a fermented kefir, because it contains sugar that is required for the yeast to start the fermentation process;
- Just like milk kefir, coconut kefir uses a traditional starter culture with “live” bacteria and yeast;
- After the fermentation, coconut kefir becomes more carbonated and tart. Commonly, it is sweeter and less flavored than milk kefir.
If you are a seeking a kefir with a subtle taste and light texture, then look for the product based on water kefir grains. Usually, kefir water is based on sugar water or fruit juice, with the herbs or fruits for the favor. It also contains yeast and active good bacteria and can be easily done at home.
The peculiarities of water kefir:
- A smarter replacement to sodas and processed fruit juices;
- It can be a healthier choice for the people on a diet;
- Also, it can be used for low-calories meals like desserts, oatmeal, salad dressings, or smoothies. But it can’t substitute thick dairy products because of a less creamy texture;
- It can be a good milk kefir alternative for lactose-intolerant people.
Important notice: All 3 types of kefir are to be refrigerated to stay fresh and save all those healthy probiotic qualities. Make sure to keep homemade kefirs in glass bottles, because plastic may leach into the kefir and deliver harmful toxins.
Organic kefir: the nutritional profile
Being a fermented milk product (though there are possible other types) kefir resembles by its taste and consistency as a drinkable yogurt. It is often called a “health food” because of the awe-inspiring nutritional profile. According to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), kefir is rich in multiple essential vitamins and nutrients.
One standard cup of a store-bought whole milk plain kefir contains:
- Calories – 160;
- Carbohydrates (carbs) – 12 grams;
- Protein – 10 grams;
- Fats – 8 grams;
- Calcium – 300 milligrams (mg) – that is 30% of the recommended daily intake (RDI);
- Vitamin D – 30 micrograms (mcg) – 25% of the RDI;
- Vitamin A – 150 mcg – 10% of the RDI.
Also, milk kefir contains in small amount folates, B-vitamins, and lots of probiotics (usually a few different strains).
Kefir vs. yogurt: compare 2 healthy milk drinks
It is not surprising that yogurt and kefir drinks are frequently compared. Both drinks contain “good” gut bacteria and are based on milk. But, if to compare the nutritional profiles of these two drinks, kefir may seem a bit more beneficial than yogurt, and here is why:
- More microorganisms digested when drinking kefir can be good for your health;
- Kefir can improve your digestion, help with the weight management, and mental health;
- Kefir usually has more probiotics than yogurt – the starter kefir grains contain, at least, 30 different strains of yeast and bacteria.
Kefir: health benefits
According to Dr. Josh Axe, kefir is one of the most efficient probiotic foods with the multiple benefits ranging from topical to systemic. If you want to improve your health, consider drinking a glass of kefir daily, before going to bed.
The major health benefits of kefir are:
- Improved immunity;
- Better bone strength;
- It can potentially beat cancer by reducing the growth of tumors;
- It can fight against irritable bowel syndrome, support digestion, help restore the digestive balance and prevent multiple gastrointestinal disorders like Crohn’s and ulcers;
- Asthma and many allergies are related to the inflammatory processes in a body. Kefir can relieve or even prevent these processes and reduce the production of the inflammatory cells in the lungs;
- A healthier gut means the better skin. Drinking kefir daily can result in reducing such skin problems as acne, rashes, eczema, and psoriasis;
- Can bring a relief to people with mild-to-moderate lactose intolerance. Though kefir is usually not recommended to people with a lactose intolerance, the “good” bacteria in kefir may actually reduce the symptoms of this disorder. Make sure to consult a doctor before starting to drink kefir for a lactose intolerance relief.
Kefir: potential side effects and precautions to keep in mind
Commonly, drinking kefir on the daily basis is considered to be safe for everyone, even little kids. Just make sure to buy and drink organic kefirs. However, milk kefir is forbidden for all lactose-intolerant people. Also, people who have a sensitive stomach should reconsider drinking kefirs daily because it may cause intestinal cramps, constipation or, on the contrary, diarrhea. This may happen because of the certain type of active bacteria and yeast “living” in kefir.
Otherwise, kefir can be a great alternative to any processed sugary drinks and may serve as a great addition to multiple dietary recipes.