Proven Benefits of Kefir (Milk, Yogurt, Drink) – Science Based

Proven Benefits of Kefir (Milk, Yogurt, Drink)

Kefir is a fermented milk drink with many benefits to your digestive health because it contains probiotics. Kefir milk is traditionally made by putting kefir grains in cow, sheep, or goat’s milk to create a yogurt-type drink, although nowadays there are versions with non-dairy milks. Kefir drink is good for your immune system, bone health, digestion, and managing symptoms of diabetes.

The health benefits of drinking kefir come from the fact that it is full of healthy bacteria and yeasts. These microorganisms help to balance the microbiota in your gut which improves your overall health.

Kefir probiotic drink is also virtually lactose-free and is a good source of calcium and other minerals and vitamins for people who are lactose intolerant.

In this article, you will find out about what science says as to the proven benefits of kefir and why drinking kefir milk is good for you.

What Is Kefir?

Kefir is a probiotic drink that is most commonly made from cow’s milk (whole milk gives a better flavor than skim or semi-skim milk). Kefir is prepared by letting kefir grains soak in milk for 24 hours.

The term “kefir” is from the Turkish word “keif” which literally means “good feeling.” Kefir milk is a popular drink in Eastern Europe, Russia, and some central Asian countries where people consume kefir daily.

Research into the health benefits of kefir has found that microorganisms in kefir have an antimicrobial, anti-carcinogenic, probiotic, and prebiotic activity. The healthy bacteria in kefir also help to alleviate many digestive complaints such as diarrhea, gastroenteritis, and inflammatory bowel disease. (1)

Milk kefir has a slightly acidic taste that is similar to yogurt, but a bit stronger. For some people, the sour taste of kefir takes getting used to. However, many people quickly acquire the tangy, yogurt-like taste of kefir milk.

You can also add honey, berries, fruits, or other flavorings to give kefir a sweeter taste.

Kefir should have a slightly thick consistency – not a thin consistency like milk and not a thick consistency like yogurt. Depending on the fat content and the type of milk used, the consistency of kefir can vary.

Kefir milk vs. kefir water vs. kombucha

Kefir water is produced in a similar way to kefir milk but is dairy free. Water kefir is produced by adding water kefir grains to a sugary liquid (sugar water, coconut water, or fruit juice) and allowing fermentation to take place. Kefir water also contains a range of probiotic bacteria that have many benefits for your health. (2)

Kombucha is another type of fermented drink. The difference between kefir and kombucha is that kombucha is a type of fermented tea drink (black tea, oolong tea or green tea) using a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) for fermentation. (3)

Water Kefir Grains vs Milk Kefir Grains

Milk Kefir Grains vs Water Kefir Grains

What Are Milk Kefir Grains?

Milk kefir grains are a lumpy, gelatinous substance that is the starter culture for producing kefir milk.

The journal Frontiers in Microbiology reports that kefir grains are a mixture of lactic acid bacteria, acetic bacteria, fungi, and yeasts. These produce healthy probiotic bacteria from the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species in the kefir drink. (3)

Kefir grains look like tiny cauliflower heads that vary in size from 0.3 to 3.5 cm in diameter and grow after each fermentation. (3)

When not using kefir grains, you can store them in the fridge to preserve the live bacteria in the culture. (4)

Milk Kefir: Nutrition Facts

The nutritional benefits of kefir depend greatly on the type of milk used to create kefir.

The journal Nutritional Research Reviews reports that kefir generally contains 3.5% fat. Kefir also contains many of the essential amino acids your body requires. Kefir is rich in vitamins, with vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin K being the main ones.

Fermented kefir also has more vitamin B12, riboflavin, thiamine, and folic acid than regular milk. (5)

According to information provided by the United States Department of Agriculture, one cup of low-fat kefir (243 g) contains just 104 calories, and 9.2 g protein. Kefir is also a good source of calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and zinc. (6)

Another benefit of kefir is that most of the lactose in kefir milk is broken down by enzymes during fermentation. This means that kefir is a good, healthy drink if you are lactose intolerant or have diabetes. (5)

Because kefir contains virtually no lactose or sugars, many people view kefir as a paleo-friendly drink, and even keto-friendly drink.

One glass of low-fat kefir contains 11.6 grams of carbohydrates and has a glycemic load of 8. (6)

The main benefits to your health of consuming kefir regularly are due to the amazing array of probiotics and prebiotics it contains.

Researchers have found that kefir milk contains far more bacteria strains than yogurt. Kefir contains healthy bacteria strains from Acetobacter, Lactobacillus, Lactococcus, and Leuconostoc species. Kefir also contains a number of healthy yeast strains. (7)

Scientific studies into the nutritional value of kefir have found that kefir drink has antibacterial, antifungal, and antimicrobial activities. (7)

Kefir vs. Yogurt

Which is better for you: kefir milk or yogurt? While both of these dairy products contain beneficial bacteria, kefir has a unique and diverse nutritional makeup that gives it an advantage.

Kefir contains far more strains of good bacteria and yeasts. For example, scientists have discovered that certain types of kefir milk can have up to 61 different strains of bacteria and yeasts. (7)

Also, kefir contains a unique strain of bacteria not found in other fermented dairy products – Lactobacillus kefiri. Studies have shown that L. kefiri strains can protect the gastrointestinal tract from infections and help boost the immune system. (8)

Another benefit of drinking kefir is that it contains a unique type of carbohydrate (polysaccharide) called kerifarn. This antimicrobial compound has been shown to be good for fighting candida infections. (9)

Kefir Vs. Probiotic Supplements

When compared to probiotic pills, kefir is a much better choice. The main problem with probiotic supplements is that they vary in potency and in quality. Keffir, delivers live active bacteria and it is also high in vitamins and minerals. The bacteria in probiotic pills is not protected and it’s hard to know if it’s viable.

One study evaluated the quality of 25 different probiotic supplements. The researchers concluded that “only 2 of the 25 evaluated products were considered acceptable when both the label and contents are considered, something that is of great concern.” The researchers also found that some of the bacteria in the probiotic supplements was inactive and not viable.

Is Kefir Good for You? The Proven Health Benefits of Kefir

Let’s look in more detail at how consuming kefir every day is good for your digestion, immunity, weight management, and strengthening your bones.

Kefir Has Antimicrobial Properties and Can Improve Your Digestive Health

The main kefir health benefit is due to the abundance of probiotics which help to improve the microbiota in your gut.

Many studies show that consuming kefir milk products increases the number of healthy bacteria and help to lower the number of harmful microbes in the intestines. Drinking kefir can help to reduce the severity of various gastrointestinal problems such as salmonella, E. coli, and Giardia infections. (7)

Other studies highlight the fact that regular consumption of kefir is good for improving your overall digestive health. (5)

One study found that drinking 100 ml of probiotic kefir also helps to relieve constipation. Kefir has a laxative effect and can improve the time food takes to pass through your digestive tract. (10)

Kefir Is Good If You Have Lactose Intolerance

One of the benefits of drinking kefir every day is that it is easily digested by people who are lactose intolerant.

Enzymes in kefir grains break down lactose in kefir, making it easier to digest. Studies repeatedly show that people who have lactose intolerance can consume kefir milk and kefir smoothies. (11)

In fact, daily consumption of kefir may even help improve your symptoms of lactose intolerance. One study found that kefir products even helped to improve lactose tolerance. Drinking kefir reduced excess gas, diarrhea, and abdominal cramping that usually occurs after consuming dairy products. (12)

Learn more about lactose intolerance and what dairy-free sources of calcium you can enjoy for good health.

Kefir Milk Strengthens Your Immune System

Kefir boosts the number of healthy bacteria in your gut and has antimicrobial properties that can all help to boost your immunity.

Many researchers point to the fact that the health of your gut and digestive system is closely linked to your immune system. (13)

A review of how kefir benefits your health found that regularly consuming kefir milk is good for your gut health and your immune system. Kefir contains vital nutrients that help to boost your body’s defenses. (14)

Other studies have shown that probiotic products that contain Lactobacillus strains of bacteria stimulate the immune system and inhibit the growth of bacterial infections. The fact that kefir contains L. kefiri makes the yogurt-type drink especially beneficial for your immune system. (8, 15)

Find out about many other natural ways to strengthen your immune system to help fight disease better.

Kefir Drink Can Help Manage Diabetes Symptoms

If you suffer from diabetes, kefir is a good probiotic drink to help keep symptoms of diabetes under control.

One randomized clinical trial involving 60 diabetic persons found that consuming 600 ml of kefir daily helped to significantly lower the average blood glucose levels (HbA1c). Scientists concluded that fermented milk drinks such as kefir can be a good complementary therapy for diabetes. (16)

If you have diabetes, learn about which foods are good for helping to prevent spikes in your blood glucose readings.

Kefir Has Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Another reason that kefir milk is extremely good for your health is that anti-inflammatory kefir compounds help to reduce inflammation.

One study using mice found that kefiran extracts from kefir grains helped to inhibit inflammatory processes. Kefir milk also reduced inflammation, but not to the same degree as kefiran extracts. Scientists concluded from this experiment that kefir has anti-inflammatory prebiotic compounds. (17)

Another study found that milk fermented with kefir grains can help to reduce gastrointestinal inflammation and alleviate symptoms of colitis. (18)

Reducing inflammatory responses in your body is important to prevent long-term inflammation which can lead to various chronic diseases. (19)

You can learn about the other helpful foods for inflammation and how adding these to your diet benefits your health.

Kefir Consumption May Help Lower Blood Pressure

If you suffer from hypertension, the probiotics in kefir milk can help to improve your cardiovascular health.

One trial involving hypertensive rats found that treating high blood pressure with kefir was effective after 2 months of daily consumption. Researchers noted that kefir helped to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, which has a positive outcome in reducing high blood pressure. Scientists also found that the kefir probiotic L. kefiranofaciens has particular cardiovascular benefits. (20)

While there is no research on the blood pressure-lowering effects of kefir on humans, consuming kefir daily will certainly benefit your overall health.

Find out what natural remedies you can use to help bring down blood pressure and improve your cardiac health.

Kefir Has Shown the Potential to Lower Cholesterol

It may be possible that drinking kefir daily could have benefits for your health if you have high cholesterol.

However, there are mixed results on the cholesterol-lowering effects of fermented milk products such as kefir.

One study found that a kefir probiotic L. plantarum Lp27 from kefir grains helped to lower cholesterol in rats. (21)

However, a study on 13 men who had elevated cholesterol levels found that consuming 500 ml of kefir daily for 4 weeks had no effect on cholesterol levels. (22)

If you are looking for ways to lower cholesterol naturally, you may want to try some of these natural ways.

Kefir Has Calcium That Improves Bone Health and May Prevent Fractures

Milk kefir probiotic drink can help prevent osteoporosis and brittle bones because it has certain bacteria strains that increase calcium metabolism.

The journal PLoS One reported that fermented milk products using kefir grains have a positive effect on bone health. In one trial, people with osteoporosis took 1,600 mg of kefir daily with a calcium supplementation. After the end of 6 months, researchers found that kefir boosted the effects of calcium supplements, and bone mineral density increased. (23)

Another study involving postmenopausal women found that kefir consumption helped reduce bone resorption which can lead to osteoporosis. (24)

One glass of kefir contains about 316 mg of calcium and 100 IU of vitamin D, so drinking kefir daily can add toward meeting your daily recommended intake of calcium and vitamin D. (6) These nutrients are essential to prevent osteoporosis in later life. (25)

You can get more information on how to prevent osteoporosis and improve your bone mineral density.

Kefir Can Assist in Losing Weight

One of the many benefits of kefir milk is that drinking kefir regularly can actually help you lose excess pounds and reduce your waistline.

One randomized controlled trial involving 144 overweight adults found that increasing kefir drinks helped women lose weight and reduce their waistline in an 8-week period. Consuming 4 servings of kefir milk daily resulted in greater weight loss than those persons on a similar diet who didn’t consume kefir. (26)

Other studies on mice have found that compounds in kefir help to prevent fat accumulation and can prevent obesity. (27)

Kefir Grains Have Wound-Healing Properties

Kefir contains antimicrobial properties that can help wounds heal quicker and prevent infections while wounds are healing.

One trial involving animal subjects used a kefir gel (prepared from an extract of cultured kefir grains) to treat infected wounds. Kefir gel was applied 2 times a day to some of the rats, and silver sulfadiazine to the other. At the end of 2 weeks, scientists noted that inflammation and scar tissue was lower in the wounds treated with kefir gel. (28)

Other studies have shown that kefir has antimicrobial properties that help heal skin and boost wound healing. (9)

Kefir Can Help Improve the Symptoms of Allergies

If you suffer from asthma, then you could benefit from drinking kefir milk regularly due to probiotics in kefir having an anti-allergic effect.

The journal Immunobiology reported that kefir has the potential to suppress allergic reactions in the respiratory tract. Scientists said that kefir could be used as a natural treatment for allergic bronchial asthma. (29)

The fact that kefir can benefit people with allergic respiratory symptoms was shown in a study on probiotics. Many probiotic strains help produce antigens that help to improve the body’s immune response to allergens. (30)

As well as consuming kefir regularly, you can learn about other natural methods of treating asthma.

Kefir Has Anticancer Properties

Kefir contains bioactive compounds such as peptides and polysaccharides that have the potential to inhibit the spread of cancerous cells.

The journal Medical Oncology reported in 2017 that fermented milk products like kefir contain antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-carcinogenic properties. Enzymes in kefir and probiotics help strengthen immune response and reduce inflammation. This can help to reduce the effects of oxidative stress and prevent cell damage that can lead to cancer. (31)

Compounds extracted from kefir have been linked to treating or preventing skin cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, and gastric cancer. The researchers say that many studies discovered promising results, using kefir both in vivo and in vitro as an anti-cancerous agent. (31)

Side Effects of Consuming Kefir

Kefir is a naturally fermented milk drink that is very good for boosting the condition of your health. Most people enjoy drinking fermented milk products every day without any adverse effects.

Doctors from WebMD say that kefir can cause some gastrointestinal discomfort when first using it. So, if you decide to take kefir for its health benefits, you could start by consuming small amounts. Gradually, you can increase the amount you consume. (32)

Another way to improve your digestion and avoid any potential effects of bloating, abdominal discomfort, or nausea is to consume kefir with your meals.

How to Make Your Own Kefir Milk Drink at Home

Many supermarkets and health stores sell kefir. You can usually find kefir in the dairy product section or yogurt section. Always read the product label to see what it contains.

If you can’t buy kefir locally, it is very easy to make your own fermented kefir milk at home.

How to make your own homemade kefir:

  1. Buy milk kefir grains from a reputable health store or online.
  2. Put a tablespoon of kefir grains in a large glass jar.
  3. Pour 2 cups of full-fat milk in the jar.
  4. Cover with a cloth and leave at room temperature for 24-36 hours to allow the kefir grains ferment the milk.
  5. Kefir should have a buttermilk consistency when the lactose sugars have broken down.
  6. Strain the liquid into another jar so that you are left with the kefir grains in the strainer.
  7. Consume the kefir milk or place in the refrigerator to consume later.

You can immediately make your next batch of kefir by repeating the steps above. If you plan on making kefir later, cover the grains with milk and store in the refrigerator.

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