Kefir: Is It Good for You?

Kefir, pronounced kee-feer, is a drink made from the fermented milk of a cow, goat, or sheep. Water kefir is a similar product, but has a water base instead of milk.

Historians believe kefir originated centuries ago in the Caucasus Mountains in Eastern Europe near present-day Turkey. The word kefir is derived from the Turkish word “keif,” which translates to “good feeling.” 

Kefir is often compared to Greek yogurt, and in some ways, the two products are similar. Like Greek yogurt, kefir has a slightly sour flavor and is created through a fermentation process. However, kefir has a thinner consistency than Greek yogurt drinks. Also, kefir and Greek yogurt contain different types of beneficial bacteria.

It’s no surprise kefir is a popular beverage for supporting digestive health. The product contains around 30 unique species of probiotic s, “good bacteria” that are known to improve gut health and that may aid the body’s digestive processes.

You can buy kefir at grocery and health food stores — or make your own.

Nutrition Information

One cup of Nancy’s Strawberry Kefir contains: 

  • Calories: 200
  • Protein: 7 grams
  • Fat: 8 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 23 grams
  • Fiber: 1 gram
  • Sugar: 22 grams

Kefir is a good source of: 

Kefir is also an excellent source of the mineral magnesium. Studies have shown that magnesium supports processes like nerve impulses and muscle contraction, and helps to normalize heart rhythm.

Continued

Potential Health Benefits of Kefir

Kefir contains many beneficial nutrients and supports digestive health because of its high concentration of probiotics. Research has found a number of potential health benefits for people who consume kefir:

Constipation Relief

The probiotics and yeast in kefir have been shown to improve the balance of healthy bacteria in the gut, helping the body alleviate constipation, among other health benefits.

Digestive Support

Kefir contains tryptophan, an essential amino acid that scientists believe has a relaxing effect on the nervous system, which helps the body with the processes that move food through the digestive tract.

Heart Health Benefits 

Scientists have found that the “good” bacteria in fermented foods like kefir may support cardiovascular health. 

Lower Cholesterol

Fermented foods like kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi contain high concentrations of bacterial probiotics, which may lower your cholesterol level.

Weight Loss Benefits

A Stanford Medical School study revealed that gastric bypass patients who consumed the kind of probiotics found in kefir lost weight more quickly than patients who didn’t take in probiotics. Scientists continue to study the link between weight loss and probiotics.

Potential Risks of Kefir

You can purchase kefir in a number of fruit-flavored varieties, or drink it plain. If you opt for a fruit flavor, pay attention to the sugar content — some brands contain as much added sugar as fruit-flavored yogurts or juice. Another option is to purchase or make water kefir. 

Digestive Discomfort

Foods and drinks that contain probiotics can cause digestive discomfort, especially when people first consume them. Side effects like gas and bloating are common.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on October 06, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition: “Modern perspectives on the health benefits of kefir in next generation sequencing era: Improvement of the host gut microbiota.”

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon: “Kefir.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “Fermented foods: Favorable for heart health?”

Harvard Medical School: “The growing role of probiotics.”

Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery: “Probiotics Improve Outcomes After Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass Surgery: A Prospective Randomized Trial.”

Michigan State University: “What is kefir?”

National Institutes of Health: “Magnesium.”

Tufts University: “How do the nutrition and probiotic benefits of kefir compare with those of Greek yogurt?”

UC Davis Dairy Research & Information Center: “How to Make Kefir.”

United Nations University: “Benefits of Traditional Fermented Foods.”

University of Utah Health: “Probiotics: What Do They Do?”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Pagination

Get Diet and Fitness Tips In Your Inbox

Eat better and exercise smarter. Sign up for the Food & Fitness newsletter.

By clicking Subscribe, I agree to the WebMD Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of WebMD subscriptions at any time.