What is Kefir Yogurt? Should you try it?

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You may have heard that fermented foods, which are rich in probiotics, are beneficial for gut health. Yogurt is probably the most commonly known fermented food. But, have you heard of kefir?

Kefir is another type of fermented dairy product that is less well-known. But, it might be a healthy addition to your diet.

So let’s discuss, what is kefir, what are its health benefits, and how is it different from yogurt? Also, if you want to try kefir, what should you look for?

Is Kefir Yogurt?

Yogurt and kefir are not the same, although there is quite a bit of overlap between the two.

Kefir is a fermented dairy product that originated in the Caucasus Mountains of Eastern Europe. It is made by adding kefir grains to milk and allowing the mixture to ferment for 12-24 hours. Kefir grains are a combination of yeast and bacteria that form a symbiotic culture.

A symbiotic culture, also known as a symbiotic colony, is a combination of different microbes that work together in a mutually beneficial relationship. In the case of kefir, the symbiotic culture is made up of a combination of lactic acid bacteria and yeasts that form grains that resemble cauliflower. 

These kefir grains are added to milk to initiate the fermentation process. The microbes consume the grains, which results in the production of lactic acid and ethanol. This is what gives kefir its tangy flavor and slight carbonation. 

Yogurt is made in a similar manner to kefir, as it is produced by the bacterial fermentation of milk. The main difference is that yogurt does not involve adding grains to the milk. The bacteria used to make yogurt are known as “yogurt cultures.” Fermentation of lactose, the natural sugar found in milk, by these bacteria produces lactic acid, which acts on milk protein to give yogurt a thicker texture and characteristic tart flavor.

Kefir and yogurt contain different strains of beneficial bacteria. Kefir has more probiotics than yogurt, as it has a longer fermentation process. It also contains a wider variety of bacteria than yogurt, including several strains of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium.

But, kefir can be made by adding yogurt colonies to the mixture, making it a kefir yogurt.  This is a slightly different product that is made by adding kefir grains to milk and allowing it to ferment until the milk has thickened into a yogurt-like consistency. This process takes longer than regular kefir and results in a thicker and creamier product.

While kefir and yogurt are similar, they are not quite the same. The fermentation process and the final product is what differentiates these two fermented foods.

Health Benefits of Kefir

Kefir is a probiotic-rich food with numerous health benefits. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that live in our gut and support our digestive and immune systems. Eating probiotic-rich foods, like kefir may have specific benefits for your health. These include:

Improved Digestion

The probiotics in kefir can help support healthy digestion by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. This can help to alleviate symptoms of digestive issues such as bloating, constipation, and diarrhea.

Boosts Immunity

Kefir contains a variety of beneficial bacteria and compounds that can help to strengthen the immune system. It has been shown to stimulate the production and strengthen immune cells, essential in fighting infections and diseases.

May Reduce Inflammation 

Chronic inflammation is a major risk factor for many diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Kefir contains a type of prebiotic (or food for healthy bacteria) that has anti-inflammatory properties, which may help to reduce inflammation in the body.

Supports Bone Health 

Since it is made from milk, kefir is a good source of calcium and vitamin K2, which are essential for bone health. These nutrients work together to strengthen bones and prevent fractures.

Downsides of Kefir

While kefir may be a healthy beverage for most people, there are a few possible downsides to drinking it. First, it can cause digestive problems, particularly in those who are sensitive to lactose. Since it is made from milk, it should be avoided by people with lactose intolerance or a dairy allergy. 

Second, many brands add quite a bit of sugar to the kefir to improve the taste. Be sure to check the label if you are purchasing kefir to choose a lower-sugar option. I’ll provide some tips on how to choose the best brands below. 

Depending on how it’s made, kefir may contain small amounts of alcohol. While most adults likely won’t feel the effects, if you plan on giving it to your children check the label for “alcohol-free”.

How to Choose the Best Kefir and Yogurt

When choosing the best fermented dairy product, whether it be yogurt or kefir, there are a few things to consider to ensure that you are getting the best quality product:

  1. Look for Organic and Grass-Fed Milk 

Yogurt and kefir are made by fermenting milk, so the quality of the milk used is important. Look for products made with organic milk that comes from grass-fed cows. This ensures that the milk is free from harmful pesticides and hormones, and contains more nutrients than conventionally raised cows.

  1. Check the Probiotic Content 

The probiotic content of kefir or yogurt varies depending on the brand and manufacturing process. Look for products that list the strains of bacteria used and the number of colony-forming units (CFUs) per serving. The higher the CFU count, the more beneficial bacteria the product contains.

  1. Choose Low Sugar Options 

Some products may contain added sugars or sweeteners, which can counteract the health benefits of the probiotics. Look for brands with low sugar content, or choose unsweetened varieties. Aim for a brand with less than 10g per cup. 

  1. Look for a Variety of Strains 

Look for products that include a diverse range of strains to ensure that you are getting the full health benefits of eating fermented foods.

  1. Check the Expiration Date 

Both kefir and yogurt are perishable, so check the expiration date when you purchase. Fresh kefir will have a tangy taste and may be slightly effervescent, indicating that the fermentation process is still ongoing. This doesn’t mean that it has gone bad, but you do want to be sure you are not drinking kefir that has expired.

Fresh yogurt has a clean, tangy smell. If the yogurt smells sourer than usual, or has an off or unpleasant odor, it’s best to discard it. If you see mold or any unusual discoloration (such as pink, green, or black spots), or the yogurt is overly clumpy, throw the yogurt away immediately.

Have you tried kefir or yogurt? Which do you prefer? Do you have a favorite brand? Come join us over on Instagram and let us know which brands you love.