What is Kefir?

Lavi Perchik  Kefir Unsplash

What is Kefir?


Kefir is fermented milk which gives a yoghurt-drink type consistency and is a probiotic food. It’s usually made from cow’s, goats or sheep’s milk and typically contains high levels of Vitamin B12, calcium, magnesium, vitamin K2, biotin, folate – and probiotics. It contains over 50 species of lactic acid bacteria and yeast.

What are the benefits of kefir?

  • One study in Japan showed a reduction or elimination of constipation in a small group of adults consuming kefir daily, for 12 weeks (Maki et al, 2018).
  • This 2019 food science journal (Kim et al, 2019)* summarises the benefits of kefir to include the following properties:
    • modulating host gut microbiota
    • antiobesity, anti-hepatic steatosis, antioxidative, antiallergenic, antitumor, anti-inflammatory, cholesterol-lowering, constipation-alleviating, and antimicrobial properties.

There aren’t many foods that can do all that!

What’s available and where?

  • Yeo Valley Kefir available in various flavours in Morrison’s, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose in a largeish pot to add to your breakfast muesli for example. So far Yeo Valley’s strawberry version (only available Tesco currently) seems to be the most popular brand amongst my clients, mostly because it is very yoghurt like.
  • The Collective sell Kefir in mango and turmeric flavours amongst others – delicious! Available in lunchbox friendly size pots.
  • Bio-tiful Kefir is sold in mini plastic bottles, smoothie style in a variety of flavours including cacao, cherry etc. Nice and portable.
  • Abel & Cole sell a variety of kefir flavours in their organic vegetable delivery boxes
  • Chuckling Goat sell goat’s kefir online and in bulk for long-term use
  • Your friendly local health food shop such as Fairhaven Wholefoods in Letchworth typically sell the Biona Kefir (contains MILK).

Don’t drink milk / dairy? …

Please be aware that the majority of these contain cow’s MILK or goat’s MILK and so are not all suitable for a milk allergy. Water kefir and most coconut kefirs are dairy free for those of you with milk dietary restrictions. If you do have a milk allergy or if you are vegan, remember that you can still aim to broaden gut diversity by including fermented foods using kimchi and sauerkraut which don’t contain milk. If you’re looking for a coconut kefir – BioNutri do a good one; it’s sold in sachets you can add to a smoothie or yoghurt. This brand is also suitable for children.

…then you don’t need to miss out on the benefits of fermented foods…

  • Coconut kefir is thought to contain Lactobacillus Kefiri which can help defend against harmful bacteria like salmonella and EColi.
  • Coconut water kefir contains lauric acid which converts to monolaurin in the body which in turn helps to protect against GI infections, worms viruses etc.


Lactose intolerance
It is thought that due to the low levels of lactose in kefir that it may be suitable for some people with lactose intolerance. Please note that this won’t apply to everyone with lactose intolerance – very careful experimentation is advised.

And finally, you can always make your own kefir, of course! There are plenty of tutorials online to learn how to make your own nutritious fermented drinks – with or without milk.

Next on fermented foods for gut health: Kimchi


* https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29336590

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