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10 Best Probiotic-Rich Kefirs for Gut Health

Feed your gut the good stuff with these healthy kefirs, full of live active cultures and probiotics.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino
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In recent years, the dairy aisle has seen an explosion of new probiotic-rich fermented foods that many of us may not have grown up with. While yogurt remains a staple, other options like kimchi, sauerkraut, and kefir are becoming increasingly popular. Kefir, a drinkable yogurt originating from Eastern Europe, is especially noteworthy for its high probiotic and protein content. With its thick, smoothie-like texture and tart flavor, kefir is a delicious, nutrient-dense addition to your diet. But what sets kefir apart is its gut health benefits.

Your gut, often referred to as "your second brain," plays a crucial role in your overall well-being, influencing everything from immunity to digestion. A chronically unhealthy gut has been linked to metabolic issues, certain cancers, and major gastrointestinal disorders. By incorporating probiotic-rich foods like kefir into your diet, you're taking an important step toward maintaining a balanced and healthy gut microbiome. That's why we've compiled a list of the best kefirs for your gut.

What Is Kefir?

Kefir is a drinkable yogurt hailing from Eastern Europe praised for its high probiotic and protein content. It has a thick, viscous texture closer to a smoothie than milk, and an acidic, tart flavor similar to unsweetened Greek yogurt. Kefir is refreshing on its own and adds a bright, fresh taste to recipes.

Traditionally made with cow's milk, kefir is also available in goat and dairy-free options like coconut milk and water.

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Why Your Gut Needs Probiotic-Rich Foods Like Kefir

Kefir naturally contains live and active cultures, which are probiotics beneficial to your gut. To understand why probiotics are essential, it's important to know that your body consists of trillions of different types of bacteria that live inside your gut lining. There are reportedly over 1,000 different species of gastrointestinal microbiota, each playing various roles in your body.

Probiotics consist of "good" bacteria that help balance the good and bad bacteria in your gut microbiome. Drinking kefir or incorporating it into recipes gives your gut a health boost by promoting balance and order.

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Health Benefits of Kefir

Aside from adding good bacteria to your gut, a Frontiers in Microbiology review details other potential benefits of drinking kefir, including:

  • An improved cholesterol profile
  • Healthy immune system support
  • Antibacterial and antifungal properties
  • Antitumor activity against cancer cells
  • A decrease in inflammation
  • A healthier digestive system overall

    Ways to Use Kefir

    Some people enjoy drinking kefir on its own, but if you're not a fan of its tangy taste, here are some other ways to enjoy its gut health-promoting benefits:

    • Blend it up in a smoothie: Add natural sweeteners like fiber-rich fruit, which also feed good gut bacteria, and nuts and seeds for crunch.
    • Add it to overnight oats: Use kefir instead of milk or yogurt for a luxurious texture that's not too thick.
    • Shake it up with protein powder: Use kefir as the liquid base in your protein shake for an extra protein punch and live probiotics.
    • Make kefir bread or pancakes: Substitute kefir for milk or water in recipes for fluffier baked goods.
    • Use it as a base for dressings or marinades: Substitute plain kefir for mayo or Greek yogurt in herby salad dressings and chicken marinades.

    The Best Kefirs for Your Gut

    Enjoy this fermented superfood in your daily diet with these go-to picks for the best kefir. Read on, then check out the 15 Healthiest Yogurts on Grocery Shelves.

    Lifeway Organic Grass-Fed Kefir with Probiotics + Prebiotics

    bottle of Lifeway organic kefir
    Nutrition (Per 1-cup serving):
    Calories: 150
    Fat: 8 g (Saturated Fat: 5 g)
    Sodium: 125 mg
    Carbs: 12 g (Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 9 g)
    Protein: 10 g
    30% DV calcium

    Blend a cup of Lifeway Organic Grass-Fed Kefir with a handful of fruits and leafy greens to create a better smoothie bowl. You'll benefit from 12 strains of gut-loving probiotics and 30% of your daily value of bone-building calcium. The flavor is as plain as it is versatile, so feel free to pour it into any of your favorite protein shake or smoothie recipes.

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    Lifeway Low-fat Kefir, Mixed Berry

    bottle of Lifeway Mixed Berry Kefir on a white background
    Nutrition (Per 1-cup serving):
    Calories: 140
    Fat: 2 g (Saturated Fat: 1.5 g)
    Sodium: 125 mg
    Carbs: 18 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 18 g)
    Protein: 10 g
    30% DV calcium

    If you're looking for high-protein kefir, look no further. Wrap up your workout with a cup of Lifeway's Mixed Berry Kefir, which is brimming with 12 probiotic cultures and an impressive 10 grams of protein to help build and maintain strong muscles. Due to the higher sugar content, we recommend saving this drink for active sweat sessions.

    Biotiful Gut Health Kefir Drink, Original

    carton of kefir drink from Biotiful
    Biotiful Gut Health
    Nutrition (Per 250-ml serving):
    Calories: 148
    Fat: 7.3 g (Saturated Fat: 5.3 g)
    Sodium: <1 mg
    Carbs: 12 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 7 g)
    Protein: 8.8 g
    14% DV calcium

    Biotiful Gut Health products contain just two ingredients: whole cow's milk and probiotic strains. These drinks are not only full of gut-friendly bacteria, but you'll also get a hefty dose of calcium, vitamin B12, and vitamin B2, all without any additional sugars. The original flavor is fairly plain, so it's great for sneaking into recipes like salad dressings or marinades.

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    Biotiful Gut Health Oat Kefir Drink, Vanilla

    carton of Biotiful Oat Kefir Drink
    Biotiful Gut Health
    Nutrition (Per 250-ml serving):
    Calories: 165
    Fat: 7.8 g (Saturated Fat: 4.8 g)
    Sodium: <1 mg
    Carbs: 24 g (Fiber: 0.3 g, Sugar: 6.3 g)
    Protein: 0.8 g
    15% DV calcium

    You may have assumed that feeding your gut with some healthy kefir would require consuming dairy. However, vegans and non-dairy consumers will be thrilled to know they can give their gut an enormous probiotic boost without any animal products. Biotiful Gut Health now sells oat-based kefir drinks, which still contain plenty of live active cultures, calcium, and vitamin B. However, the one thing you'll sacrifice here is protein.

    Nancy's Organic Whole Milk Probiotic Kefir

    carton of Nancy's Kefir on a white background
    Nutrition (Per 8-ounce serving):
    Calories: 180
    Fat: 9 g (Saturated Fat: 6 g)
    Sodium: 140 mg
    Carbs: 13 g (Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 8 g)
    Protein: 12 g
    30% DV calcium

    Nancy's Organic Plain Prebiotic Kefir is lactose-free and contains more than 64 billion live probiotics per serving. We love the flavor options they have, like peach, raspberry, and strawberry, but if you're looking for a lower-sugar option, we recommend their plain flavor. Not only does it have less sugar, but it has more probiotics per serving than many of the other choices.

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    Maple Hill Organic Whole Milk Kefir, Plain

    carton of Maple Hill Organic Kefir
    Maple Hill
    Nutrition (Per 2/3-cup serving):
    Calories: 120
    Fat: 7 g (Saturated Fat: 4.5 g)
    Sodium: 85 mg
    Carbs: 8 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 8 g)
    Protein: 5 g
    15% DV calcium

    Maple Hill's Organic Whole Milk Kefir will lend homemade marinades and salad dressings an irresistibly creamy texture thanks to its healthy fats. Maple Hill uses 100% grass-fed milk, which results in a rich flavor and higher levels of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids and fat-burning conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) than regular milk.

    Green Valley Creamery Lactose-Free, Organic, Lowfat Plain Kefir

    carton of green valley organic kefir on a white background
    Green Valley
    Nutrition (Per 1-cup serving):
    Calories: 130
    Fat: 2 g (Saturated Fat: 1.5 g)
    Sodium: 115 mg
    Carbs: 13 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 12 g)
    Protein: 11 g
    30% DV calcium

    To ensure their probiotic beverage is completely lactose-free, Green Valley Creamery adds the lactase enzyme to organic milk and cream before culturing it. That way, even lactose-intolerant folks (who still avoid those 99% lactose-free products) can satisfy their taste buds without compromising on calcium, protein, and billions of probiotics from 11 unique strains. This lactose-free kefir is certified USDA Organic, Certified Humane, and FODMAP Friendly.

     10 Prebiotic Foods for Better Gut Health

    Redwood Hill Farm Plain Kefir

    carton of Redwood Hill Farm goat milk kefir on a white background
    Redwood Hill Farm
    Nutrition (Per 1-cup serving):
    Calories: 140
    Fat: 8 g (Saturated Fat: 6 g)
    Sodium: 120 mg
    Carbs: 10 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 5 g)
    Protein: 8 g
    30% DV calcium

    Redwood Hill Farm's award-winning kefir boasts the lowest naturally-occurring sugar content thanks to its use of organic, humane-certified goat milk. A study in the Journal of Dairy Science found that goat milk can increase the absorption of anemia-fighting iron and collagen-forming copper, giving you a very great excuse to pour this pick over a cup of granola or drink straight from the bottle.

    Family Farmstead Organic Plain Kefir

    family farmstead
    Family Farmstead
    Nutrition (Per 8-ounce serving):
    Calories: 180
    Fat: 11 g (Saturated Fat: 7 g)
    Sodium: 120 mg
    Carbs: 11 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 11 g)
    Protein: 9 g
    30% DV calcium

    If you're not worried about consuming the fat found in whole milk, this deliciously healthy and probiotic-rich product is for you. Family Farmstead makes simple kefir drinks with a whole milk base that are enriched with live active cultures. Some kefir drinkers look for lower-fat products depending on their health goals, but if full-fat milk works for you, this option is thick, creamy, and flavorful.

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    Cultures For Health Kefir Powdered Starter

    package of kefir starter on a white background
    Cultures For Health
    Nutrition (Per 1.4-gram serving):
    Calories: 0
    Fat: 0 g (Saturated Fat: 0 g)
    Sodium: 0 mg
    Carbs: 0 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 0 g)
    Protein: 0 g

    Sure, you can go ahead and buy a bottle of your favorite milk-based kefir, but what if you could easily make your own? This powdered kefir starter can turn things like milk and coconut water into kefir and can certainly save you money in the long run. All you need to do is make sure the drink you're adding your powdered kefir starter to has sugar for the product to grab hold of, and voila, you'll have your own gut-friendly drink.

    This story has been updated to include additional entries, fact-checking, and copy-editing.

    Samantha Boesch
    Samantha was born and raised in Orlando, Florida and now works as a writer in Brooklyn, NY. Read more about Samantha
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