13 Best Probiotic-Rich Kefirs for Your Gut
By now, you've most likely heard about the importance of your gut health— you know, "your second brain," as some scientists say. Before, you likely viewed your gut as just another part of your stomach. However, the inner workings of this part of your body are far more intricate than you may realize. A chronically unhealthy gut has been connected to things like metabolic issues, certain types of cancer, and major gastrointestinal disorders. Furthermore, your gut microbiome, in general, is linked to effects on immunity, mental health, and digestion. So how can you be sure you're caring for this complex body part in the best ways? For starters, what you feed your gut is crucial, and probiotic-rich foods are key—which is why we've made a list of the best kefirs for your gut.
What is kefir?
Kefir is a drinkable yogurt hailing from Eastern Europe that's praised for its high probiotic and protein content, and it has a thick and viscous texture that's closer to a smoothie than it is to milk. With an acidic, tart flavor similar to unsweetened Greek yogurt, kefir has a fresh taste that brightens up recipes and is refreshing on its own.
Traditionally, kefir is made with cow's milk, but kefir brands also use goat milk and even dairy-free liquids like coconut milk and water.
Why your gut needs probiotic-rich foods like kefir
Kefir naturally contains what is known as live and active cultures, which are probiotics you can give your gut. To better understand why you need probiotics, it's important to know that your body consists of trillions of different types of bacteria, and a large majority of them live inside your gut lining. In fact, there are reportedly over 1,000 different species of gastrointestinal microbiota—all of which have different functions in your body.
Probiotics are made up of the "good" kind of bacteria, which can help balance out all of the good and bad bacteria found in your gut microbiome. So, when you drink kefir or use it in a recipe, you're giving your gut a beneficial health boost by bringing balance and order.
What are the additional health benefits?
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 can stomach (and even enjoy) just drinking kefir on its own, but if you're not a fan of the tangy taste, here are some other ways to enjoy its gut benefits:
- Blend it up in a smoothie. You can toss in natural sweeteners such as fiber-filled fruit, which also feed the good gut bacteria, as well as nuts and seeds for crunch.
- Add it to overnight oats. For a more luxurious texture without it being too thick, use kefir in your overnight oats instead of milk or yogurt.
- Shake it up with some protein powder. Looking for an extra protein punch after a workout? Use kefir as the liquid base in your protein shake for an additional boost of protein, plus live and active probiotics.
- Make kefir bread or pancakes. Any recipe that uses milk or water can be substituted with kefir for a fluffier baked good. The fermented properties inherent in a probiotic drink like kefir lend light, airy notes to your recipes.
- Try it as a base for dressings or marinades. Just like you would with mayo or Greek yogurt, you can use plain kefir as a tangy base for herby salad dressings and chicken marinades.
The best kefirs for your gut
Start enjoying this fermented superfood in your daily diet with these go-to picks for the best kefir.
Nancy's Organic Probiotic Kefir, Peach
Nancy's Probiotic Low-fat Kefir drinks are lactose-free and contain more than 56 billion live probiotics per serving. This delicious peach flavor masks the naturally tangy taste of plain kefir, so you can drink it on its own or throw it into your favorite smoothie.
Biotiful Gut Health Kefir Drink, Original
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.
Biotiful Gut Health Oat Kefir Drink, Vanilla
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.
Cultures For Health Kefir Powdered Starter
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.
Family Farmstead Organic Plain Kefir
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.
Maple Hill Organic Whole Milk Kefir, Plain
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
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.
Lifeway Lowfat Kefir, Plain
Build a better smoothie bowl by blending a cup of this low-fat kefir with a handful of fruits and leafy greens, and benefit from 12 strains of gut-loving probiotics, in addition to 30% of your daily value of bone-building calcium. The flavor is as plain as it is versatile, so you can feel free to pour it into any of your favorite protein shake or smoothie recipes.
Redwood Hill Farm Plain Kefir
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.
Lifeway BioKefir, Vanilla
Not craving an entire glass of kefir? This portable, 3.5-ounce shot is packed with twice the amount of probiotic activity than Lifeway's regular kefir—50 billion units to be exact—in addition to two grams of satiating fiber coming from organic inulin. It is also sweetened with a touch of cane sugar. Chug this kefir on the go, or keep one handy in the fridge to beat the midday doughnut cravings.
Wallaby Organic 1% Aussie Kefir, Plain
Wallaby's Australian-style kefirs are crafted in small batches with organic milk, giving the cultured drink a creamy texture without too much tartness. Pair this Aussie sip with sliced nectarines, a handful of walnuts, and banana chunks for a balanced breakfast.
Lifeway Low-fat Kefir, Mixed Berry
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.
Evolve Kefir, Plain
Evolve's creamy kefir is crafted with 14 premium cultures that work to keep your skin clear and your gut regular. It's made with just four wholesome ingredients in addition to probiotics: cultured grade A low-fat milk, non-fat milk, and vitamins A and D3. It also tops our list with a whopping 40% of your daily value of bone-building calcium.
A previous version of this story was published on July 23, 2018. It has been updated to include additional copy and proofreading revisions, additional product choices, and updated contextual links.
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