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What is Kefir, Know its Nutritional Facts, Health Benefits and its Side Effects

A fermented beverage made most commonly with dairy milk that usually tastes like a yogurt drink is Kefir. There are several health benefits of kefir and it also comes with some side effects. If you are willing to know about kefir then go through the following array of the article where we will be talking more about kefir, its health benefits and side effects.

What Is Kefir?

What Is Kefir?

Kefir is a cultured and fermented beverage that is prepared by using “starter” grains. This starter is a combination of milk proteins, yeasts, and bacteria. It has a creamy flavor and is packed with probiotic health benefits.

Kefir is mostly prepared with dairy milk; however it can be prepared with non-dairy alternatives such as goat’s milk, coconut milk, rice milk, and coconut water.

As kefir is fermented, most people those who are intolerant to lactose can actually drink kefir.

Kefir has originated from parts of Southwest Asia and Eastern Europe. The name “Kefir” is derived from the Turkish word, “Kevif”, meaning “Feeling good” after eating.(1)

Nutritional Facts Of Kefir:

A 6 ounce or 175 ml of serving of low fat kefir contains 4 grams of protein, calcium of 10% of the RDI, phosphorus measuring 15% of RDI, Vitamin B12 measuring 12% of the RDI, magnesium measuring 3% of the RDI, and Riboflavin consisting 10% of the RDI.(2)

Apart from all these, kefir offers 100 calories, 2-6 grams of fat, and 7-8 grams of carbohydrates, depending on the type of milk that has been used in kefir.

Kefir also contains a lot of bioactive compounds which include peptides and organic acids and they contribute to its wonderful health benefits.(1)

What Research Says About The Health Benefits Of Kefir? (H2)

Before we talk about the health benefits of kefir, let us take a look on what research says about the health benefits of kefir. Most of the research conducted on kefir has given positive result on its health benefits.

A study found that kefir actually posses strong anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, anti-oxidant, as well as anti-tumor properties in it.(3)

There is even research that has shown that kefir might be also beneficial at improving digestive system in several ways, including direct pathogen inhibition and also in an increased production of healthy bacteria. Moreover, kefir might also be effective in treating peptic ulcers.(4)

We already know that kefir is rich in nutrients, has got lots of protein, vitamin B complexes, minerals like calcium and potassium. Calcium builds strong bones, potassium is required for heart health and protein builds stronger muscles. Apart from this, probiotics are the strongest health benefits that are offered by Kefir.

The health benefits of kefir extend much beyond its probiotics. As per a study it was found that mice who were given kefir for 7 days, experienced anti-inflammatory as well as healing effects.(5)

One more study found that it might be important for lowering the cholesterol levels and also be beneficial in stimulating the immune system.(6)

What Are The Health Benefits Of Kefir?

It Has Potent Antibacterial Properties:

There are some probiotics in kefir which are believed to protect you against infections. These probiotics include Lactobacillus kefiri.

Studies have demonstrated that this probiotics Lactobacillus kefiri, can inhibit the growth of numerous harmful bacteria, such as Helicobacter pylori, Salmonella, and E.coli.(7, 8)

A type of carbohydrate known as Kefiran found in kefir, has also got antibacterial properties. (9)

Kefir Is A Powerful Probiotic:

Kefir being known to have probiotics, is also beneficial for those having digestive issues.

Probiotics are actually the microbes that might influence our health in several ways, helping in digestion, mental health and also weight management.(10, 11, 12)

Though yogurt is best known for probiotics in the western diet, Kefir is actually a more potent source of probiotics.

It must be mentioned that kefir grains contain up to 61 strains of bacteria and yeasts, thus making them a great probiotic source.(13)

Bone Health Benefits Of Kefir:

Kefir also offers some excellent bone health benefits. Osteoporosis is a major problem in Western countries, and it is characterized by deterioration of bone tissue. This condition is very much common among older women and it also increases the risk of fractures quite dramatically.

One of the most effective ways for improving bone health and slow down the progression of osteoporosis is by ensuring an adequate intake of calcium.(14)

Full-fat kefir is not just a good source of calcium but it is also rich in vitamin K2, which plays an important role in calcium metabolism.

Supplementing with vitamin K2 is known to reduce the risk of fractures by as much as 81%

There are some recent animal studies which link kefir to increased absorption of calcium in the bone cells. This in turn results in an improved bone density, which could help in preventing fractures.(15)

Benefits of Kefir In Treating Various Digestive Problems:

As we talked about the presence of probiotics in kefir, here we can mention that the probiotics can help to restore the balance of friendly bacteria in the gut; and this is the reason why they are very much effective in treating several forms of diarrhea.

There are a lot of evidences which suggest that probiotics and foods containing probiotics can help in alleviating various digestive problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome or IBS, ulcers and many others.(16)

So, note it down that if you have digestive problems you can try taking kefir to get some relief.

It Might Be Protective Against Cancer:

It is very much true that cancer is one of the world’s leading causes of death. Cancer occurs when abnormal cells in our body uncontrollably grows, such as in case of a tumor.

The probiotics in fermented dairy products are known to reduce the growth of tumor by stimulating our immune system. So, it might be possible that kefir may help in fighting cancer.(17)

Kefir Is Low In Lactose:

Lactose is present in dairy products and it is a natural sugar. However, many people, especially the adults, are unable to break down lactose properly and digest it; and this condition is called as lactose intolerance.

Kefir is low in lactose because it is a fermented dairy product and in such products the lactic acid bacteria turn the lactose in to lactic acid. Moreover, they even contain enzymes that can help in breaking down of lactose even further.

Thus, people with lactose intolerance, generally tolerate kefir better than the regular milk.(18)

Note it down that you can make kefir that is 100% free from lactose by using fruit juice, coconut water, or another non-dairy beverage.

Benefits of Kefir in Reducing Symptoms of Allergy and Asthma Symptoms:

There is another important health benefit of kefir, and it is that kefir reduces the symptoms of allergy and also the asthma symptoms.

In animal studies, it has been found that kefir suppresses the inflammatory responses those are related to allergies and asthma.(19, 20)

However, human studies are still required to explore these effects on a better way.

What Are Its Side Effects?

“Every good thing comes with some side effects!” It is same with kefir. Though it offers a lot of health benefits, kefir also comes with some sort of side effects; such as abdominal cramping, bloating, nausea, and constipation. These side effects of kefir intake are most common when you take kefir for the first time.

Generally kefir is considered to be safe for children between 1-5 years of age; however, it is always essential for you to consult with your pediatrician before giving it to your children.

Apart from this, if you have AIDS or any other conditions that are known to weaken your immune system, you need to see your doctor before drinking kefir. Moreover, people with autoimmune diseases should even talk to their doctor before taking kefir.

However, Kefir is highly beneficial for those who have strong immune system.

Kefir is not suitable for pregnant or breast-feeding women and thus it is better to stay away from it if you are pregnant or if you are breast feeding your baby.

Those people with colon cancer or who are undergoing chemotherapy for colon cancer, must avoid taking kefir as it might increase the chances of side effects such as stomach and intestinal issues, drowsiness, mouth sores, sweats, and loss of hair.


From all the above explanation we are very much aware about some of the health benefits of kefir. In addition to this, we are also known to some of the side effects of it and also about the conditions where kefir should be avoided.

So, if you are impressed with the numerous health benefits that is presented by kefir and want to add this into your daily diet then do not forget to consult with your doctor, especially if you suffer from any ill health condition. In general, kefir is safe for most health people and can provide immense health benefits when consumed daily.


Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:December 4, 2020

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