Kefir and kombucha are fermented beverages and are well known for several health benefits. Both the drinks are very different from each other in terms of production, nutrition, flavor, and texture.
What is Kefir?
Kefir is made by fermenting milk with kefir grain. Kefir grains are not actually grains but a colony of bacteria and yeast that bound together with milk protein and complex sugar called polysaccharides. The grains are made to sit in milk for 18-24 hours. As the fermentation is complete, the grains are removed and can be used to prepare another batch. The liquid left is kefir.(1) Those who are yogurt lovers would obviously dig into kefir.
What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is prepared from tea, bacteria, and sugar and is made by mixing the symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) with green tea or black tea.(2) This mixture is made to sit for 10-14 days. Often the sugar is added to give a sweet flavor to the drink.
Kefir vs. Kombucha: Differences Based on Nutrition Content
One cup of kefir made with low-fat dairy milk contains 161 calories, 11 grams protein, 2 grams total fat, 24 grams total carbs, 3 grams fiber, and 20 grams total sugar.(3)
One cup of kombucha contains 50 calories, no protein and fat, 12 grams total carbs, and 11 grams total sugar.(4)
Kefir is high in calories, protein, and fat as compared to kombucha, which is due to the milk present in it. It is also more filling and can be a replacement for meals or snacks.
The nutritional composition of both can vary depending on the ingredients used to make them.
Kombucha being just a mix of tea, sugar, and water is not a good source of vitamins and minerals. Some kombuchas are flavored with fruits and vegetable juice that help raise their nutrient profile.
Kefir vs. Kombucha: Probiotics
Both kefir and kombucha are loaded with probiotics and are helpful for gut health. Studies have found that kefir contains more than 50 strains of probiotic bacteria and yeast that include lactic acid bacteria and acetic acid bacteria.(5) Kombucha also contains lactic acid bacteria, acetic acid bacteria, and yeast-like Saccharomyces species. There is limited evidence suggesting the role of kefir based probiotics in improving gut health.(6)
Kefir vs. Kombucha: Taste
Sans sugar and sweetened versions of kefir are very popular. It is also available in fruity flavor. Make sure you opt for unflavored and unsweetened varieties as the other might be loaded with sweet stuff and can have negative health effects.
Kombucha comes in numerous fun flavors. Always pick the one that has less than 4 grams of sugar.
Kefir vs. Kombucha: Risks
Both kefir and kombucha are healthy drinking options, but there are certain factors to consider about both.
Kefir: Milk-based kefir is not for those who are allergic or intolerant to dairy. These people can stick to the non-milk versions to avoid an upset stomach. Kefir can also impact blood sugar levels and is also high in calories.
Kombucha: Kombucha is a carbonated drink. Drinking excess of it can lead to bloating. It may also contain certain compounds called FODMAPs (fermented oligo-, di-, monosaccharides, and polyols) that can lead to digestive issues.(7)
Kefir and kombucha are best known fermented drinks. They are rich in probiotics. Which one is healthier depends on what a person is looking for when consuming a particular beverage. Both kefir and kombucha offer some benefits and have a few downsides as well.
Which one to choose, is based on the personal preference of an individual. It is always good to read the label and nutritional facts on the panel before deciding between the two.