A woman in a store holding two yogurt drinks
In a world constantly facing a rotating collection of health trends, it can be difficult to decipher which healthy choice to stick with. Some people tout the endless benefits of a Mediterranean diet and others might revel in a life of veganism. But no matter the health path you follow, there’s always a lot to mull over. And with all the crazy diets and health products out there, it can be difficult to know what is actually a good option for you and what is simply marketed as such.
One of the most difficult markets to navigate health-wise has been the world of dairy. In the age of dairy milk alternatives, it seems like milk products are becoming something health officials generally frown upon. According to Forbes, however, it really depends on your body how much you should consume, and sticking to natural products will usually ensure you’re in a safe zone. And while many reports on dairy’s benefits or drawbacks vary, phrases like “everything in moderation” applies well to dairy products, per Harvard Health. So if you are craving a dairy-based drink, take your pick out of the wide lineup if it feels good. But kefir is one particular member of the dairy family researchers have continued to praise, so maybe you should try considering this wholesome, natural beverage.
What Is Kefir Anyway?
A woman scoops kefir grains out of a jar
If you’re familiar with what kefir looks like, let’s get one thing straight right off the bat. Kefir is not yogurt. (Although, according to a registered dietitian that spoke with Insider, the unique texture of the drink makes it comparable.) According to the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation, kefir is a fermented dairy drink chock full of essential nutrients.
With origins in the North Caucasus region, shepherds in Russia made the initial discovery of this beverage after the fresh milk they carried in leather pouches fermented, says the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation. A bacteria caught in the pouches called kefir grains, a starter culture, caused the change. (The grains are comparable to the starter used to make kombucha.) The drink would gradually ferment after 24 hours due to the rich probiotic nature of milk. Centuries later, the people of the North Caucasus region live some of the longest lives around, per Raw Milk Institute. This could be because kefir is a staple of their diet.
Milk kefir, water, and grains are the three main types of kefir, per Insider. Milk kefir is the most common form of the drink, while water kefir is made with a non-dairy liquid like juice or coconut water. No matter the form, the drink’s lively contents make for a thriving inner ecosystem full of these essential vitamins.
Why This Dairy Beverage Is So Good For You
Kefir being poured into glasses
Digging into this little-known health drink, let’s tackle what exactly makes it so good for you in the first place. According to an interview with Doctor Kylie Sakaida with Men’s Health, kefir is something of a natural protein shake full of zinc, potassium, and phosphorus. According to Raw Milk Institute, the benefits don’t stop there. Kefir is also highly probiotic, due to its fermented nature, and that beautiful combination yields many health benefits like cancer prevention, immune health, lower blood pressure, and digestive support just to name a few.
Per Healthline, a few more of the nutrients the drink provides are also vitamin B12, calcium, vitamin A, and riboflavin. According to dietitian Elle Wittneben’s conversation with Insider, kefir’s greatest strength is perhaps the fact that it offers more probiotics than yogurt and helps promote a healthy gut just as much as mental and bone health.
Like anything, it’s best to drink kefir in moderation, and the drink might not the best choice for lactose-intolerant consumers. But for a daily rush of protein, it could be a good idea to stock up on this beverage in the fridge for healthy maintenance.