Benefits of Kefir: More Than Just Gut Health

Kefir is a fermented milk drink that looks like a thin yogurt. It is traditionally made using cow's milk, which naturally contains lactose, a milk sugar many people are intolerant or sensitive to. While fermentation reduces some of the lactose in the end product, this doesn't make kefir a lactose-free beverage unless made with non-dairy milk or water. Some popular brands of kefir include 365 by Whole Foods and Lifeway.

This article discusses the potential benefits of consuming kefir, how to make it, and who may want to avoid it in their diet.

A drink is poured into a glass cup from a bottle.

Elena Medoks / Getty Images

What Does Kefir Do to Your Body?

The primary reason people drink kefir is its probiotic benefits. It was named after the Turkish word "keyif," which suggests the "good feeling" or happy gut you get after consuming it. While there's not a large body of research on the specific benefits of kefir, some studies indicate it may benefit bone, heart, and immune health and blood sugar regulation.

Gut Health

The probiotics in kefir feed the good bacteria in your gut microbiome, the community of microorganisms that live throughout your digestive system. The gut microbiome affects other areas of your overall health. For example, evidence suggests constant communication between your gut and your brain, which may play a role in the development of or protection from various diseases.

Antimicrobial Properties

One study found that kefir may help your body respond to viral infections like COVID-19 because of its involvement in the immune response. A separate study observed kefir's ability to inhibit certain strains of bacteria and fungi, which is attributed to certain good bacteria in the beverage.

Heart Health

A study looking at women with obesity found that those who consumed a dairy-rich diet experienced significant reductions in total cholesterol, non-HDL cholesterol, and LDL "bad" cholesterol after consuming four servings of kefir per day for eight weeks. More significant benefits occurred among the kefir group than those who only consumed two servings of low-fat milk daily.

Bone Health

Kefir is a rich source of nutrients that support bone health, such as calcium. It also contains vitamin K2, which plays a crucial role in calcium metabolism and helps protect against bone fractures. Adequate calcium intake is essential for maintaining bone density, which naturally declines with age.

Blood Sugar Regulation

While more research is needed on kefir and blood sugar, some studies have observed its ability to influence diabetes-related markers. For instance, one study found that it helped reduce fasting blood sugar and insulin levels but did not affect hemoglobin A1c (HgA1c), a feature of long-term blood sugar control.

Is Kefir Better Than Yogurt?

Kefir and yogurt are very similar. While yogurt is generally thicker, both have tart flavors and are available in various flavors. They are made from dairy or non-dairy sources.

Kefir tends to have more probiotic (healthy) bacteria strains than yogurt, offering more overall benefits. Kefir also contains beneficial yeasts that help reduce digestive tract inflammation and diarrhea.

Yogurt contains different probiotic bacteria, which benefit the gut and immune health.

Nutrition Profile Comparison

Below is a nutritional comparison between 1 cup (245 grams) of low-fat dairy yogurt and low-fat kefir.

Nutrition Facts
Product  Low-Fat Yogurt  Low-Fat Kefir
Calories  150  100
Protein  13 grams  9 grams
Total Fat  4 grams  2.5 grams
Total Carbohydrates 17 grams   11 grams
Total Sugar  17 grams  11 grams

Side Effects and Interactions

Despite the many benefits of kefir, it is not suitable for everyone. Some evidence suggests that probiotics may not be safe for people with immune conditions. If this sounds like you, speak with your healthcare provider before adding kefir to your diet. While rare, there are some documented cases of probiotics triggering fungal and bacterial infections.

Lactose Considerations

Avoid dairy-based kefirs if you have lactose intolerance or a milk allergy. Otherwise, kefir is likely to be low risk for side effects for most healthy people. However, some people may experience digestive side effects, like diarrhea or bloating, if they aren't used to consuming kefir, yogurt, or other fermented foods.

Kefir Probiotic Recipe

If you'd prefer to make kefir yourself, below is an easy recipe for water kefir.

Supplies and Ingredients

You'll need the following items to make kefir at home:

  • Large glass mason jar
  • Stirring utensil
  • Two 1/2-gallon-sized jars
  • Breathable cover for your mason jar, such as a paper coffee filter, cheesecloth, or paper towel, including a rubber band or a mason jar lid ring to secure it
  • Fine non-metal mesh strainer to separate kefir grains
  • 1/2 cup water kefir grains, divided (not milk kefir grains)
  • Eight cups water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Optional: 1/2 lemon, cut into wedges
  • Optional: 1/4 cup unsulfured dried apricots, raisins, or dates, cut into pieces and divided


To make water kefir:

  1. Heat 1 cup of water in a small saucepan until it is hot. Then, pour it into a glass or plastic bowl. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve.
  2. Divide the sugar water equally into two 1/2-gallon jars. Add three 1/2 cups of room-temperature water to each jar. Then, add 1/4 cup of your water kefir grains to each jar and stir.
  3. Place a lemon wedge and two tablespoons of dried fruit in each jar. Position your paper towel or cheesecloth over each jar and secure it with either a rubber band or mason jar ring.
  4. Let your water sit at room temperature for 48 to 72 hours or until it becomes bubbly. Keep it out of direct sunlight but in a fairly warm environment. If your kitchen feels too cold, place it in the oven with the door shut.
  5. Using a non-metal strainer, strain out the kefir grains. You can save these for making another batch of kefir.
  6. Refrigerate any finished kefir that you don't drink right away.


Kefir is a popular fermented drink made with dairy, non-dairy, water, and kefir grains, yeasts, and healthy bacteria. While more specific research on kefir health benefits is needed, there is evidence that it may help support gut and heart health, offer antimicrobial benefits, and help support healthy bones and blood sugar regulation.

A Word From Verywell

Fermented foods like kefir may offer a variety of health benefits. If you are curious about trying kefir, it is available in many grocery stores, or you can make it at home. However, some people don't enjoy the taste or texture of kefir. If that's true for you, eating yogurt will give you similar health benefits.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are the bacteria in kefir safe to drink every day?

    You can drink kefir as regularly or as much as you want. However, like any other food, it's best to drink it in moderation and add other fermented foods to your diet for the most benefit. In addition, if you experience any adverse side effects from drinking kefir, it's a good idea to discontinue it.

  • What does kefir taste like?

    Kefir tastes like a thin yogurt with a similar tart or slightly acidic taste. You can find it in many flavors, from plain to fruit or chocolate, or add it to smoothies.

  • Does kefir help with inflammation?

    Regular consumption of kefir has been associated with benefits for certain inflammatory conditions, like inflammatory bowel disease, for some people. Remember that an anti-inflammatory diet depends on the overall quality of the foods and drinks you're consuming rather than adding one item like kefir to your routine.

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Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD
Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD, is a plant-based dietitian, writer, and speaker who specializes in helping people bring more plants to their plate. She's a highly respected writer in the health and nutrition space and loves talking about the power of diet. Lauren aims to connect people with the information and resources to live their healthiest, fullest life.