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Do you know the difference between water kefir and milk kefir? If not, don’t worry – you’re not alone! Many people are unsure of the benefits of water kefir vs milk kefir. In this blog post, we will break down the differences between water kefir and milk kefir and help you decide which is better for you!
What is kefir?
Kefir is a type of fermented drink that is made from milk and kefir grains. Kefir grains are a combination of bacteria and yeast that work together to ferment the milk.
This cultured food has a slightly sour and acidic taste, and is often described as being similar to yogurt. It is high in probiotics, which are beneficial for gut health. It also contains minerals and vitamins, including B vitamins. Kefir can be consumed on its own, or added to smoothies or other recipes.
Now, let’s compare and contrast water kefir vs milk kefir.
Is water kefir the same as milk kefir?
No. Water kefir and dairy kefir are both cultured drinks that are made from kefir grains and water or milk, respectively.
Kefir grains are a combination of bacteria and yeast that ferment the liquid to produce the drinks. The two types of kefir have different flavors and nutritional profiles. Let’s take a closer look.
Water kefir is a fermented drink similar to kombucha made from sugar, water, and kefir grains. The sugar is converted into alcohol and carbon dioxide by the yeast in the kefir grains. The drink is often flavored with fruit juice, herbs or extracts.
Water kefir is high in probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that help improve gut health. Lactic acid bacteria, yeast and acetic acid bacteria are the primary microbial members of the sugary kefir grain (1).
Water kefir is usually sweet and slightly carbonated. It may also have a slightly sour and acidic taste. It can be enjoyed plain or mixed with fruit juice or other flavors.
Water kefir does not contain lactose, so it is a better choice for people who are lactose intolerant. It’s also a great choice for those who follow a vegan or plant-forward diet.
Water kefir can be added to non-dairy milks like, almond or soy milk. Use 1/4 cup water kefir to 2-3 cups non-dairy milk, mix and serve.
Milk kefir is a cultured milk drink that is made by adding kefir grains to dairy milk (cow, goat, buffalo, etc, or plant based milk, like coconut milk). These starter cultures are a combination of bacteria and yeast that ferment the milk, and this process creates the delicious and nutritious milk kefir drink.
The main strains of bacteria that kefir contains are:
Kefir has a tart, acidic taste and a slightly bubbly texture. It is high in protein, calcium, potassium, vitamins A and D, and B vitamins. It also contains beneficial probiotics that can promote gut health (2). It’s is a great all-natural alternative to store-bought energy drinks or sugary sodas.
Dairy kefir also contains more calcium and protein than water kefir. It is also creamier in texture, very similar to yogurt.
Is water kefir better than milk kefir?
Both water kefir and milk kefir are beneficial for gut health. They contain probiotics, which help to support gut health by promoting the growth of good bacteria. They can also help to improve digestion and absorption of nutrients.
When it comes to water kefir vs milk kefir, there are some key differences to consider. As we’ve seen, water kefir is made with water, sugar, and yeast, while milk kefir is made with milk and kefir grains. As a result, water kefir is lower in energy (calories) and fat than milk kefir.
Milk kefir, however, contains more probiotics than water kefir. It also has more protein, vitamins, minerals and calcium than water kefir.
So, which is better in terms of water kefir vs milk kefir? Ultimately, it depends on your individual needs and preferences. If you’re looking for a low-calorie or lactose-free option, water kefir may be the better choice. However, if you’re looking for a source of protein or calcium, milk kefir may be the better option.
What are the benefits of water kefir?
Although water kefir is lower in nutrients than milk kefir, it does have important health benefits. Let’s check them out.
- Anti cancer benefits: Test tube studies on kefir extract have shown that it may help to decrease the growth of some types of cancer (3). Kefir extract is also rich in probiotics, which may help to enhance immune function and potentially aid in cancer prevention.
- Improve immune health: Water kefir may help reduce inflammation and improve immune function. This is because of the probiotics it contains. Probiotics may also help reduce your risk of certain infections.
- Anti-inflammatory properties: Pasteurized kefirs may enhance intestinal barrier function and promoted anti-inflammatory IL-10 production (4). In the cited study, it was observed that pasteurized water kefir also activated NF-κB and secreted IL-1β. NF-κB is a molecule that helps to control inflammation, immune responses, cell growth, and apoptosis (cell death). It is considered important for maintaining the health of epithelial cells and keeping the immune system in balance. Dysregulated IL-1β production has been linked to several inflammatory diseases.
- Naturally dairy free and vegan: Water kefir is naturally dairy free and vegan, while milk kefir contains dairy. Thus, water kefir is a refreshing drink that can be enjoyed by everyone, regardless of their dietary restrictions. Thanks to its versatility and health benefits, water kefir is rapidly gaining popularity all over the world.
What are the benefits of milk kefir
Cultured foods such as kefir have been associated with a wide range of potential health benefits, such as (5):
- Antimicrobial activity: Milk kefir may help the immune system fight viruses. Kefir increases the response of the immune system and also decreases cytokines that cause inflammation (6). Probiotic compounds also help restore the intestinal flora, which fights against pathogens.
- Strengthens the immune system: Kefir bacteria can help the human immune system to better tolerate them. This makes the immune system stronger and able to fight “bad bacteria”. Good strains of kefir bacteria may also help to strengthen barriers in the digestive system, reduce inflammation, and have antibacterial properties against harmful bacteria.
- Anticancer effects: Kefir has anticancer properties. It can help to prevent cancer and delay tumor growth (7). This is thanks to different things like apoptosis (cell death), the immune response, the modulation of the intestinal microbiota, the reduction of tumor growth and DNA damage, the antioxidant process and inhibition of proliferation and activation of pro-carcinogens.
- Cholesterol reduction: Studies show that lactobacilli in milk kefir can help lower cholesterol levels. This mainly happens when people take a specific type of lactobacilli, but one kind, Lb. kefiri, is the most effective. Some scientists believe that kefir’s cholesterol-lowering effects are caused by the presence of certain microbes in the drink. These microbes can stop cholesterol from being absorbed in the intestine (8). Besides that, kefir drinks fortified with plant-derived compounds phytosterol and stanol may help lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels in people with metabolic syndrome (9).
- Antioxidant effects: Kefir has great antioxidant potential and has been shown in studies to help remove harmful chemicals from the body. Kefiran extract (a water-soluble polysaccharide from kefir) may help promote tissue regeneration and repair (10). Several additional studies demonstrate that the bacterial strain Lb. plantarum has modest antioxidant effects, which might be due, at least in part, to the high antioxidant capacity of these bacteria (11).
- Antidiabetic effects: Kefir may provide some benefits for people with diabetes. Kefir made from goat’s milk and black rice extract was found to be as effective as a diabetes drug, glibenclamide (12). In a study of 60 diabetes patients (13), kefir was found to lower fasting glucose and glycosylated hemoglobin levels more than a different type of fermented milk drink. This was likely due to the probiotic bacteria in kefir, which help control blood sugar levels.
Can I use milk kefir grains to make water kefir?
While water kefir and milk kefir both start with grains, they are actually two different types of fermented beverage.
Water kefir grains are smaller and more translucent than milk kefir grains, and they require a different type of sugar to ferment properly. As a result, milk kefir grains will not work to make water kefir.
However, you can make water kefir with fruit juice, coconut water, or plain water. If you’ve ever wondered why your water kefir doesn’t taste like milk kefir, now you know!
How to make water kefir
Water kefir has a slightly sweet and tangy flavor with a effervescent fizziness. It is an excellent source of probiotics and enzymes, and makes a great non-dairy alternative to milk kefir.
Water kefir is easy to make at home with just a few simple ingredients. All you need is water, sugar, water kefir grains (or SCOBY), and a vessel for fermentation (such as a glass jar).
To make water kefir, simply dissolve the sugar in water, add the water kefir grains, and cover the jar with a breathable material (such as a coffee filter or cloth). Allow the water kefir to ferment for 24-48 hours at room temperature, then strain out the water kefir grains. Transfer the water kefir to a new glass jar and refrigerate it until you’re ready to drink it. Enjoy your probiotic beverage!
Remember, water kefir can also be added to non-dairy milk to make a non-dairy kefir (use ¼ cup water kefir in 2-3 cups non-dairy milk).
How to make milk kefir
To make milk kefir, you will need:
- 1 cup milk (cow milk, coconut or almond milk)
- 2 tablespoons milk kefir grains (or powdered kefir starter culture)
- A glass jar
- A coffee filter or muslin cloth
- A rubber band
Once you have your milk, simply add the kefir grains and stir to combine. Then, cover the jar with a coffee filter or muslin cloth and secure it in place with a rubber band.
Allow the mixture to sit at room temperature for 12-24 hours, then give it a good stir and transfer it to the refrigerator. Your milk kefir is now ready to enjoy!
So, what’s the verdict? Water kefir vs milk kefir – which is better for you? The answer is that it depends on your preferences and needs. If you are looking for a probiotic-rich drink with less sugar, then water kefir may be a good fit for you. However, if you are looking for a creamier beverage with more protein and calcium, milk kefir may be the better option. Either way, both types of kefir provide amazing health benefits, so why not give them both a try and see which one you like best!
Hi! I’m Melissa, Registered Dietitian and mother of two dragons. When I’m not talking nutrition you can find me rolling around the floor with my kids, sewing, crafting, cooking or missing the 90s (seriously, music just isn’t the same). Read More…