kefir vs kombucha

Kefir vs. Kombucha: Which Is Healther?

With new research coming to light in recent years that suggested that probiotics could have incredible health benefits, fermented drinks have become quite popular. Both Kefir and kombucha were once hard to find and only enjoyed by a small population. Now you can find both in just about any grocery store. 

While Kefir and kombucha are both fermented drinks filled with positive bacteria and probiotics, they both have their distinct differences and benefits. Which one is better for you largely depends on whether you have certain health conditions.

If you’re interested in how these fermented beverages differ, this article is for you. Stick around for valuable information on which of these drinks is healthier, and how to choose which one is right for your health needs. 

What Is the Difference Between Kefir and Kombucha?

Kefir and kombucha are similar drinks, but definitely shouldn’t be confused. While both Kefir and kombucha both have probiotics and high vitamin content, as well as comparable health benefits, their production processes and histories are very different.

Kefir is a fermented milk drink. It’s similar to a very thin yogurt and is extremely rich in protein and probiotics. It contains more positive bacteria than regular yogurt. 

It’s made by adding kefir grains, which are yeast and bacteria cultures that can be used and reused, to milk. Kefir is said to have originated in Russia or Eastern Europe. According to Merriam-Webster, the earliest use of the word comes from in 1884, although the actual drink itself may have originated as early as 1900 years ago. Kefir is popularly used in smoothies.

Kombucha is another fermented drink, but it is tea-based. Usually made from black or green tea, it’s made by adding a “SCOBY” or symbiotic combination of bacteria and yeast, and allowed to sit for seven to ten days and ferment. 

It’s generally thought to have originated in China or Eastern Europe, although its exact origins are unknown. People have been drinking kombucha for at least 200 years, according to The Atlantic. Kombucha is popularly drunk on its own and is served in many health bars and gyms.

Which is Healthier?

Kombucha is said to promote weight loss, gut health, and reduce inflammation. It’s full of probiotics and antioxidants, and may even be helpful in the prevention of certain cancers. 

Most of these claims haven’t been proven in clinical trials, but even so, it’s an excellent low-sugar alternative drink option. If the kombucha you drink is made from green tea, the benefits of that tea, including glucose and cholesterol control, carry over. It’s also been found to help manage type 2 diabetes. 

There are certain risks associated with kombucha, though. Due to the fermentation process, kombucha does contain alcohol, sometimes as much as in certain light beers

There is a push in several states to add stronger scrutiny to the screening process for making kombucha, with some even threatening to put it in liquor stores if it remains unregulated. It is possible to remove the alcohol from kombucha before bottling, but this isn’t yet a required part of the commercial production process.

On the other hand, The Mayo Clinic suggests that, although the claims have not yet been verified, Kefir is useful to reduce inflammation and improve overall digestive health. It’s full of many of the same vitamins and nutrients as milk. 

According to Healthline, a six-ounce serving of Kefir contains around twenty percent of your daily recommended servings for calcium, phosphorus, and riboflavin, as well as magnesium and B12, all for less than 100 calories. It can improve bone health and slow or prevent the development of osteoporosis. 

Additionally, Kefir is easier for those who are lactose intolerant to digest, as it has a lower lactose content overall due to the fermentation process.

There are risks associated with Kefir, as well. While it may be sufficient for lactose-intolerant people to consume without symptoms, those with milk allergies still cannot consume it as it will cause an allergic reaction the same as any unfermented milk. 

Kefir also contains caseins, which are a protein that has been linked to severe respiratory issues. Most store-bought versions are also made with quite a bit of added sugar, making it dangerous to people with diabetes to drink in high quantities. Again, due to the fermentation process, Kefir may contain a small amount of alcohol, and so you should read the label carefully before consuming it.

While both have their benefits and drawbacks, it is still too early to determine whether Kefir or kombucha is inherently better for your health. That determination will have to wait until more clinical trials have been done to prove the effectiveness of each supposed superfood’s claims.

How to Choose the Right Kefir and Kombucha

Certain people shouldn’t eat probiotics or fermented foods at all, as it may worsen their existing conditions. 

Popular YouTube nutritionist Gojiman suggests that people with severe digestive disorders, such as IBS and Crohn’s, should avoid using these products, as the introduction of new bacteria could overload their systems and cause significant problems.

If you do not have these risk factors, you should still be careful when picking your drink.

Well+Good suggests choosing a kombucha that comes in a dark glass bottle. This is because a plastic container might be eaten away at and degraded by the live cultures in the drink, making it unsafe to consume. 

You should be looking for a shorter ingredient list, as anything other than tea, sugar, water, and yeast are mainly unnecessary to its production and drinking no more than twelve ounces per day due to its possible alcohol content. Additionally, as with most foods, you should avoid artificial flavorings and additives. 

It’s also a good idea to check the label for vitamin B, as the absence of vitamin B might mean that the product has been pasteurized, which in this case would destroy many of the probiotics that make it worth drinking. 

Since Kefir is easier to make at home, most of the popular advice revolves around selecting the correct milk and starting cultures, as well as using the correct production process. It’s recommended that you use pasteurized milk to avoid any dangerous bacteria and unwanted contamination from the outset before the Kefir has had a chance to develop its beneficial bacteria biome. 

Whole-fat milk from cows, sheep, or goats make excellent Kefir and are significantly easier to upkeep than their low-fat alternatives.

There’s debate when it comes to the best starting culture, but generally, there are two options: kefir grains and powdered Kefir. While kefir grains are reusable and sustainable, they cost more upfront. 

Powdered Kefir is single-use but cheap, so it might be a better option if you aren’t planning to make multiple batches. Whichever option you choose, be sure to research the company that it is bought from to ensure its quality and safety.

Stay Smart and Drink Healthy

As with any health supplement, you should listen carefully to your body and heed any warnings you receive. If either drink makes you feel sick or uncomfortable, stop using it immediately. Always consult a physician to see if there are any additional risks to taking certain supplements. 

If you have the all-clear from your doctor, then taking a dip into the world of probiotics can have significant benefits to your way of life. As long as it is done safely, introducing a more diverse culture of bacteria to your gut is a great way to improve your health and feel better in a more natural way.

“Fermentation line up: Kombucha, water kefir and milk kefir” by Eat. Sleep. Move. is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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