Kefir is a cultured dairy drink, made by fermenting milk with bacteria. With a flavor similar to yogurt, kefir offers protein, calcium and vitamin D. The bacteria used to create kefir also provide health benefits in the form of probiotics, which help with digestive regulation and gut health. You can drink kefir on its own or add it to cereal, smoothies or oatmeal.
One cup of plain, traditional kefir contains 150 calories. It's nutritionally dense and provides 8 grams of fat, but 5 grams of its fat are saturated, so you should figure these into your diet plan when trying to limit your intake of these relatively unhealthy fats. You also get 30 grams of cholesterol and 12 grams of carbohydrates. One cup of plain kefir provides about 8 grams to 11 grams of protein.
One cup of kefir gives you 10 percent of the daily value for vitamin A, based on a 2,000-calorie diet. Vitamin A supports eye health, cell reproduction and a healthy pregnancy. One cup of kefir also offers 30 percent of your daily calcium needs – the same amount as a cup of milk. Kefir is also a source of vitamin D, which helps you absorb calcium and assists in cell growth, immunity and the prevention of inflammation.
One cup of kefir provides 12 grams of sugar per serving, but sweetened versions contain between 20 and 33 grams per cup, or 5 to 8.25 teaspoons. The sugar in sweetened kefir comes from added sugars, including cane sugar or agave nectar. The American Heart Association recommends women keep added sugar intake to just 6 teaspoons per day. You can add fresh fruit to plain kefir to minimize your added sugar intake.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends you choose low- or nonfat dairy to minimize your intake of saturated fat. You can purchase low- or nonfat kefir, which contains between 100 and 140 calories per cup – depending on what type you choose. Low-fat kefir has 2 grams of fat, with just 1.4 grams being saturated. The cholesterol level in low-fat kefir is also lower – just 10 milligrams per cup. The probiotics in kefir help repopulate your gut with healthy bacteria to support optimal digestion. Kefir can also be a good choice if you're lactose intolerant, because its lactose breaks down during the fermentation process.
- Lifeway: Original Kefir
- "Los Angeles Times"; "Kefir's Good But May Not Merit a Halo"; Elena Conis; September 2008
- Nancy's Yogurt: Nutritional Information for Nancy's Low-fat Organic Kefir
- Epicurious Food Dictionary: Kefir
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin A
- Office of Dietary Supplements; "National Institutes of Health"; Vitamin D
- "Circulation"; "Dietary Sugars Intake and Cardiovascular Health: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association"; Rachel K. Johnston et al.; August 2009
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.