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Kefir vs. Yogurt: How to Decide Which Is Right for You

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24. August 2020

Kefir vs. Yogurt: How to Decide Which Is Right for You

In the world of probiotic (or cultivated) dairy products, there are two main products to choose from: kefir and yoghurt. So, what’s best?

Both kefir and yogurt are made by fermenting milk, which leads to the growth of bacteria, yeasts and intestinal microbes. Although yoghurt may be better known and more widely available, buttermilk is now sold in most major supermarkets and in almost every natural food store.

They have a lot in common – they not only supply probiotics, but also calcium, protein, potassium and B vitamins, for example – but the way they are prepared and therefore their diversity and quantity of probiotics is slightly different for the reasons we will discuss below when looking at kefir versus yoghurt.

kefir vs. yogurt: What is healthier?

What’s the difference between kefir and yogurt? Is kefir healthier than yogurt?

Let’s start by defining what kefir and yoghurt are and how they differ from each other.

Kefir:

  • Kefir is a fermented milk product, usually made from goat’s, cow’s or sheep’s milk. Nowadays some shops also sell fixed versions, such as coconut milk kefir or water kefir, i.e. they do not contain lactose, milk or real milk.
  • Traditionally, kefir grains (exopolysaccharide protein complex) or an inoculum containing lactic acid bacteria and yeast are used for the production of dairy butter. They are the ones who finally let probiotics form in the kefir during fermentation.
  • Kefir has been consumed for hundreds of years in communities such as the Caucasus Mountains.
  • In general, yoghurt and kefir are produced using a set of live active yeasts, which are responsible for cultivating beneficial bacteria. Both crops can be grown with reusable or disposable products.
  • Unlike yoghurt, kefir is made exclusively from mesophilic strains, which are grown at room temperature and do not need to be heated at all. Continuous production of kefir from kefir pellets is possible if fed and kept alive, and disposable dishes with powder additives are available.
  • After fermentation, buttermilk has a sour taste, a bit like Greek yoghurt. The strength of the acidity depends on how long the drink ferments – a longer fermentation process usually results in a stronger, more acidic taste and even some carbonation, which is the result of active yeast.

What are the main advantages of using it? Studies have shown that kefir consumption is associated with improved digestion and lactose tolerance, antibacterial action, hypocholesterolemic action, glycemic control, antihypertensive action, anti-inflammatory action, antioxidant action, anti-carcinogenic action, anti-allergic action and therapeutic action.

Yoghurt:

  • Yoghurt is normally produced by fermenting cow’s milk, but it can also be made from goat’s, sheep’s, coconut or almond milk.
  • There are two types of yoghurt snacks that contribute to the fermentation process: mesophilic (the same kind as kefir, which is grown at room temperature) and thermophilic (which must be heated to about 110 degrees Fahrenheit, usually with the help of a yoghurt maker). Yoghurt can also be produced continuously, i.e. a new batch is launched with a small quantity of yoghurt.

Because yoghurt contains probiotics, vitamins and minerals, it promotes intestinal health, cholesterol metabolism, antimicrobial activity, tumour suppression, increased wound healing and modulation of the immune system, including allergies and asthma symptoms.

kefir vs. yogurt: Main differences

Compared to yogurt, kefir tends to have higher levels of probiotics and a greater variety of bacterial strains and yeasts. The presence of yeast mainly distinguishes it from yoghurt.

According to Lifeway, a manufacturer of kefir-based products, kefir has 12 different strains of living and active cultures and 25 to 30 billion colony-forming units (CFU), while the average yoghurt can have 1 to 5 strains with 6 billion CFU.

Among the species of germs present in kefir are Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis, Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus, Lactobacillus helveticus, Lactobacillus casei subsp. pseudoplantarum, Lactobacillus kefiri and Lactobacillus brevi.

Here’s another difference between kefir and yogurt:

  • It is assumed that the bacteria present in yogurt are mainly transitional bacteria that pass through the digestive tract, while the bacteria present in kefir appear to have colonized the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Kefir generally has a lower lactose content than yogurt, so people with lactose intolerance tolerate it better. There is also usually a little more protein per cup.
  • In terms of consistency and taste, kefir is finer/liquid and more acidic (due to the presence of yeast). Some describe kefir as a tasting that resembles crossing yoghurt with buttermilk.
  • Yoghurt is generally available in many flavours, and there are also different types of yogurt, such as Greek yogurt, European yogurt, Icelandic yogurt and so on. The consistency and flavour vary depending on how it is cooked, with some varieties being harder and denser than others.
  • Kefir is usually consumed as a drink or as a topping on, for example, oats or grains, but in most cases it can be consumed in the same way as yoghurt.

How to use yoghurt and kefir

Besides drinking kefir yourself or eating yoghurt, there are other smart ways to use these two recipes based on milk:

  • These two products can be an excellent basis for cocktails, but also for soups and stews that would otherwise require regular buttermilk, sour cream, fatty cream or yoghurt.
  • In your favorite bakery products, mashed potatoes, soups and other recipes, you can replace regular or flavored kefir or yogurt with the above ingredients to increase your nutritional value.
  • If you prefer a thicker buttermilk, you can make a milder buttermilk paste (a kind of crumbly cheese that you can sprinkle over your favourite dishes for dinner) or a harder/saturated cheese. You can also thicken your yogurt to make labna cheese or Greek yogurt.

Milk kefir and plain yoghurt are not very sweet (they have a sweet and sour taste, especially kefir), but you can add other flavours to improve the taste and make it more attractive.

When you buy one of these products, check the ingredients and avoid those with a lot of added sugar. Most of the kefirs and yogurts you buy in the shop are flavoured with additives such as fructose or cane sugar, but you can sweeten them at home and flavour them with raw honey, maple syrup, vanilla or organic stevia extract.