Making a healthy choice between kefir and yogurt can be a tricky thing. This is because both are strikingly similar in nearly every feature. In the world of probiotics, the line is always drawn between kefir and yogurt. So, how do you arrive at the healthier choice?
Both yogurt and kefir are a product of fermented milk, which causes the growth of microbes, yeasts, and beneficial gut bacteria. Yogurt used to be the more popular of the two, but thanks to recent studies and findings, kefir has become equally popular, although not as acceptable. To get your pack of kefir, all you need to do these days is visit the supermarket or a health store.
In searching for the differences between these two sources of probiotics, most fail to note the similarities. Kefir and yogurt do not only provide probiotics, but they also offer calcium, potassium, proteins, and crucial B vitamins.
Kefir VS Yogurt: Assessing the Characteristics
As mentioned above, there are similarities and differences between kefir and yogurt. In this section, let’s take a look at these features one after the other, so you can know the necessary considerations to make in case you’re following a diet.
Characteristics Of Kefir
Here are the necessary things to know about kefir:
- Kefir has been in existence for centuries in old communities, especially those in the Caucasian Mountains.
- Typically, kefir is the product of fermented milk, which is usually obtained from animals, such as sheep, goat, or cow. These days, however, you can now find dairy-free versions containing zero amount of dairy, lactose, or real milk. These versions are often made from water or coconut.
- Usually, kefir grains are (a protein and poly exopolysaccharide complex) put into the production process of milk kefir. In some cases, these grains can be substituted with a culture containing yeast and lactic acid bacteria. They are the catalysts that ensure that probiotics are formed during fermentation.
- Active yeast is necessary for the culturing process of beneficial bacteria in kefir.
- Kefir is made solely with mesophilic strains, which require absolutely no heating and are cultured at room temperature. If you feed kefir grains and keep them alive, they can be reused to produce more kefir.
- When properly fermented, kefir becomes tart to taste, much like Greek yogurt. The strength of this tartness is determined by the number of days used in fermentation. If kefir is fermented for a very long while, it develops a strong taste of tartness and even results in some carbonation due to the presence of active yeast.
The regular consumption of kefir has yielded outstanding results in studies. Researchers agree that kefir improves digestion, and lactose tolerance helps to manage plasma glucose better, and possesses the following: antibacterial, anti-hypertensive, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-allergenic, anti-carcinogenic, and healing properties.
Characteristics Of Yogurt
- Whereas yogurt can also be made with sheep, goat, almond, or coconut milk, it is produced by fermenting cow milk.
- Speaking of strains, remember that kefir uses only mesophilic strains. Yogurt, on the other hand, uses both mesophilic and thermophilic strains, which have to be heated to about 110° Fahrenheit before culturing.
In addition to probiotics, yogurt provides vitamins and minerals, and thus supports gut health, influences the metabolic state of cholesterol, suppresses tumor, heals injuries rapidly, strengthens immune function, alleviates allergy, relieves symptoms of asthma and contains antimicrobial qualities.
Key Differences Between Kefir & Yogurt
So, what are the differences between yogurt and kefir? We already know both supply probiotics, calcium, and other essential vitamins to the body, but what are the specs that set them apart? Let’s see.
- Whereas the bacteria in kefir appear to be strictly colonized solely within the digestive tract, the bacteria in yogurt seem mobile and thus pass through the tract. That is, bacteria in kefir are held in the digestive tract while bacteria in yogurt are not.
- Typically, kefir offers more protein in a cup and contains a lower level of lactose than yogurt. It is therefore considered more suitable for people who are intolerant to lactose.
- Speaking of taste and texture, yogurt is slightly thicker than kefir and is not as tart as kefir as the latter contains yeast. According to some, kefir assumes a taste between butter and yogurt. Do note that the tartness tends to depend more on the fermentation process. As earlier said, the longer the process, the tarter the taste.
- Yogurt is more accepted worldwide and is therefore available in more flavors than kefir. Furthermore, there are numerous types of yogurt, including Icelandic, European, and Greek.
Yogurt VS Kefir: Which Is Healthier?
If compared to yogurt, kefir has higher levels of probiotics and a more diversified range of yeasts and bacterial strains. Yeast, in particular, gives kefir an advantage over yogurt.
There are credible claims that while yogurt can have 1—5 strains of active and live cultures and a maximum of 6 billion Colony Forming Units (CFU), the average kefir contains up to 12 strains with up to 30 billion CFU.
Also, kefir boasts an impressive range of essential microbes, some of which are Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus kefiri, Lactobacillus helveticus, and Lactobacillus brevi.
So, judging on these premises, kefir is widely considered the healthier of the two. To some, however, yogurt remains their top choice as they believe the extra nutrients don’t make much of a difference.
Creative Ways To Use Kefir & Yogurt
Besides drinking, there are numerous ways to take these healthy drinks.
- Kefir or yogurt would be an excellent ingredient in smoothies, as well as stews, sauces, and soups that might require regular buttermilk, heavy cream, and yogurt.
- Both are great alternatives to creams in mashed potatoes and baked goods.
- If you would like your kefir to be thicker, you can try out soft kefir cheese that can be spread on foods. For yogurt, it can be thickened to make Greek yogurt or labneh cheese.
Takeaway Thoughts On Making A Healthy Choice Between Kefir & Yogurt
Making a healthy choice between kefir and yogurt ultimately comes down to choice. Although studies suggest that kefir trumps yogurt in nutrition, you would benefit greatly from any of the two. Remember to include more in your diet— nourish your gut.