There is no shortage of diet and weight loss programs around. One only has to look on the Internet to be bombarded with the different healthy lifestyle strategies and philosophies that are touted by celebrities, health professionals, and individuals alike.
If you are asking, “Is Kefir healthy for weight loss diet,” the answer is that it has numerous health, digestive, and weight loss benefits when used correctly.
Read on to find out everything you need to know about what Kefir: what it is, how it should be consumed, recommended portions, health benefits, and potential side effects.
What Exactly is Kefir?
Most have heard of Kefir, but not everyone understands what it is and what its dietary benefits are.
It’s usually found in the yogurt section of grocery stores. It is a cultured and fermented beverage with a similar taste to yogurt drinks.
It’s made from starter grains which include milk proteins, bacteria, and yeast proteins.
It has a creamy texture and a tart flavor. Kefir is most often made with dairy milk, but for those with lactose intolerance, it can also be made with coconut milk, goat’s milk, rice milk, and coconut water.
Kefir and Yogurt
Kefir and yogurt don’t just have taste in common; they share numerous health benefits from the probiotics, protein content, calcium, and potassium they contain.
While they do share some similarities, there are, however, some significant differences to be aware of.
Kefir generally has a higher fat content than yogurt, as well as higher probiotic and protein levels.
Kefir and yogurt also differ in their textures as Kefir is thinner and ideal as a drink, while yogurt is much thicker in consistency. Another significant difference is the way they are made.
While many yogurt types start the culturing process under heat, Kefir begins fermenting at room temperature.
As Kefir contains higher levels and more of a variety of healthy bacteria, it carries more benefits to the gastrointestinal tract than traditional yogurt.
The active yeast in Kefir also makes it a healthier option as it carries additional immunity, digestive, antibacterial and antiviral benefits.
Kefir’s Health Benefits
Part of the reason that Kefir has been in the limelight of health news over recent years is due to its suggested health benefits. Kefir is a powerhouse of protein, B vitamins, calcium, and potassium.
Calcium helps maintain healthy bones, while potassium is an integral aspect of preserving heart health.
What Kefir is best known for is its probiotic benefits which maintain healthy levels of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, prevents and treats diarrhea, treats IBS, prevents GI infections, treats vaginal infections, and prevents urinary tract infections.
Additional health benefits of Kefir include anti-inflammatory benefits, cholesterol lowering, and immunity boosting.
Kefir, Protein, and Weight Loss
There are many types of foods that are associated with weight loss, and foods that are high protein sources fall into this category.
Protein helps build muscle which burns fat, an essential part of maintaining a healthy weight-loss regime.
There is also a connection between increasing dairy food consumption and a lower body mass index.
Thanks to Kefir’s high protein levels, it also helps people feel fuller for longer, lessening the unhealthy snacking between meals that is the pitfall of dieting for many people.
A cup of low-fat Kefir contains a whopping 11 grams of dietary protein.
Calories and Kefir
Adding a low-fat Kefir source into your daily diet can keep you feeling fuller longer; as a result, if you are consuming fewer calories than you burn off with regular exercise, this will help you lose weight.
The key to calorie-counting and Kefir is to find that right balance.
Kefir does have a high-fat content, especially those made with dairy milk, so consuming too much can have the opposite effect of weight loss, but find a low-fat Kefir source and portion control it, and that balance will result in appetite suppression, lower calorie intake, and healthy weight loss.
According to Harvard Health Publications, the ideal calorie intake for women that supports weight loss is 1,200 a day, and for men, it’s 1,500 a day.
Healthy Kefir Sources
When it comes to the healthiest options for sources of Kefir, opt for low-fat plain Kefirs. These contain fewer calories, lower saturated fat levels, and less sugar than their flavored counterparts.
To compare regarding calories, a cup of low-fat Kefir contains 110 calories; a cup of whole-milk fruit flavored Kefir contains 140 calories, and a cup of low-fat flavored Kefir contains 140 calories.
While even plain low-fat Kefirs contain natural sugars, they do not contain the more harmful added processed sugars that the fruit-flavored Kefirs do.
As sugar is metabolized by the liver and stored as fat, for people trying to lose weight, a reduction in sugar intake is vital.
Healthy Kefir Portions
When consumed in healthy portions, Kefir makes a healthy addition to a weight-loss plan. For many people trying to lose weight, it is finding that balance that is a challenge.
No one wants to feel hungry all the time, even if it is resulting in weight loss.
Finding the perfect portion sizes is key to maintaining that balance of health and wellness.
A low-fat Kefir is an ideal healthy between-meal snack.
Not only does it meet dairy requirement recommendations, but its high-protein levels can also keep you feeling satiated for longer, meaning a lower-calorie intake.
For the average person with a daily caloric intake of 1,200 to 1,400, 2.5 cups of a regular dairy product are recommended.
For those with a daily caloric intake of 1,600 to 1,800, it is recommended that 3 cups of everyday dairy products are consumed. A cup of Kefir is equivalent to drinking a cup of a dairy product.
Are There Any Known Side Effects to Kefir?
Adding any new food source to a diet has the potential to have side effects either to your health or your weight loss goals. When it comes to Kefir, there is no doubt that it carries numerous health benefits, but what about side effects?
Known side effects of Kefir are mostly confined to when a person first introduces it into their diet, and these include potential constipation and abdominal cramping.
Kefir is made up of milk proteins like Casein. There are people with allergies to milk proteins like Casein, so for those individuals, they should look to another probiotic source as consuming Kefir will likely result in an allergic reaction.
Children and Kefir
When it comes to children and Kefir, it is recommended that under the age of one should be strictly consuming dairy milk products or breast milk. But for children between the ages of one and five, Kefir is considered a safe and effective source of protein and healthy probiotics.
People with Auto-Immune Diseases and Kefir
People who suffer from conditions like AIDS and cancer that weaken the immune system need to be cautious with Kefir and should talk to their doctors beforehand.
While Kefir’s high probiotic levels are hugely beneficial for those with strong and healthy immune systems, those with compromised immunity would be at risk of increasing infections and condition symptoms.
For those whose immune systems are in balance, Kefir is a healthy protein and probiotic source; for those whose immune systems are compromised and not in balance, the many different bacteria types in Kefir can exacerbate that imbalance.
Summary of Kefir Side Effects
The bottom line is that Kefir is a safe food source with very few side effects. The most common side effects that tend to affect people when they are first consuming Kefir are constipation and abdominal cramping.
It is recommended that people with a weakened immune system should talk to their doctor before introducing Kefir into their diet.
Kefir is Backed by Research
Not all diets and health fads are backed by research, so it is essential to do your due diligence before adding something into your weight-loss strategy. The study on Kefir supports its health benefits to the gastrointestinal system by maintaining healthy bacteria levels.
Its high levels of calcium and potassium have also been confirmed as positives for the bones and heart health.
When it comes to weight loss, when appropriately integrated, such as in a low-fat non-flavored Kefir in moderate portions, the benefits of feeling fuller for longer has the direct result of lower caloric consumption and subsequent weight loss.
So we return to our initial question: is Kefir healthy for weight loss diet?
Not only has Kefir been studied and researched, but it also offers many health benefits to a person’s immunity, digestion, bone strength, heart health, and potential weight loss.
Anyone who has tried to lose weight knows the challenge of diets that leave you feeling hungry, tired, and frustrated.
Diets that result in people feeling hungry all the time are neither healthy nor sustainable.
They may result in quick weight loss, but like most things that promise quick results, they are short-lived.
Integrating Kefir into a weight loss diet plan has the positive effects of suppressing appetite and lowering caloric intake safely and healthily.
Image: David Niergarth