Kefir is growing in popularity, popping up in almost every grocery store. If you’re not familiar with kefir, it’s a fermented drink that contains a symbiotic culture of yeast and bacteria, similar to how you would make sourdough bread. However, it does contain a fair amount of carbs for those following a low carb or keto diet.
Kefir and water kefir can be consumed on a ketogenic diet within moderation. An average glass (8 oz) of kefir has the same amount of carbs as a glass of milk with 10 grams of net carbohydrates. However, this amount is reduced further through longer fermentation.
In this article, I’ll go over what kefir is and its health benefits, how to reduce the number of carbs, and alternatives that are even more keto-friendly.
Is Kefir Keto Friendly?
Keto-friendly is just another way of saying whether or not a food is generally ok to eat because no food is inherently keto or not keto. Foods aren’t “keto” since keto is a metabolic state achieved by limiting carbohydrates under a certain amount, which is different for everyone.
On average, an 8 oz. serving of kefir from most brands contain ~10 to 13 grams of net carbs. Since most people following a ketogenic diet limit carbohydrates between 20 and 50 grams of net carbs, kefir fits the bill as it falls under that threshold.
The real question is whether using up 10 to 13 grams of your net carbs is worth a glass of kefir. Of course, you can get the health benefits of kefir without drinking a full 8 oz. serving. For example, consuming 4 oz. of kefir only has ~6 grams of net carbs.
While I would suggest getting the majority of your carbohydrates from non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, cactus, and spinach, you can enjoy treats that aren’t exactly seen as “keto” while staying in ketosis.
I wouldn’t make it a point to try to fit in treats every day, but if it makes you diet more enjoyable and allows you to stick to it, then who am I or anyone to stop you.You do you.
What Is Kefir
So what exactly is kefir? It’s a cultured, fermented beverage similar to kombucha. Kefir is made similarly to sourdough bread, where a “starter” consisting of yeast and bacteria is used to ferment dairy milk, though other alternative milks may be used.
Kefir is almost like a yogurt drink, it’s not as runny as milk, but it’s not as thick as yogurt. Since kefir is fermented, individuals who may be lactose intolerant don’t seem to have the same reaction with kefir.
If you’ve never seen kefir, you’ll likely find it in the dairy section or lumped in with the yogurts.
Health Benefits of Kefir
Kefir is rich in nutrients, B vitamins, potassium, calcium, and a good source of high-quality protein. However, most people choose to consume kefir for its probiotics.
Other great keto-friendly sources of probiotics include kimchi and sauerkraut.
Probiotics are live organisms consumed through fermented foods or supplements such as kimchi, sauerkraut, and kombucha. Additionally, probiotics are thought to help promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria and linked to a variety of health benefits.
Aside from being rich in nutrients, 5 health benefits of kefir include:
- Antibacterial properties1
- Improve bone health2
- Help with digestion and IBS3
- Improve allergy and asthma symptoms4
- May be cancer protective5
How To Make Kefir More Keto Friendly
By making your kefir, you’ll have full control of making a lower carb version than the ones found on the store shelves.
First, decide which type of dairy or non-dairy base you would like to use. Popular non-dairy alternatives include:
- Coconut milk
- Goats milk
- Rice milk
- Almond milk
- Macadamia nut milk
Easy ways to make kefir more keto-friendly…
Use coconut milk or another dairy alternative
Make kefir with coconut milk, not to be confused with coconut water, or another non-dairy milk lower in carbohydrates. Using something other than cows milk is an easy way to slash carbs from your kefir.
For example, this recipe from KetoDietApp uses coconut milk and has only ~4 grams of net carbs per 8 oz. serving.
Reduce the serving size
Reducing your kefir serving from 8 oz to 4 oz is a way to take in fewer carbohydrates, but still, get the health benefits of kefir and probiotics.
Just because the nutrition label says 8 oz. or 1 cup equals a serving, doesn’t mean that you have to drink that much in one sitting.
Ferment kefir longer than 24-hours
Ferment your kefir longer than 24 hours. Typically, kefir is fermented for 24 hours, but fermenting kefir for 48 to 72 hours will help further reduce the carb count.
Bear in mind, the longer you ferment your kefir, the sourer it becomes, but this is easily remedied by mixing in your favorite zero-calorie sweetener such as stevia or monk fruit.
Or, if you enjoy the sourness, then leave it be.
Drink water kefir
Yepp, that’s not a typo.
You can make kefir from water the same way you can from dairy and other milk. Water kefir is easy to make at home as all you need is water, sugar, and water kefir grains.
The fermentation process is what reduces the sugar content, so using less sugar and increasing the fermentation are perfect ways to reap the benefits of kefir with even less sugar.
Here’s a natural water kefir recipe from Kombucha Kamp.
Image and recipe from Kombucha Kamp
The Takeaway… Is Kefir Keto?
Kefir can most certainly fit into a ketogenic diet as a single serving has ~10 grams of net carbs and a half serving only ~5 grams. However, you’ll get more bang for your buck by making your kefir with non-dairy milk or fermenting dairy for longer than 48 hours.
Kefir is rich in probiotics that have been shown to have a multitude of health benefits, including digestion health and improved bone health, making it worth consideration as part of a healthy diet.
Since kefir is a fermented beverage, the sugar is significantly reduced during the fermentation process. Still, if you ferment it even further, you can reduce the overall net carbs even more.