What is a Probiotic Drink? Is Kefir probiotic?
Find out what drinks have probiotics, with our top probiotic drinks list
What is Kefir milk? What are Kefir grains & what is a SCOBY?
Probiotics in Kefir Water / Coconut Kefir / Water Kefir?
Difference between Kefir and Yogurt? Which is the best probiotic drink?
What are Kefir health benefits? & Probiotic Drink Benefits.
How much Kefir a day? Best time to drink kefir?
What is Kombucha tea? Kefir vs Kombucha health benefits.
What is a Probiotic Drink?
Probiotic drinks contain live bacteria, thought to have health benefits when taken.
Beneficial bacteria (known as a culture) are added to probiotic drinks to ferment (breakdown) the sugars in the drink.
Converting the sugars into lactic acid gives the drink a tangy, tart & sometimes fizzy taste.
Probiotic rich fermented drinks can contain billions of beneficial bacteria in each serving
What drinks have probiotics? A Probiotic drinks list
Traditional Fermented Probiotic Drinks List:-
– drinkable yogurt (like Actimel, Yakult)
– kefir (fermented milk)
– water kefir (fermented fruit juice / sugar water)
– coconut kefir (fermented coconut milk / water)
– kombucha (fermented tea)
– rejuvelac (fermented sprouted grains)
– kvass or kvas
– apple cider vinegar
New probiotic drinks with an added probiotic, are now available:-
– as tea bags
– probiotic infused fruit juice
– probiotic waters & flavoured drinks infused with probiotics
These mostly contain a strain of probiotic bacteria, Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086 patented by Ganedan that is easily added to & drinks.
Ganenden BC30 has been well tested.
However these products only contain this one particular strain of helpful probiotic bacteria.
They can help boost your overall probiotic intake
But they don’t contain the wide variety of beneficial bacteria contained in traditionally fermented probiotic drinks.
What is Kefir?
A fermented milk drink.
Traditionally made & drunk in the Caucasus Mountains.
You’ll also hear it called kefir yogurt as this fermented drink tastes similar to a thin yogurt.
How to make kefir drink : grains containing a blend of yeast & bacteria, are added to milk, and left to ferment at room temperature.
The bacteria / yeast in the grains digest (or ferment) the milk sugars (lactose), and give a distinctive carbonated, tangy beverage.
Research shows that Kefir probiotic drink can have billions of live beneficial bacteria per serving.
Kefir grains & What is a SCOBY?
Kefir grains are the culture or blend of bacteria & yeast, added to milk to ferment it into a probiotic drink.
They are a type of SCOBY (a Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast), used for fermentation.
Looking a bit like cottage cheese, kefir grains can contain up to a hundred different species of beneficial bacteria & yeast.
You can buy grains to make your own kefir or buy it ready to drink
Kefir Water / Coconut Kefir?
Kefir grains can be added to other liquids to produce different fermented drinks (probiotic drink), called water kefir.
Fruit juices, milk substitutes & waters are often used (they must contain enough suitable sugars for the bacteria to ferment):-
– soy milk
– rice milk
– coconut milk
– fruit juice
– sugar water
Kefir vs Yogurt? Which is the best probiotic drink?
The difference between kefir and yogurt is:-
– the number of strains of bacteria used in fermenting the milk to make kefir or yogurt
– consistency: kefir is thin, drinkable & slightly fizzy, whilst yogurt can be thin & drinkable yogurt or thick & spoonable
Milk kefir grains generally contain at least 30 different strains of probiotic bacteria.
Coconut kefir / water kefir grains contain between 10-15 different strains of probiotic bacteria
Yogurt contains between 2-7 strains of probiotic bacteria
(varies by type of yogurt & which starter culture is used).
Kefir probiotic drink is produced using a wider range of bacteria & yeast
It has a higher probiotic count per serving than yogurt, so is a top probiotic food, and a good probiotic drink
Yogurt can contain billions of bacteria per serving so can help boost your intake of probiotics.
Some of the types of beneficial bacteria that have been found in kefir include:-
– Lactobacillus acidophilus,
– Bifidobacterium bifidum,
– Streptococcus thermophilus
– Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus
– Lactobacillus helveticus
– Lactobacillus kefiranofaciens
– Lactobacillus paracasei ssp. paracasei,
– Lactobacillus plantarum,
– Lactobacillus kefiri
– Lactococcus lactis,
– species of Leuconostoc
Probiotic Yeasts include:-
– Kluyveromyces marxianus
– Kluyveromyces lactis
– Saccharomyces fragilis
– Saccharomyces cerevisiae
– Torulaspora delbrueckii
– Kazachstania unispora
– Candida kefyr
Studies show that grains in different areas contain different bacteria.
So for example, Irish grains will have different strains of bacteria to Tibetan grains.
Probiotic Drinks : Look on the Labels
Probiotics drinks labels often don’t say “probiotic” because:-
– Probiotics are categorised as food supplements, not drugs, as they are not sold specifically to treat a disease
– So they are not required to undergo the same stringent levels of testing & regulation as drugs
– It also means that probiotic drinks labels can’t claim that they treat disease, which limits the health claims that can be made by manufacturers
In the EU
– Probiotic drinks sold in the EU aren’t allowed to be labelled as probiotic, whether they claim health benefits or not.
– So although the label doesn’t say probiotic, they still contain live beneficial bacteria.
Look for probiotic bacteria on the ingredients label:-
– probiotic drinks labels often list some of the strains of bacteria added for fermentation.
– such as Lactobacillus , bifidobacterium or “live strains” or live and active cultures.
Labels in some countries (USA but not the UK) show how many bacteria there are in an average serving of the probiotic drink.
Probiotic Drink Benefits
Research suggests that probiotic drinks benefits can help your health.
Benefits of probiotic drinks : they can contain a much wider variety of beneficial bacteria and yeasts than other fermented foods like yogurt and sauerkraut.
Kefir benefits : from 1 million to 1 billion CFUs (colony forming units) per ml
Scientists have found that some of the probiotic bacteria in kefir do make it through the stomach acid & reach the gut.
These probiotic bacteria don’t seem to settle long term in the gut but still have health benefits.
The health benefits of probiotics in kefir are thought to be wide ranging.
Probiotic drinks benefits have been seen in various studies, which tested the types of bacteria found in kefir, such as:-
– positive effects on brain function (when eaten regularly)
– boosting mood, helping depression
– supporting immune system
– reducing inflammation in inflammatory bowel disease
– reducing cholesterol
– reducing diahhrea after antibiotics
– improve lactose intolerance
Lactobacillus strains break down (or digest) some of the lactose (milk sugar) in the kefir
Some people who are lactose intolerant find they have less digestive symptoms after drinking kefir.
We are only just starting to understand the exact health benefits offered by different probiotic bacteria.
Bear in mind that :-
– effects of Probiotics vary from person to person
– types of probiotics in different probiotic drinks vary
How much kefir a day?
How much kefir to drink per day?
– build up to 1 cup (or more) a day, to get best chance of experiencing the health benefits from the probiotic bacteria
Best time to drink kefir?
– when to drink kefir : you can drink it whenever you would like to
– there’s no scientific evidence to suggest one time is better than another.
– start by drinking a small amount and build up gradually, to give your gut a chance to adapt to the new bacteria it contains.
To get the most health benefits of probiotic kefir:-
– take it regularly – to replenish your stocks of helpful bacteria (as they don’t stay permanently in the gut)
– increase your probiotic drinks intake to help your gut bacteria recover after antibiotics / illness / diahhrea
How to drink kefir :-
– on its own as a refreshing drink
– with your breakfast cereal or granola
– as an ingredient in our probiotic recipes
– don’t heat it as you’ll kill off some of the probiotics
Check with your doctor first if you have a weakened immune system or digestive issues like IBS
You can combine your probiotic kefir drink with :-
– probiotic supplements to boost the numbers of probiotic bacteria in your gut
– other probiotic foods to boost the variety of probiotic bacteria in your gut
– prebiotic foods which act as fertiliser for the probiotic bacteria in your gut
Where to buy kefir?
Find probiotic drinks, in the chilled section of the supermarket or local health food store.
– Look on the label : pasteurised or sterilised = less live beneficial bacteria.
– This kills off large numbers of bacteria to meet food regulations & extend shelf life.
To be sure the food is fermented, look on the label for the following words:-
– live cultures
– active cultures
Our buying guide to probiotic foods will help you choose & store them correctly.
What is Kombucha tea?
Kombucha fermented tea is made from sweetened black tea.
Traditionally homemade kombucha has been brewed and drunk in Asia & Europe for centuries.
Kombucha tastes slightly sweet & tangy, and can be slightly fizzy.
Making Kombucha :
– A live & active kombucha culture is added to sweet tea, to brew Kombucha
– This culture is a blend of bacteria & yeasts (also known as a mother, a starter or a kombucha SCOBY)
– It then is fermented for up to 30 days.
– The taste varies with how long it is fermented & type of tea used. It gets stronger with age.
– Alcohol from the fermenting process may be present in the Kombucha.
Kombucha recipe : SCOBYs vary
– Research shows Kombucha SCOBYs vary in the strains of bacteria and yeast they contain
– so Kombucha brewed using different SCOBYs contain different types of yeast & bacteria
– Common strains of bacteria found in Kombucha are Lactobacillus, Acetobacter, Pediococcus,
– Typical Kombucha Yeast strains include Saccharomyces & Brettanomyces
Kefir vs Kombucha
– Kombucha generally contains fewer strains of probiotic bacteria than Kefir.
Kombucha health benefits:-
-Get the most beneficial bacteria in your Kombucha checking it hasn’t been pasteurised (which kills off probiotics)
Talk to your doctor before adding probiotic drinks to your diet if you have lowered immunity or digestive issues.
The Science Bit
The information I share on this site distills the research I’ve read on the microbiome, prebiotics & probiotics.
You’ll find links to the relevant research studies on each page.
I’m not a scientist / dietician / nutritionist. I’m a food lover & home cook, putting microbiome research findings into action in my kitchen.
Find out more about the scientists leading research into the microbiome on the FAQs page
Keep Reading : Choose the Best Probiotic Supplements