Milk Kefir… Quite possibly one of the oldest fermented foods that we still drink today. It was used at least since the late 1800s by Russian doctors. Even then, it was known for its medicinal benefits. If you are just now learning about milk kefir, here’s the mile high view.
Kefir is similar to kombucha. It’s a fermented drink that contains a symbiotic culture of yeast and bacteria. This probiotic culture has adapted to grow in cow and goat milk. Kefir contains up to 61 different strains of healthy bacteria and yeast.
Several Studies from the ’80s and ’90s have found beneficial properties in consuming kefir. [*]
Possible Kefir Health Benefits
- Helpful for Atherosclerosis
- Treatment of Tuberculosis
- Treatment of Metabolic Disorders
- Treatment of Cancer
- Treatment of gastrointestinal disorders
- Promotion of Bowel Movements
- Stimulates Immune System
- Fights Chronic Fatigue
Now, Let’s get to the point of this article – keto and kefir. Since kefir is typically brewed with whole milk, that means we’ve got some sugar to deal with. Today I’m going to show you how you can drink kefir and maintain ketosis on the ketogenic diet.
So, what options do we have for consuming kefir on keto?
1. Increase Kefir Fermentation Time
Just letting it go a bit longer can help reduce carbs.
Dairy products contain lactose, a type of sugar. The cool thing is that the kefir grains (probiotic culture) consume this sugar which helps to reduce the overall carb count. Unfortunately, this only ends up reducing the carbs in milk by a few grams. Kefir is normally only brewed for a day or two which is why the impact is small.
Milk Kefir has anywhere between 7g and 12g of carbs per 8oz serving. This depends on the type of milk you start with. The big nutritional databases have regular kefir listed as having 12g of carbs. I don’t believe this is accurate though. It may be accurate for store-bought kefir. But, whole milk has 12g of carbs. So, I would expect the resulting kefir to have less than 12 carbs after fermentation.
Regardless, you can expect your kefir to have fewer carbs in it than what you started with.
Choosing Your Kefir Fermentation Time
The amount of time you leave kefir to ferment makes a big difference. You can leave it fermenting for up to 2 to 3 days which is longer than the standard 24-hour protocol. This will further reduce the carb count. Your culture will have more time to consume the lactose. In the end, you’ll end up with more sour tasting kefir. It should taste similar to plain yogurt. But, you can sweeten it with stevia and erythritol afterward.
Keep in mind that kefir ferments well at 68–85 degrees.
Your kefir will also thicken as you let it go. It begins to separate into curds and whey during a longer fermentation. This is fine. You can gently stir your kefir back together. You can also separate the liquid whey out with a few coffee filters. This will basically turn your kefir into greek yogurt. At that point, you can store your kefir away with some blueberries.
Don’t take your fermentation too far though. You shouldn’t let your kefir ferment for longer than 3 to 4 days. If a week or more has gone by, it’s likely that the kefir grains have died. If you get to this point, it may be time to start over with new grains.
Kefir Works Great for Smoothies
Since we are fermenting a bit longer for keto, your kefir may have more of a tart taste to it. You can enjoy it in a smoothie as opposed to consuming it plain.
2. Making Kefir With Coconut Milk
Kefir grains can feed on coconut milk as well. Depending on the brand you choose, you can easily get below 7g of carbs per serving. There are a few caveats to doing your kefir this way though.
Milk kefir grains cannot typically survive in coconut milk for long. They will not reproduce in it. So, you’ll need to store the grains in actual milk in between batches.
You can also use almond milk to make your kefir.
3. Reduce your Serving Size
You don’t need a full serving size (8 oz) to get the beneficial probiotics from kefir. If you are worried about going over on your carb limit for keto, reduce the serving size to 4oz. Kefir is absolutely packed with probiotics. Even 4oz is going to have great benefits to your health.
Great Alternatives to Milk Kefir for Keto
1. Water Kefir
You may also want to investigate brewing water kefir. Water kefir grains feed on regular sugar and have many of the same benefits as milk kefir. You also have more control over your starting sugar content. You could easily end up with 2g or less of carbs per 8oz serving.
Kombucha is a fermented sweet tea that is also known for its probiotic benefits. It’s another healthy drink that can be brewed at home. I would argue that kombucha requires less maintenance than Kefir to keep the culture alive. It’s also great for keto in that you can easily manage longer brew times to reduce sugar content.
Conclusion – Drinking Kefir on Keto
Kefir is a wonderful probiotic drink that can be enjoyed on keto when done right. Its jam packed with beneficial yeast and bacteria to help your digestive system. There are many benefits to drinking kefir. Because kefir is a fermented food, the sugar content is reduced from regular milk. Longer fermentation times reduce overall sugar content. You can also use coconut milk and almond milk to make your milk kefir. Reducing your serving size to 4oz will help to keep your carb intake low on the ketogenic diet.