The other day I had someone ask me what was better for her, kefir or kombucha. At the time I didn’t have a good answer for her. As with most food related questions I gave my response of, “read the ingredients and look out for added sugar.” In this case, where she was asking me about probiotics, I added in, “see which has the better bacterial content.” This got me to thinking it was something worth looking into. Is one better than the other? What are the pros and cons of each? With these questions in mind I set off for the grocery store.
When making my selections, I chose brands that I’ve seen in almost every grocery store in New England that I’ve been in. I picked up a plain and a strawberry kefir as well as a gingerberry and a strawberry kombucha. In truth there were ups and downs to both.
Kombucha is a fermented, effervescent tea often made with juice or fruit puree. I had tried kombucha a few times in the past and didn’t really care for it. There was an alcohol taste that I couldn’t get past. Later I learned that’s because kombucha contains alcohol – go figure! It’s also a raw food and there is some risk of bad bacteria. It is also rather acidic. On the other hand, it seems as though I have acquired a taste for it and thoroughly enjoyed it this past time. Most of my options were organic. I was pleased with the variety and quantity of the bacterial strains. I was even more happy with the fact that, depending on the flavor, there was only 2 to 5 grams of sugar per serving.
Kefir is a fermented dairy beverage with a lot of similarity to yogurt. (There is a water based kefir but I haven’t come across it in a store.) What I found in my experimentation was that it (unsuprisingly) tastes a lot like yogurt, though perhaps more sour. It had a good variety and quantity of friendly bacteria (probiotics). Unlike kombucha it also a good source of protein and calcium. I really liked the fact that I could get a plain, no sugar added, organic kefir. On the other hand, I didn’t like the taste of the plain at all. The strawberry I found more palatable but it contained a lot of sugar (20 grams per serving) and was not organic.
And the winner is…
All things considered picking the best probiotic drink is dependent on you and your body’s needs. If you’re vegan, avoiding sugar, or intolerant of dairy, kefir may not be a good choice for you. If you need to stay away from acidic foods, are a pregnant woman, or struggle with alcoholism you may need to skip the kombucha. Other than that, it comes down to what you like and what you’ll use. For myself I’ll be sticking with kombucha – just make sure you do what’s right for your body, not mine.