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In the world of probiotics, kefir and kombucha are where it’s at. Both boast billions of living microorganisms that help you fight bad bacteria. But that’s basically where their similarities end.
Here’s everything you need to know about kefir and kombucha (plus how they compare to other probiotic options).
Traditional small-batch kefir is made by fermenting milk with kefir grain. (FYI: Kefir grain isn’t actually a grain — it’s a colony of bacteria and yeast that kinda has a cottage cheese vibe.)
Large-scale, industrial kefir makers usually use a different process that involves starter cultures, not kefir grains. While this yields a more consistent product, there’s less research on kefir’s potential health benefits when it’s made this way.
Most kefir is made with cow’s milk, but there are also versions made with goat’s, sheep’s, and buffalo’s milk. And vegans, rejoice: Kefir can be made from soy milk, coconut water, or even plain water. Woot!
No matter how it’s made, the result is a thickish drink with a tart flavor. A lot of kefir is sweetened with sugars or flavored with fruit to hide the lip-puckering flavor.
Kombucha is a bubbly combo of tea, sugar, and a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts (SCOBY). This mixture results in the sparkly concoction you know and love.
Kombucha can be made with green, white, red, or black tea and is commonly flavored with fruit juice, herbs, spices, and sweeteners.
Kombucha naturally contains just a bit of alcohol. Commercial kombucha must have less than 0.5 percent ABV (alcohol by volume) to be sold as a nonalcoholic beverage.
Pro tip: If you’re in a boozy mood, you can buy hard (aka alcoholic) kombucha. Or turn your regular kombucha into a delicious cocktail.
Kombucha benefits 101
Kombucha is high in antioxidants, which might help prevent cellular damage in your bod.
Here’s how 1 cup (8 ounces) of unsweetened, cow’s milk-based kefir compares to the same serving size of kombucha.
|GT’s Original Kombucha||Lifeway Plain Unsweetened Kefir|
|Carbs||8 g||12 g|
|Added sugar||8 g||0 g|
|Protein||0 g||8 g|
|Fat||0 g||8 g|
Kefir and kombucha are both good for you in different ways. Think of kefir as a nutrient- and calorie-dense, filling option and kombucha as a lighter, “I want something bubbly and refreshing” choice.
Kefir is higher in calories, fat, protein, and carbs because it’s made with milk. It’s also more filling than kombucha, so it’s a better meal replacement or snack.
Bonus: Milk-based kefir is also packed with calcium, vitamins A and B12, and potassium.
Pure kombucha is just a mix of tea, sugar, and water, so it’s not a good source of vitamins or minerals. But some kombuchas are flavored with fruit or vegetable juice, which can help bump up the bevvy’s benefits.
Kefir and kombucha are both loaded with probiotics. Lots of peeps guzzle these drinks in the hope that they’ll help with gut health.
Which one’s better?
Although some kefir lovers may prefer it sans sugar, sweetened versions are way more popular. You can find it in almost any fruity flavor.
Kombucha comes in tons of fun flavors. We’re talking everything from lavender to strawberry rhubarb. If you can’t find your fave flavor flav at your local grocery store, you can probably find it online.
Both kefir and kombucha can be loaded with added sweet stuff. Here’s how to keep the sugar in check.
Kefir: Opt for unflavored, unsweetened varieties that don’t contain added fruits or refined sugars.
Kombucha: Some brands can contain upwards of 20 grams of added sugar per bottle. That’s about 5 teaspoons of sugar. Pick a potion that packs less than 4 grams of added sugar per 8-ounce serving.
Kefir and kombucha are both safe drinking options for most people. BUT! There are some things to look out for before you get chugging.
Milk-based kefirs are a no-go if you have an intolerance or allergy to dairy. Def stick to nonmilk versions to avoid an upset stomach.
Even though it’s relatively high in protein, kefir can impact blood sugar. For example, 1 cup (8 ounces) of strawberry-flavored Lifeway Kefir contains 8 grams (2 teaspoons) of added sugar. It’s also pretty high in calories.
Kombucha is carbonated. If you drink too much, it can lead to side effects like bloating or a case of the toots💨. It also contains compounds called FODMAPS, which can cause discomfort in folks with digestive issues.
In addition to added sugars, kombucha contains caffeine and trace amounts of alcohol.
Pasteurizing PSA: Kombucha isn’t pasteurized. Don’t drink it if you’re pregnant or if you have a weakened immune system.
Can you have too many probiotics?
It’s unlikely that you’ll get too many probiotics if you consume normal portions of kombucha and kefir.
But consuming too many probiotic-rich foods may cause bloating, gas, and other stomach issues in some people, so keep it balanced.
There’s no evidence that mixing kefir and kombucha will offer special health benefits. Plus, it’ll probably taste gross. But hey, no judgment. If you’re into slightly carbonated yogurt drinks, you can try it out.
Just keep in mind: Instead of relying on only kombucha or kefir, it’s best to diversify your probiotic portfolio. Try other probiotic superstars like:
Kombucha and kefir are both probiotic drinks, but they’re super-duper different when it comes to taste, texture, and nutrition. Both can be part of a healthy diet, but it’s best to enjoy them in moderation so you can leave room for other healthy fermented foods.