What are kefir benefits and side effects? Is kefir vegan? Gluten free? Acidic or alkaline? Low fodmap? Good for you? Healthy? Sustainable? Here is all the info on kefir that every ethical consumer wants to know…
Food is something we consume every day and if you’re like me, you do all the research you can to make sure you don’t hurt yourself, the planet, animals or others when shopping. As an ethical consumer myself, I am giving you all the info I’ve found on kefir benefits and side effects.
You are going to learn all about kefir benefits and side effects. This will include kefir benefits for your health and potential risks, kefir water footprint and kefir carbon footprint, kefir sustainability, if kefir is vegan or impacts animals in other ways, and much more.
After learning if kefir is good or bad for you, the environment, animals and human rights, you will be prepared to make the best choices you can the next time you buy food.
This post is all about kefir benefits and side effects that every ethical consumer should know.
Kefir Benefits and Side Effects
Kefir benefits for health may include:
- better digestion
- diarrhea prevention and treatment (especially following antibiotic treatment)
- vaginal infection prevention and treatment
- urinary tract infections (UTIs) prevention and treatment
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) treatment and relieved symptoms
- less and reduced eczema symptoms
- gastrointestinal health
Kefir side effects may include:
- abdominal cramping
- Alzheimer’s disease, breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers, heart disease, type 2 diabetes (milk and other dairy products)
- weight gain
Additionally, kefir is…
- Gluten Free
- High Fodmap
- Acidic pH level once digested
- A common Food Allergen: MILK, Kefir is most commonly made with cow’s milk, but may alternatively be made with: coconut milk, goat’s milk, rice milk, coconut water
- A Fermented Food
Water footprint: low, it takes 1,599 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of fermented milk and kefir / 192 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of fermented milk and kefir
Carbon footprint: moderate, 2.4 kg CO2e to produce 1 kilogram or 2.2 pounds of fermented beverages, a car driving equivalent of 5.75 miles or 9.25 kilometers
Destruction: high, kefir production is relatively destructive, land usage for pasture, grain and forage, solid waste (excrement/manure) runoff into soil and freshwater, deforestation for feed crops, animal agriculture leading cause of: species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution and habitat destruction, responsible for up to 91% of Amazon destruction
Kills: none, no animals are required to be killed in order to produce milk
Harms: mother cows and calves are distressed due to separation within 24 hours after birth, male calves slaughtered for veal, female calves fed artificially, locked in tiny cages, cows genetically modified to grow so obese that many become lame (unable to walk) shocked with electric prods, shackled with chains and dragged, beaten, prods poked up rectums, live last few months in crowded feedlots with hundreds or thousands of others, without pasture, often without shelter, must stand in mud, ice and their own waste, dairy cows eventually slaughtered for beef once milk production has ended
Indirectly kills or harms: male calves, in most cases the dairy industry sells “unwanted” male calves to be slaughtered for veal, as pregnancy must occur for female cows to lactate and produce milk, wildlife and ecosystems, habitat contamination (water and soil pollution), wildlife habitat destruction (deforestation/land clearing), wolves and coyotes killed to prevent predation on livestock
- Not Vegan
- Harmful to wildlife and ecosystems
Health and safety: varies, overall, agriculture continues to be one of the most dangerous industries, farmworkers may be subject to dehydration, heat stroke, unprotected exposure to harmful, toxic chemicals and pesticides, unsafe machinery and clean drinking water may not always accessible
Living conditions: varies, laborers are often exploited, they may face tough working conditions including long hours in the sun and heat performing physically exhausting tasks, labor laws and rights may or may not be in place, even if worker protection exists, employer violations may go unreported, refugees and migrant workers are especially vulnerable to abuse and mistreatment, fearing consequences of job loss or deportation
Wages: varies, generally farmworkers earn meager wages, there are many cases of underpaid agricultural workers, wage theft and no overtime payment or benefits
- May have labor issues
Where does most kefir come from?
The world’s top kefir exporting country is Germany, followed by New Zealand, France, Spain, USA, Ireland, Poland, Netherlands, UK and Luxembourg.
In the United States Wisconsin has the most dairy plants (199 dairy product plants).
Other leading dairy processing states were New York with 123 plants and California with 114 plants.
Is kefir nutritious?
Kefir is high in probiotics, protein, calcium and potassium but often contains antibiotics and hormones such as rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone) which is a genetically engineered synthetic hormone by Monsanto to increase milk production levels, resulting in cow mastitis infections, ultimately requiring more antibiotics.
Is kefir alkaline or acidic?
Kefir is acidic. Dairy, including yogurt, is an acidic food group.
When you eat food, it breaks down to an ash residue that can be neutral, acidic or alkaline. Minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, zinc, silver, copper and iron produce an alkaline ash; whereas sulfur, phosphorus, chlorine and iodine, which are in meat, coffee, dairy and alcohol, leave an acid ash.
Going alkaline easier than ever with this: Acidic and Alkaline Foods List
Is kefir low fodmap?
No, kefir is high fodmap, which you should limit or eliminate if on a low fodmap diet.
A low FODMAP diet may help those with bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, stomach pain, and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).
It’s all about knowing your body. Observe what works and what doesn’t. You body might even react negatively to a low-FODMAP food simply due to intolerance. Everyone is different! Be mindful and patient. Take time to get to know what’s best for your physical health and overall wellbeing.
See this High FODMAP and Low FODMAP List of Foods
Is kefir gluten free?
Yes, kefir is gluten free. Kefir does not contain gluten.
While celiac disease may not be as rampant as many marketing trends lead us to believe, you may have a gluten sensitivity…
Celiac and gluten sensitivity symptoms are similar and may include:
- recurring abdominal pain
- chronic diarrhea
- numbness in hands and feet
- chronic fatigue
- joint pain
- unexplained infertility
- low bone density (osteopenia or osteoporosis)
There are hundreds of potential symptoms, many of which are also symptoms of other conditions.
Going gluten-free easier than ever with this: Gluten and Gluten Free Foods List
Is kefir a common food allergen?
Yes, kefir is a common food allergen: milk. Many people experience allergic reactions to kefir.
A group of the eight major allergenic foods, AKA the Big-8, include:
Severe food allergies can be life threatening. Following ingestion of a food allergen, a person with food allergies can experience a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis.
Persons may still be allergic to and have serious reactions to foods other than the eight foods identified by the law.
Be aware of common dietary restrictions and food allergens with this: The Big 8 Most Common Food Allergens List
Is kefir fermented?
Yes, kefir is fermented.
Foods that are fermented use an old process that can extend shelf life, provide healthy probiotics and add nutritional value. One notable nutrient that can be acquired is vitamin B12 -especially desirable for vegans and vegetarians, as it typically cannot be found in plant foods.
Fermented foods help the body digest food, fight off bad bacteria, make certain vitamins, maintain a healthy balance, and restore gut health after taking antibiotics.
When too many bad gut microbes exist it can create an imbalance between beneficial and harmful gut bacteria, which leads to health problems. In some cases intestinal walls can weaken and their contents may leak into the bloodstream, commonly referred to as leaky gut syndrome. Fermented foods are known to strengthen intestinal walls.
For optimal gut health and overall wellbeing fermented foods are a great daily addition to your diet. Common fermented foods include: kefir, tempeh, natto, kombucha, miso, kimchi, sauerkraut and yogurt.
Check out this Fermented Foods List to see them all.
Here’s an amazing cookbook filled with delicious fermented recipes: Fermented Vegetables: Creative Recipes for Fermenting 64 Vegetables & Herbs in Krauts, Kimchis, Brined Pickles, Chutneys, Relishes & Pastes by Christopher Shockey and Kirsten K. Shockey
Water footprint of kefir?
Kefir has a relatively low water footprint compared to other foods.
It takes 1,599 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of fermented milk and kefir / 192 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of fermented milk and kefir.
Did you know that water is a finite, non-renewable resource?
How much water does it take to produce an apple? A serving of rice? A steak dinner?
We need to be aware of “water footprints”. That is, the amount of fresh water utilized in the production or supply of goods we consume. As it turns out it takes significantly more water to yield foods that come from animals than foods that come from plants. Imagine how much water a cow needs to consume to generate a piece of beef. Not only how much water a single cow drinks, rather all the water that went into producing the crops that the cow ate.
Find out how much water your food consumes with this: Water Footprints of Foods and Ingredients List
Carbon footprint of kefir?
Kefir has a relatively moderate carbon footprint compared to other foods and beverages.
It takes around 2.4 kg CO2e to produce 1 kilogram or 2.2 pounds of fermented beverages, a car driving equivalent of 5.75 miles or 9.25 kilometers.
Food not only has a water footprint but also a carbon footprint, known as CO2e, which stands for carbon dioxide equivalent. Since carbon measurements are a bit more difficult to comprehend, it is common to equate CO2e to the distance which a car drives in miles or kilometers.
When calculating carbon emissions, some factors may include…
- farm equipment
- animal feed production
- hothouses (greenhouses)
- food processing
- package waste and more
But that’s not all!
It’s best to keep the following in mind when grocery shopping:
- shopping locally reduces transportation emissions
- food without packaging reduces waste as well as the carbon footprint
- refrigerated and frozen foods increase carbon emissions
- seasonal foods reduce carbon emissions from hothouses (greenhouses)
- growing plant-based foods at home is the most environmentally sustainable method with zero carbon footprint
Find out how much carbon your food emits with this: Carbon Footprints of Foods and Ingredients List
Is kefir sustainable?
No. Kefir production is relatively unsustainable.
A 2018 Oxford University study – which is the most comprehensive analysis to date of the damage farming does to the planet – found that ‘avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way to reduce your impact on Earth’ as animal farming provides just 18% of calories but takes up 83% of our farmland.
Consuming animal products and byproducts is not environmentally friendly and is one of the worst things for the Earth. Not only is meat production wasteful, it causes enormous amounts of pollution. The industry is one of the biggest causes of climate change.
A 2010 United Nations report said that a global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to save the world the worst impacts of climate change.
Read more about ‘What Makes Food Sustainable Or Unsustainable?’
Is kefir vegan?
No, kefir is not vegan. Kefir is dairy, the byproduct of a cow, sheep or goat, therefore making it an animal-derived food. A mother cow, mother sheep or mother goat’s milk must be used in order to produce kefir.
Animals of factory farms and the livestock industry are suffering. They live in horrific conditions that often include confinement, physical abuse and unnatural environments…so much so that they need to receive antibiotics to keep from getting ill or spreading disease. They’re also injected with growth hormones to become fatter faster and live short lives, being slaughtered as soon as they finish growing and are killed prematurely, well before their natural lifespan.
Because we cannot see for ourselves how these animals live and what they endure does not mean it isn’t happening. The meat, poultry and dairy industries do everything they can to distance us from knowing how our food comes to be in order to keep us in the dark about what we support each time we buy animal derived products and byproducts.
Go vegan for animals!
It’s the best way to help animals and it’s not as difficult as you may think. Speak for animals with your actions, for they cannot speak at all.
Going vegan is easier than ever, at a glance with this: Vegan and Non-Vegan Foods List
Does kefir have human rights issues?
At this time there are human rights concerns with dairy production.
It’s important to stay aware of human rights concerns and worker exploitation that may come with specific brands.
Did you know the single largest employer in the world is agriculture? The labor involved behind each and every product cannot go unrecognized.
Some known problems include workplace health and safety, child labor, gender inequality, inadequate pay, wage theft and exploitation. Workers can even experience harassment, humiliation and violence and unfair employers often fail to provide laborers with access to shade, drinking water, restrooms and breaks. Consequently, laborers can face nausea, dizziness, heat exhaustion, dehydration and heat stroke -the leading cause of farmworker death!
Such mistreatment is like modern day slavery. Workers are often afraid to report issues because they fear it will result in losing their jobs or deportation.
Fair trade organizations fight to ensure better social, environmental and economic standards.
We can improve people’s lives with foods we eat every day simply by buying products that are certified fair trade.
Be sure to read up on this list of ‘Foods You Should Always Buy Fair Trade‘
This post was all about kefir benefits and side effects.
The Microbiota and Health Promoting Characteristics … – NCBI
kefir – FoodData Central – USDA
Adriane MarieHi, I'm Adriane, creator of HEALabel! I organize info for you to comprehensively see how purchases impact health, environment, animals and laborers. Stay aware because you care! Subscribe below to get my weekly newsletter with tips, new info and other ethical consumer insight.
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