Kefir and Pregnancy: Safe or Risky?

Kefir and Pregnancy: Safe or Risky?

As the Mother and Newborn editorial team, we have been faced with many questions lately about whether Ashwagandha, acai berry, and Kefir are safe during pregnancy.

A few days ago, we looked at the answers to these two questions in an evidence-based way:

Is Ashwagandha safe during pregnancy?

Can I take acai berries while pregnant or breastfeeding?

Now it’s Kefir’s turn!

During pregnancy, maintaining a healthy diet is paramount to ensure the well-being of both the mother and the growing baby. As expectant mothers seek to incorporate nutritious and beneficial foods into their diet, the question of kefir’s safety often arises. Kefir, a fermented milk beverage known for its probiotic properties, can offer a range of potential benefits.

However, due to its unique characteristics and potential risks, it’s crucial to delve deeper into the topic and explore whether kefir is safe or poses any potential risks during pregnancy.

This blog will explore the facts, shedding light on the potential benefits, concerns, and expert opinions surrounding kefir consumption during pregnancy.

Can you drink kefir during pregnancy?


Kefir is a fermented milk drink rich in probiotics and associated with numerous health benefits. As a pregnant woman, you may wonder if consuming kefir during pregnancy is safe.

The good news is that kefir is generally considered safe to consume during pregnancy. The probiotics found in kefir can benefit both you and your growing baby. These probiotics can help to support digestive health, boost the immune system, and even reduce the risk of certain pregnancy-related complications.

However, it is important to note that not all kefir is created equal. Some kefir products may contain added sugars, flavors, or other ingredients not recommended during pregnancy. It is best to choose plain, unsweetened kefir made from pasteurized milk.

As with any food or drink during pregnancy, it is always a good idea to consult your healthcare provider before adding kefir to your diet. They can provide personalized advice based on your health needs and medical history.

What are the benefits of kefir when pregnant?

kefir for pregnancy

Kefir is an amazing source of nutrients from Eastern Europe and Southwest Asia. Its name comes from the Turkish word “keyif,” which means feeling good after eating.

It is a fermented drink made with cow’s or goat’s milk by adding kefir grains, yeast colonies, and lactic acid bacteria. These microorganisms ferment the milk over approximately 24 hours, turning it into kefir. Kefir grains are the starter culture that is used to produce the beverage. The lactic acid bacteria in the grains convert lactose into lactic acid, which gives kefir its sour taste.

Low-fat kefir is rich in protein, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin B12, riboflavin, magnesium, and vitamin D. Kefir also contains bioactive compounds like organic acids and peptides that contribute to its health benefits. Dairy-free versions of kefir can be made with sweet liquids but do not have the same nutrient profile as dairy-based kefir.

  1. Kefir is a much more potent source of probiotics than yogurt, a well-known probiotic food in the Western diet. Kefir grains contain up to 61 strains of bacteria and yeasts, making them a rich and diverse source of probiotics. Other fermented dairy products are made from fewer strains and contain no yeasts.
  2. Kefir has potent antibacterial properties due to the probiotic Lactobacillus kefir and the carbohydrate kefir. Studies have shown that Lactobacillus kefir can inhibit the growth of various harmful bacteria, including Salmonella, Helicobacter pylori, and E. coli.
  3. Kefir, made from dairy, is an excellent source of calcium and vitamin K2, which plays a central role in calcium metabolism. Supplementing with K2 has been shown to reduce the risk of fractures by 81%. Recent animal studies associate kefir with increased calcium absorption in bone cells, leading to improved bone density and a lower risk of fractures.
  4. Some test-tube and animal studies indicate that kefir can inhibit cancer cell growth. One older study found that kefir extract reduced the number of human breast cancer cells by 56%, compared with only 14% for yogurt extract. However, human studies are needed before firm conclusions can be made.
  5. Kefir’s probiotics can help restore the balance of friendly bacteria in the gut, making it highly effective at treating many forms of diarrhea. There is ample evidence suggesting that probiotics and probiotic foods can alleviate many digestive concerns, including irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers caused by H. pylori infection, and many others.
  6. Kefir is low in lactose because the lactic acid bacteria in fermented dairy foods, like kefir and yogurt, pre-digest the lactose. People with lactose intolerance can often drink kefir without problems. It is also possible to make kefir that is 100% lactose-free by using nondairy beverages.
  7. In animal studies, kefir has been shown to suppress inflammatory responses related to allergies and asthma. Human studies are needed to explore these effects better. (1)

Is kefir raw or pasteurized?

kefir benefits

Kefir can be either raw or pasteurized, depending on how it is made. Traditional homemade kefir is often plain, as it is caused by culturing milk with kefir grains at room temperature.

However, commercially produced kefir is typically pasteurized to ensure the product’s safety and shelf life. Pasteurization involves heating the kefir to high temperatures for a short time to kill harmful bacteria.

It’s worth noting that some health enthusiasts prefer raw kefir as they believe it may contain more beneficial probiotics and enzymes than pasteurized kefir. However, handling raw milk products with care is important as they may pose a risk of foodborne illness.

Does kefir have folic acid?

kefir and folic acid

Kefir may contain some amount of folic acid, although the levels can vary depending on the type of milk used and the fermentation process. Folic acid is a B vitamin that plays a crucial role in many bodily functions, including the production of DNA and red blood cells.

Dairy-based kefir is a good source of several B vitamins, including riboflavin (B2) and vitamin B12, which are important for maintaining healthy cells and nerve function. However, suppose you are specifically looking to increase your folic acid intake.In that case, it’s worth noting that other foods like leafy green vegetables, beans, and fortified grains are typically better sources of this nutrient than kefir.

What is the difference between raw kefir and regular kefir?

Feature Raw Kefir Regular Kefir
Preparation Cultured at room temperature without pasteurization Pasteurized to increase shelf life
Probiotic content May contain a wider variety and higher amounts of probiotics Probiotic content may be reduced due to pasteurization
Nutrient content May contain higher amounts of certain vitamins and minerals Nutrient content may be reduced due to pasteurization
Taste and texture Slightly thicker and tangier due to continued fermentation Thinner and smoother due to pasteurization
Shelf life Shorter shelf life and must be consumed fresh Longer shelf life and can be stored in the refrigerator for a longer period of time
Safety May pose a higher risk of foodborne illness due to the lack of pasteurization Lower risk of foodborne illness due to pasteurization

When is the best time to take probiotics while pregnant?

kefir and probiotics

No specific time of day is considered the best time to take probiotics during pregnancy. What’s more important is to take them consistently at the same time each day, as this can help maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut.

Many healthcare providers recommend taking probiotics with a meal or snack to help protect the live cultures from the stomach’s acidic environment and ensure they reach the intestines where they can be most effective. However, this is not a hard and fast rule, and it’s generally safe to take probiotics at any time of day that is convenient for you.

Is Lifeway kefir safe during pregnancy?

Lifeway kefir is generally considered safe to consume during pregnancy as long as it is pasteurized and consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet. Pasteurization is an important safety measure that helps to kill harmful bacteria and reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

Lifeway kefir is a fermented dairy product rich in probiotics, protein, and several key nutrients, including calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can help support a healthy gut microbiome, which is important for overall health and well-being.

However, if you have concerns about consuming Lifeway kefir or any other food or beverage during pregnancy, you should talk to your healthcare provider for guidance.

Is Trader Joe’s kefir pasteurized?

The answer may depend on the specific type of kefir product you are referring to at Trader Joe’s, as they carry different varieties of kefir. However, most commercial kefir products, including those sold at Trader Joe’s, are pasteurized.

Pasteurization is a process that involves heating the liquid to a specific temperature to kill off potentially harmful bacteria and extend the product’s shelf life. While pasteurization may affect some of the beneficial bacteria in the kefir, it also helps ensure the product’s safety for consumption.

Kefir Drinkable Yogurt
Production Fermented with kefir grains Fermented with specific yogurt cultures
Consistency Thinner, more liquid Thicker, but still drinkable
Taste Tart, slightly sour Milder, often sweetened
Probiotic Content More diverse and abundant probiotics Fewer strains and lower probiotic count
Fermentation Time Longer, typically 12-48 hours Shorter, usually around 6-12 hours

While kefir and drinkable yogurt share some similarities, they are distinct products with differences in production, texture, taste, and probiotic content. Kefir generally has a more diverse and abundant range of probiotics compared to drinkable yogurt.

Kefir typically contains a greater variety and higher concentration of probiotics than yogurt. Kefir is fermented using kefir grains, which have diverse beneficial bacteria and yeast species. As a result, kefir usually contains more strains of probiotics and a higher overall count of these beneficial microorganisms.

Conversely, yogurt is fermented with specific yogurt cultures, which usually include Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. Some yogurts may also have additional probiotic strains, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus or Bifidobacterium, but the overall diversity and concentration of probiotics in yogurt are generally lower than in kefir.


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