“Coconut kefir is a fermented drink made from coconut water and kefir grains,” she says. Sara Mesilhy, MD, MRCP, gastroenterologist at ProbioticReviewGirl. “Traditional kefir is made from fermented cow’s milk and is not considered vegan, but there are a number of plant-based milk options such as coconut, almond and pea milk that can be used to create vegan-friendly kefir.”
Experts in this article
Perhaps even better, you can consume it in a variety of ways. “Its smooth texture and tangy flavor is similar to drinkable yogurt,” he says Avery Zenker, RD, registered dietitian and writer for EverFlex Fitness. “It can be enjoyed in similar ways to milk and yogurt, such as in a bowl of cereal, enjoyed in a smoothie, in ice cubes or just on its own.”
The health benefits of coconut kefir
The love that gastroenterologists and dietitians have for coconut kefir is all about probiotics, also known as “good bacteria,” according to Dr. Mesilhy. He says that probiotics “improve gut health and facilitate digestive processes by maintaining a balanced and healthy microbial environment in the digestive system.”
Additionally, Zenker says that a balanced gut microbiome “is related to many key elements of health, including digestion, mental health, higher energy levels, and a stronger immune system, to name a few.” You may have heard of these phrases about probiotic yogurts. It’s also a solid choice! Just note what intel Zenker shares: “Compared to yogurt, kefir tends to be a better source of probiotics in terms of variety and quantity of microbial species.”
But back to the many health benefits of coconut kefir. For starters, this drink can help build stronger bones and muscles, better cholesterol and blood sugar control, and has potential anti-inflammatory effects, according to Dr. Mesilhy.
It’s not just that. Zenker says coconut milk kefir is an excellent source of potassium and sometimes calcium, vitamin D, vitamin A and vitamin B12, depending on the brand. Dr. Mesilhy adds that it is rich in protein, vitamin B and sometimes calcium.
Which coconut kefir brands do experts endorse?
Speaking of coconut kefir brands, are there any that are better? Dr. “When choosing a brand of coconut kefir, try to choose one with a good source of probiotics,” she says. “Look for brands that say ‘live and active cultures’ on the label, as this indicates a higher probiotic content and potential health benefits.”
“When choosing a brand of coconut kefir, try to choose one with a good source of probiotics. Look for brands that say ‘live and active cultures’ on the label, as this indicates a higher probiotic content and potential health benefits.”
—Sara Mesilhy, MD, MRCP, gastroenterologist
Zenker says she’s not familiar with every brand out there, but she likes it Maison Riviera brand. “Their plain coconut milk kefir is rich in probiotics with 2 billion CFUs per serving, plus it’s dairy-free and vegan,” she explains. “Unlike some other coconut kefir varieties, their plain kefir has zero sugar and four grams of protein per serving.”
Fun fact: You can also make coconut kefir at home! All you need, says Zenker, is coconut milk and a kefir culture, similar to a sourdough starter or kombucha Scoby.
Just FYI… about coconut kefir health benefits and general expectations
There are some “best practices,” so to speak, when consuming coconut kefir. However, there is nothing to worry about. “Everyone’s gut microbiome is unique and may respond differently to probiotics,” says Zenker. “Some people may want to start slower with smaller amounts when introducing probiotic foods if they’re not used to it.” At the same time, he recommends consuming them frequently—a.k.a., every day—so you can get the full benefits.
At the end of the day, though, while coconut kefir is packed with health benefits, it’s not a cure-all. “Coconut kefir itself probably won’t heal your entire gut or solve all your health problems, but it can be a beneficial addition to your diet,” says Zenker. “For best results, regularly support your gut microbiome in other ways, including through a balanced diet, regular exercise, quality sleep and stress management.”