Fermented milk drinks are a great source of nutrients and probiotics (i.e. live beneficial bacteria). They have been associated with numerous health benefits, including gut health.
Fermented milk drinks
People started fermenting milk to extend its shelf life. Later, they discovered that fermentation also made milk safer to consume, more digestible and healthier (1).
Types of fermented milk drinks
Fermented milk drinks available in Australia include:
Kefir is a drink made from milk which is fermented by a mixture of bacteria (both lactic and acetic acid) and yeast. The chemical composition of kefir depends on several variables, including the type of milk used to produce it. Common substrates include cow, goat, camel and buffalo milk. The fermentation process yields an acidic beverage that can have a small amount of alcohol (2).
Milk alternatives can be made from legumes, seeds, nuts, cereals and pseudo-cereals (3). Common examples include soy, almond, coconut and rice.
Filmjölk is a Swedish product made with cow’s milk which is fermented by mesophilic (i.e. those that like moderate temperatures) lactic acid bacteria (4).
Fermented dairy drinks are a source of protein, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, bioactive peptides and living microorganisms (probiotics) (1).
Kefir is a source of vitamins B1, B2, B5 and C, minerals (such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, iron, zinc and copper), essential amino acids and casein (2).
The nutritional composition of non-dairy kefir depends on the main ingredient. Most of them have lower levels of certain nutrients than dairy milk, including protein, vitamin D and vitamin B12. In addition, plant-based protein and other nutrients are less bioavailable than those present in dairy milk. Moreover, plants can contain anti-nutrients that bind to minerals, reducing their bioavailability. Some of these issues can be overcome by fermentation (3).
The consumption of fermented dairy foods has been linked to weight management and the reduction on the risk of cardiovascular, metabolic, immune and cognitive health issues (1, 3, 4, 5, 6).
Fermented products may also modulate immune responses and have an impact on the composition and function of the gut microbiome (1, 5, 6).
In vitro and animal studies have found that fermented dairy products can have anticancer, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties (3, 4, 5, 6).
Australian fermented milk drinks
- Rokeby Farms probiotic milk: This is a filmjölk-style product with over 50+ billion cultures per serve. Comes in natural and blueberry flavours. More info: rokebyfarms.com.au
- Babushka’s Kefir: Locally produced in Australia with ABC cultures (Acidophilus, bifido and
casei) and prebiotic inulin fibre. Ranges include: kefir yoghurts, smoothies and frozen kefir yoghurts. More info: babushkaskefir.com.au
- The Collective Dairy: This company, funded in New Zealand, offers yoghurt, kids yoghurt and kefir. More info: thecollectivedairy.com
- The Culture Co: This company offers kefir with over 1 billion probiotics (B. Lactis) per serve. More info: thecultureco.com.au
- Green St Kitchen: This company, which also makes awesome fermented vegetables, offers a vegan probiotic coconut kefir. More info: www.greenstkitchen.com
- Gonzalez S, Fernandez-Navarro T, Arboleya S, de Los Reyes-Gavilan CG, Salazar N, Gueimonde M. Fermented Dairy Foods: Impact on Intestinal Microbiota and Health-Linked Biomarkers. Frontiers in microbiology. 2019;10:1046
- Farag MA, Jomaa SA, El-Wahed AA, El-Seedi AHR. The Many Faces of Kefir Fermented Dairy Products: Quality Characteristics, Flavour Chemistry, Nutritional Value, Health Benefits, and Safety. Nutrients. 2020;12(2).
- Tangyu M, Muller J, Bolten CJ, Wittmann C. Fermentation of plant-based milk alternatives for improved flavour and nutritional value. Applied microbiology and biotechnology. 2019;103(23-24):9263-75.
- Ghosh T, Beniwal A, Semwal A, Navani NK. Mechanistic Insights Into Probiotic Properties of Lactic Acid Bacteria Associated With Ethnic Fermented Dairy Products. Frontiers in microbiology. 2019;10:502.
- Maldonado Galdeano C, Cazorla SI, Lemme Dumit JM, Velez E, Perdigon G. Beneficial Effects of Probiotic Consumption on the Immune System. Ann Nutr Metab. 2019;74(2):115-24.
- Slattery C, Cotter PD, O’Toole PW. Analysis of Health Benefits Conferred by Lactobacillus Species from Kefir. Nutrients. 2019;11(6).