New in the Market: Kefir – The Greek Gods, Helios and Lifeway

by Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN on July 15, 2013 · 23 comments

Kefir_LineUp_Ph15_v1We love to try new foods. Some are great. Some don’t measure up and some become staples in our kitchen. See what you think. 

Each time you go to the supermarket you are seeing more brands of kefir in the dairy case. We all know about yogurt. Many of us have switched to the ever expanding Greek yogurt line, but know there is kefir, used and enjoyed for years in Europe. What is the difference between kefir and yogurt?

Both are cultured milk foods rich in protein, calcium, B vitamins and potassium. Unflavored they both are tart with a slightly sour flavor. When flavored they are sweeter and less tangy tasting. The prime difference is in consistency, kefir is thinner and normally used as a drink, and in the number of beneficial bacteria the product contains. Kefir almost always contains more strains of friendly bacteria (probiotics) than yogurt which normal only contains a few. Eating foods containing probiotics protects your immune system and digestive health and may protect against many serious health problems such as heart disease and colon cancer. Kefir is also much lower in lactose (milk sugar) than milk, so it is a good option for those with lactose intolerance.

Kefir can be used as a drink or over cereal or granola or blended into a smoothie. It can be substituted in any dish that calls for yogurt. We recently tried 3 brands.

The Greek Gods expanded its yogurt line to include drinkable lowfat kefir. It is available in 4 flavors – Plain, Vanilla Honey, Honey Strawberry, and Honey. Each is made with 12 types of probiotics. We tasted all four flavors.

  • Plain is tangy like traditional kefir. A 1 cup serving has 140 calories and 400 milligrams of calcium (40% of the daily recommendation).
  • Vanilla Honey is a milder, sweeter taste with no tangy aftertaste, a good choice for those that don’t like traditional kefir. A 1 cup serving has 220 calories and 400 milligrams of calcium.
  • Honey had a mild sweet honey flavor. A 1 cup serving has 230 calories and 400 milligrams of calcium.
  • Honey Strawberry was the sweetest but the strawberry flavor was mild and not overpowering or artificial. A 1 cup serving has 220 calories and 400 milligrams of calcium.

Our 3 year old taste-tester could not get enough of the flavored varieties. It is a good, healthy substitute for milk on occasion and a pleasant, filling snack for kids.

Helios-Kefir-Plain-300Helios Organic Nonfat Greek Kefir has recently been brought under the Lifeway Foods product line. It comes in Original, Plain, Vanilla, and 6 fruit flavors. Helios Kefir is made with 7 active cultures plus inulin, a plant-based fiber that promotes the health of your gut bacteria and enhances calcium absorption.

We tasted the Original flavor which is the same effervescent cultured milk beverage popular in Eastern Europe for thousands of years. Traditional kefir is slightly bubbly and may “splash” when opened if you shake the bottle. Other brands make a “flat” kefir drink that should be shaken before pouring. A 1-cup serving of Original Helios Kefir has 120 calories, 2 grams of fiber and 300 milligrams of calcium (one-third of the day’s requirement). The brand is kosher certified (cRc).

Lifeway produces an extensive line of kefir products. Its kefir beverages are all made with 10 active probiotics which provide 7 to 10 million CFUs (colony forming units) per cup. We tasted the Lowfat Plain variety which has 110 calories and 300 milligrams of calcium in a 1-cup serving. It had a tangy traditional kefir taste. The Lifeway kefir bottles explain that the beverage is slightly effervescent and a rounded or slightly bulging bottle can be expected.

Lifeway also makes a line of frozen cultured dairy treats. We were curious as to how the live probiotics stayed viable through the freezing process. The company said that heat destroys the cultures but freezing simply put them in to a dormant or sleeping state. Once eaten, the cultures become active again and provide all the health benefits of refrigerated cultured dairy foods.

Probugs-300Probugs Frozen Kefir are push-up dairy pops in kid-friendly flavors – Goo-Berry Pie, Orange Creamy Crawler and Strawnana Split. The come in a 6-pack of 3-ounce pops each having 70 calories and 100 milligrams of calcium — a good 99% lactose-free snack or dessert . Our official kid-tasters really enjoyed the samples we received.

Lifeway Frozen Kefir is sold in pints and is available in Original, Strawberry, Pomegranate, Mango, Pumpkin, Chocolate, and Dulce de Leche flavors. We tasted the Original which has a very pleasing sweet tangy taste with a less creamy mouthfeel than ice cream. A half cup serving has 90 calories, 5 grams of fat (0.5 are saturated) 5 milligrams of cholesterol and 150 milligrams of calcium.

To capitalize on the popularity of Greek yogurt, Lifeway has just introduced Greek Style Fro-Yo available in 3 flavors – Honey Swirl, Chocolate Swirl, and Blood Orange Swirl. We tasted Honey Swirl. It had a pleasant mild honey taste with none of the tang of frozen kefir. A half cup serving has 110 calories, 1 gram of fat (no saturated) 10 milligrams of cholesterol and 60 milligrams of calcium.

The Lifeway brand is kosher certified (cRc).

If you enjoy yogurt, kefir is a product you should try.

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Vern May 21, 2014 at 7:23 pm

The Greek Gods brand has so far been the best I have tried. I have froze up my kefir grains and will use this brand when I can find it


L E Williams July 14, 2014 at 10:39 am

It is the best I’ve ever tasted also, so of course our local supermarket stopped carrying it


Margaret McCaffrey June 20, 2014 at 10:59 am

I have a question: Does your Vanilla Honey Kefir have pieces of vanilla bean in it?
A friend of mine purchased some Vanilla Honey Kefir and it didn’t have an
expiration date on the bottle. She drank a glass and said it tasted pretty good,
but poured it into another container, because she was concerned about the expiration date. She saw something black about the size of the tip of your finger and thought it was mold, so she threw it out. She told me what happend and I wondered if it has whole vanilla beans in the kefir? Thank you for your time, I look forward to hearing from you. Margaret McCaffrey


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G.W. Griffin July 23, 2015 at 8:57 pm

Where can I get Greek Gods Honey Vanilla Kiefer?? Area code 92336


Barbara J Cassell August 19, 2015 at 5:36 pm

Hello I am trying to find where to purchase Greek Gods Keifer in Honey Vanilla flavor. I live near Kokomo IN, Marion IN Peru IN and 50 miles of Carmel IN and Indianapolis IN. I discovered the Keifer while in Hixson TN at Publics Grocery.

Thanking you in advance.

Barbara Cassell


Pia March 26, 2016 at 11:21 am

All I can say is that it he Greek gods honey vanilla is a great product but I think because its high in calories people don’t by it, it’s a shame I’ve tired all others and don’t care for the tang that they have also gerek gods is lactose free which is even better. I have to take a lot of medication and it goes well not to interfere and I feel I get a better and less gastric upset. I called Hain directly and they say there’s no problem in manufacturing and its up to the vender.

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Martin January 6, 2017 at 1:00 pm

I am at a loss to understand why they feel the need to add cane sugar and brown cane sugar to their Kiefer with honey. I’m thinking it’s because the sugar is cheaper than honey but they have to put a little honey in so they won’t get caught at false advertising? They should’ve just left it with honey. Suddenly I have lost my interest in this product.


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