There is a good chance you have seen someone drinking kombucha after a yoga class (back in the old days) or went by a colorful display of fermented drinks at Whole Foods and you were a little curious; not only for its taste, but also for how the hell it is pronounced. Kombucha-shqiptoi kuhm-boo-chuh-is rated originated in China centuries ago, before gaining popularity in the United States in the 1980s.
This carbonated beverage has had a resurgence in the world of health and well-being, with home-made beverage and cooking equipment sold at leading food retailers across the country. So, what exactly it’s kombucha, and is it really as healthy as they say? Here is what the experts say.
What is kombucha?
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, kombucha starts with roasted tea and sugar, which is fermented thanks to the introduction of a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) from previous herds. It is then left for about a week at room temperature for the fermentation process to take place.
“Kombucha is basically fermented sweet black tea,” he explains Dr. Katie Takayasu, MD, an integrative medicine physician and author of Herbs First: A Physician’s Guide to Optimizing Health with an Advanced Plant Diet, professionally known as Dr. Katie. “It has a slightly sweet, slightly aftertaste flavor. Kombucha has a sediment in it, called SCOBY, formed after completing a unique fermentation process of bacteria and yeast.”
Because kombucha is fermented, however there is a small amount of alcohol Kombucha Brewers International explains that, if not noticed, has 0.4 percent or less – often only small amounts – of alcohol and if the content is higher, labeled for consumption by people 21 and older.
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What are the benefits of drinking kombucha?
As with other fermented foods, there are intestinal health benefits that you will get from drinking kombucha; concretely, improved digestion may be the result. “The good little probiotics in kombucha help support your microbiota – the tens of trillions of tiny bacteria that live in your gut – which do everything from aid in digestion to the creation of neurotransmitters in the brain,” notes Dr. Takayasu.
If you are looking for a way to add probiotics to your diet, Dr. Takayasu notes that kombucha is an easy way to do this. It should be noted, however, since 2018, a comprehensive review of documents and judgments was found limited research and kombucha results regarding humans, leading researchers to conclude that more human clinical trials are needed to confirm the health benefits.
Are there any foods that offer the same intestinal health benefits as kombucha?
If you are looking to include foods that are similar to kombucha, other fermented foods will do. Andrea Davidson, CHHC, plant-based nutritionist and holistic health trainer and founder of A happier health, specifically marks sauerkraut, yogurt and tofu as foods that will offer similar digestive benefits.
Of course, the gut bacteria created by fermented foods need to be fed. “These good bacteria feed on fiber-rich foods from plants, such as onions, garlic, artichokes, chocolate (Jerusalem artichokes) and asparagus, but they also love all vegetables and whole grains, nuts and seeds,” notes Dr. Katie.
This can be difficult for your gut and Dr. Katie adds that fermented foods will not fit well in everyone’s stomach. If you have a upset stomach from kombucha and other fermented foods, it is recommended to see a doctor because you may have what is known as dysbiosis.
“If you have dysbiosis — when you have a lot of bad bacteria — eating foods rich in probiotics is often like a lighter liquid in an already blazing fire,” says Dr. Katie.
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Can you drink kombucha every day?
You can drink kombucha every day, but as with most things, moderation is recommended. This is partly due to the high sugar content found in many kombucha. Davidson actually notes that excess sugar can be a counter to kombucha drinking (excessive calorie intake is another). There are several ways to catch sugar levels, however, and Davidson says you can look for low-sugar kombucha or dilute it with sparkling water, instead of drinking it instead of water or other beverages.
“I suggest about 1/2 to 1 cup at most to avoid stomach upset and keep your sugar intake low,” Dr. Takayasu. “It makes a great alternative to alcohol at a meal if you are trying to adopt a healthier lifestyle but want something other than water.”
Can you make kombucha at home?
Kombucha can be made at home and you can actually buy home preparation kits for kombucha. In fact, Davidson discovers that she has made kombucha -in her; after cooking, you can use some of the freshly fermented pancakes to make a new batch, due to the SCOBY that is developing. “A very simple recipe includes black tea, the combination and cane sugar,” Davidson explains.
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Is kombucha good for you?
The bottom line is this: There are intestinal health benefits from kombucha, but you should consume it in moderation due to excess sugar. But how much is it? Dr. Katie has a simple guide to use when reading kombucha labels.
“Kombucha can be a really healthy addition to your diet, but it needs to be done carefully,” concludes Dr. Katie. “A big warning is looking at the sugar content on the food label. I highly recommend staying with kombucha that has about 6 grams or less for an 8-ounce serving.”
Next, try one of these 12 kombucha recipes to make your own at home.