After a long period of researching and weighing the pros and cons, you’ve finally tried kombucha? It tastes surprisingly great, doesn’t it?
If you are interested to find out more about this unique drink that has taken the world by storm, read on. We will go through some basics which you might have missed in your initial research, and cover some lesser-known facts that will make you a true kombucha connoisseur.
How Is Kombucha Made?
As you already know, kombucha is a sweetened and fermented drink made with green or black tea. But how is this unique drink prepared?
The guys from Brew Dr. made an excellent in-depth guide about the process they use to make kombucha. But to summarize, kombucha is made when tea leaves are brewed, sweetened, and primed with a combination of bacteria and yeast called SCOBY.
SCOBY, not SCOOBY is an abbreviation for a “symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast.” Yea, not quite the same as a friendly dog that solves crimes with the gang. Anyway, this live bacteria is the base for the fermentation process, which lasts anywhere from one to two weeks.
This fermenting is what is responsible for the unique sweet and sour taste of kombucha, but also the increased acidity of the drink. Drinking these newly created compounds can improve your health, extending on benefits already proven for green and black tea.
One of the first things you learn about Kombucha is its digestion benefits. Since it is rich in probiotics, it can help restore good bacteria in your gut, which makes it an excellent natural supplement after a long period of taking antibiotics. Many other benefits are being researched, and include everything from increased weight loss to cancer prevention.
Can it really do so much? Let’s go through some of these health claims, to see whether they are true or just a biased marketing fad.
Can Kombucha Help With Weight Loss?
If you’re drinking kombucha made with green tea, you may experience some well-known benefits of green tea itself, Healthline suggests. Green tea is considered to be one of the healthiest drinks in the world because it contains helpful antioxidants.
Several studies have shown that people who drink green tea on a daily basis burn more calories than those who don’t, whilst following the same diet and exercise regimens. Green tea can also balance your blood sugar levels and lower cholesterol levels.
Although more research on kombucha alone is necessary, it is reasonable to assume it will have a positive effect on your weight loss if it’s made with green tea.
Drinking Kombucha can also help you cut back on soda and other sugary drinks, which are one of the largest sources of added sugar in a standard diet, especially in the US.
Although it does contain some sugar, it’s a significantly lower amount than in popular carbonated drinks and sweetened teas. That makes it a good alternative when you want to drink something sweet, and just this small change can have a huge impact on your healthy eating habits. Or as Wendy Bazilian, RD said to Health:
“Kombucha feels like a fun treat, which can make other healthy habits feel fun too!”
Can Kombucha Fight Infections?
Kombucha has antibacterial properties and can prevent or fight infections.
Some of the main compounds in kombucha are acetic acid and tea polyphenols, both able to kill and suppress the growth of harmful bacteria. Kombucha can be particularly helpful for Candida yeasts and strains of bacteria which cause infections.
And as a convert, you likely know the antioxidants in kombucha help to fight free radicals which can damage cells. As an added bonus, folic acid and B-vitamins in kombucha can also help the body restore damaged and maintain new cells, further improving its effect on our immunity and health.
Are There Any Side Effects Of Kombucha?
Kombucha is safe and beneficial for most people. However, it can cause side effects in some.
When taken in large amounts, it can cause reactions like nausea, headache, or GI distress. In the interview for Health, Dr. Bazilian also argued that drinking too much kombucha can cause “a build-up of lactic acid in the bloodstream that can be life-threatening.” Allergies are also possible, asserts WebMD, so a quick test before you start enjoying this drink daily would be a good idea.
Nothing is good when taken in excess, and many reported side effects are a result of drinking too much kombucha. Many bottled kombucha products contain more than the daily recommended serving which The Center for Disease Control estimated to 12 ounces or up to 2 cups.
Certain people should avoid kombucha altogether. The registered clinical dietitian Jessica Kotlowitz said to Daily Maverick: “There have been some reports of foodborne illness caused by kombucha consumption and since kombucha is not pasteurized, the possibility of contamination with bad bacteria always exists. For this reason, kombucha is not recommended for people who are immune-compromised, pregnant women, young children, or the elderly.”
WebMD also advises you to stop drinking Kombucha if you have a surgery scheduled, as it can blood glucose control during and after surgery.
Due to its alcohol content, kombucha is also not recommended to those treated for alcohol dependency.
It’s important to know the side effects of anything that you plan to consume regularly, but it shouldn’t discourage you. If you follow the daily dose recommendations and don’t fall into one of the above categories you can safely enjoy this one-of-a-kind drink every day.
And What Are The Myths?
Kombucha has caused so many skepticism and discussions that it falls under the controversial category of healthy nutrition. This confusion was caused by mainstream content creators, who have taken the studies conducted on the drink, and exaggerated the benefits.
Among the health claims which have no backing in science WebMD listed its effects on memory loss, PMS, joint pain, aging, hair growth, cancer, increased white cell counts, and arthritis. These benefits have not yet been tested nor proven by science.
Kombucha isn’t a miracle drink and doesn’t have all the answers. Nevertheless, it has been used for thousands of years and it can be beneficial for your health, as long as you’re buying from a trusted source and keep your consummation below the daily recommended levels.
Does Kombucha Contain Alcohol?
All kombucha drinks contain alcohol, due to the fermentation process. However, the exact amount of ethanol greatly varies in different drinks, depending on the sugar amount and the length of the fermentation period.
If a kombucha product is marketed as non-alcoholic, that simply means it has less than 0.5 percent alcohol per volume, as mandated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
This alcohol content is measured before packaging and can increase over time if products aren’t stored correctly, reports the New York Times.
Though these alcohol levels won’t have an effect on most people, those looking to avoid alcohol should consider a different alternative.
What Are The Best Kombucha Brands?
Always research a kombucha product before purchasing it. There are many great brands available on the market today, and you want to be sure you’re buying from a trusted source.
If you’re trying to lower your sugar intake, try to avoid brands high in added sugar or pick those which use substitutes such as stevia. In her interview for Women’s Health, dietitian Stephanie Clarke, RD, mentioned some of the brands that she would recommend because they’re low in sugar, made with organic ingredients, and taste great. Among her picks is the popular organic brand Health-Ade which comes in 16 flavors including the bestselling Ginger-Lemon. Health-Ade is also the favorite pick of the guys at Nutritious Life, as it has the least amount of sugar among all popular brands (only 7 g per 8 fl oz.)
Clarke also loves Uplift Caffeinated by Brew Dr. as it gives a caffeine kick in the morning, while her long-time favorite is still Multi-Green by Gt’s. GT’s is a trusted brand with more than 20 years of experience in creating healthy drinks, and their kombucha blend also contains Blue-Green Algae, Spirulina, and Chlorella. Kevita is another brand frequently mentioned among the best-of-the-best, and April Benshosan from Eat This, Not That! raves about their Blueberry Basil flavor.
Which Brands Should You Avoid?
The ISSA certified specialist in fitness nutrition Ted Kallmyer talked about kombucha on this blog Healthy Eater. He compared all major kombucha brands and advises us to avoid Kombucha Wonder Drink because it has whopping 28 grams of sugar per serving and is pasteurized, therefore it has no probiotic benefits. Their RAW version is much better though, he said. Unity Vibration is another brand Kallmyer says to think twice before purchasing, because it’s high in sugar but also in alcohol - it’s way above the .5% limit.
Not all kombucha products are made equal, and not all of them are good. Nevertheless, as long as you read the labels and go with an already tried-and-tested option, you will make a good and safe choice.
Should You Make Kombucha At Home?
There are now many recipes available online to make kombucha at home. Yes, you can make it at home, and it can be even better than store-bought.
However, it’s not recommended to novices because it’s a specific process and many things can go wrong. Your kombucha could get contaminated or over-fermented which increases its alcohol content, but can also cause severe health problems. Lead toxicity could also happen if you’re fermenting your kombucha in clay or other porous containers.
If you’re a newbie, it would be best to stay safe and purchase a certified kombucha in store.
However, if you’ve already taken the plunge to add kombucha to your daily diet and want to make your own, just make sure you find a trusted guide and pay attention to all instructions. Life Hacker has made a great guide about making kombucha safely at home, where they stress the importance of sanitary conditions. The writer and kombucha enthusiast Emma Christensen wrote down the step-by-step guide she uses to make kombucha on The Kitchn and shared some tips on where to get your supplies. Finally, the Brew Your Bucha blog covers everything from recipes to kombucha quizzes, and they also offer convenient starter kits in their shop.
If you do decide to make kombucha at home it would be best to start with small doses to minimize the risk, acknowledged the certified nutrition coach Esther Avant for Insider.
If purchased responsibly and taken properly, kombucha can become a great addition to your daily diet. Hopefully, new studies in the next few years will give us more insights and solidify health claims about its health benefits.
What we do know, though, is that kombucha is a great alternative to sodas and sugary drinks, and it can aid our weight loss journey and gut health.
There are good and bad kombucha brands, and there are safe ways to make your own. Always read the labels (or follow instructions carefully if brewing at home), and this famous fermented drink could soon turn out to be one of the best decisions you made on your healthy eating journey.