November 24, 2018

Fad or Fact: Are There Health Benefits to Drinking Kombucha?

General, Healthy Living, Nutrition

First things first, what is kombucha? It’s a slightly sweetened black or green tea that has been consumed for thousands of years. Kombucha tea has become a trendy drink in the natural health community, but does it really help as much as people think it does?

Origin and production process
Kombucha originated in China or Japan and is made by adding specific strains of bacteria, yeast and sugar to black or green tea. This mixture is then fermented for one week or possibly longer. The bacteria and yeast form a mushroom-like film on the liquid’s surface, resulting in kombucha’s nickname, “mushroom tea.” Kombucha is slightly carbonated because of the acetic acid and other compounds or gases produced in the fermentation process.

Possible health benefits
Kombucha has the same benefits as tea that may help your health: contains antioxidants, has less caffeine than coffee, may reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke and may boost your immune and digestive systems. Kombucha has a rich source of probiotics that can supply your gut with healthy bacteria to possibly improve digestion and promote weight loss. Not unique to kombucha, probiotics can help improve the health of your intestinal cells, which promotes a good gut microbiome. This benefit may fend off issues such as diarrhea and other digestive problems. Probiotics are usually found in fermented foods, which can reduce your risk of allergy and chronic disease, supplementing your immune function. And kombucha happens to be one of these fermented, probiotic-rich foods.

Potential risks
Many types of kombucha are unpasteurized and can upset your stomach. Several sources agree that there isn’t enough research to recommend kombucha as a true health remedy. When kombucha is pasteurized, the live, good probiotics are eliminated with the harmful bacteria. But pasteurized kombucha tea still contains organic acids such as gluconic, lactic and acetic acid that may be helpful in maintaining a healthy gut. Additionally, some types of kombucha have lots of added sugars. Look for ones with minimal added sugars if you want to try kombucha tea. 

The bottom line
Kombucha tea can be healthier than soda or other types of sugary juices, but there are multiple food sources that are rich in probiotics. If you want to try kombucha, make sure you purchase it from a reputable company. You can also brew kombucha yourself. Other foods that are high in probiotics and antioxidants are sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir and yogurt. Consuming nutrient-dense foods may improve immune health, skin, nails and hair.

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