Kombucha, pronounced KOM-boo-CHA: this fizzy, vinegary-smelling, tea is all the craze in the craft beverage market these days. This tea has been brewing for centuries, but it has recently become the main squeeze for some people after the claimed health benefits.
Kombucha is a traditional fermented drink made of black tea and sugar. It contains a variety of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes, and has been prized by traditional cultures for its health-promoting properties.
More specifically, Kombucha is a sweetened tea that is fermented with a SCOBY (a Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast) to become a nutrient-rich beverage. The SCOBY consumes over 90% of the sugar during fermentation, resulting in a low-sugar finished product. This process is similar to what would happen in sourdough bread or milk/water kefir.
The SCOBY’s job is to turn this sweet tea into a probiotic beverage enjoyable at any time of day. Essentially, it is a living colony of beneficial organisms that turn sugar into healthful acids and probiotics.
(In case you forgot, Probiotics are the good bacteria that help keep your digestive system happy and healthy.)
Now how about the taste?
This fermented tea has a slightly sweet and slightly tangy flavor, reminiscent of a shrub or vinegar based drink. The flavor varies widely by brand and home brew method. Finished kombucha tea can also be flavored by adding juices, fresh fruit or herbs. (Mmmm…ginger berry!)
Okay, so why should I drink it?
Kombucha may help the body function well by supporting:
- Increased energy
- Better digestion
- Improved mood (helps with anxiety/depression)
- May be beneficial for weight loss
- Improved immune system
Improved Digestion — Since kombucha is an unpasteurized beverage, it is considered “raw” or “living.” Perhaps you’ve heard about the benefits of adding raw foods to your diet. One of the reasons raw foods are so beneficial to health is because they contain enzymes that help us digest the foods that we eat.
More Nutritious Alternative to Soda —Kombucha is a great alternative to sugar-laden drinks like soda. It is naturally carbonated, unlike sodas, which force carbonation into the liquid. Kombucha contains less sugar, the sugar in the recipe is simply the food for the beneficial bacteria and is largely consumed during the fermentation process. (a.k.a. The SCOBY eats most of the sugar so you don’t have to!)
Where do I get it?
Kombucha, which can be found on the shelves of nearly every health food store, comes in various delicious flavors averaging $3-$5 per bottle. A less expensive way to drink kombucha regularly is by making your own at home. This allows you to flavor your tea directly to your liking! (No coconut flavors for this girl!)
While kombucha health benefits are certainly becoming better known, there are a few cautions to be aware of.
Kombucha Risks and Cautions
- Kombucha contains alcohol, averaging to .5% to 1.0% alcohol, meaning you would have to drink an entire six pack of kombucha to approach the alcohol level in a 12oz can of beer. (That would be a stomach full of bubbles.) Anything over .5% at a store requires an ID to be purchased.
- Pregnant and nursing moms and anyone with a medical condition should check with a doctor before consuming. It contains both caffeine and sugar, which should be limited during pregnancy.
- Some people experience bloating from drinking it. Anyone with a digestive disorder should consult a doctor before consuming.
- When made incorrectly, it may contain harmful bacteria and could be dangerous. This is rare but is more common with home brews.
- Since it is high in natural acids (but still lower than most sodas) it can be harmful to the teeth. (Drink it in one sitting vs. sipping throughout the day)
Important Note: Kombucha is not a solution to any health issue, it is simply a supplementary addition to a healthy nutrition plan. Kombucha is not to be drunk as a magical cure, if you can’t stand the taste there are other ways to obtain those probiotics. And for all of my Kombucha loving and drinking friends, cheers!
Written by Kailyn Danhouser, EP-C; Personal Trainer at Elite Sports Club – River Glen & North Shore
Kailyn graduated from the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse with a B.S. in Exercise and Sports Science. She is an American College of Sports Medicine: Certified Exercise Physiologist (EP-C), AAAI/ISMA: Certified Pilates Instructor, and Certified Diabetes Prevention Lifestyle Coach. Kailyn specializes in Functional Training, Group training, Special Populations, Weight Management, and HIIT. “I want to inspire people to find exercises that they enjoy doing every day. There are many opportunities all around us to move our bodies, we have to look for them. The exercises you do are better than the ones you don’t do.”