The kombucha has taken popular culture by storm, with people buying stacks of it at supermarkets. If you walk down a crowded street in a big city, you can probably spot 10 people with kombuchas in their hands within a span of 10 minutes.
But what is kombucha? Why are people going crazy over it? Does it really help you? Is it bad for you? How much of it can you drink? All these questions and more will be answered in this article as we give you all the basics of kombucha and its production, along with the health benefits and side effects.
What Is Kombucha
Kombucha is a drink made up of fermented green, black, or white tea, mixed with sugar. It is a key component of ancient Chinese medicine and has been around for a long time. Due to the fermentation of the kombucha through the use of a symbiotic culture known as scoby, which sort of resembles a mushroom, the drink starts to produce new compounds such as Vitamin B, probiotic enzymes, antioxidants, and cellulose.
All of these are great for your gut and your body in general. But, along with these healthy components, the fermentation also builds up small amounts of alcohol and other acidic components.
Health Benefits Of Drinking Kombucha
There are tons of people online and in real life who criticise kombucha and try to discredit its amazing health benefits, but a lot of these benefits have been scientifically proven to be true. For instance, a study conducted on mice in 2012 found that kombucha helps the gut microbiota in mice that have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. This is just one of many scientific pieces of research conducted on kombucha that cement its health benefits. Here are a few other benefits of kombucha:
- Rich Source of Probiotics – Since kombucha is fermented through the use of a scoby or ‘mother’, they produce acetic acid and other acidic compounds, along with alcohol, making the drink carbonated. Along with this, there is also a large amount of probiotic bacteria that is created during the process of fermentation.
Probiotics are ‘good’ bacteria and make your gut healthier, along with improving many different aspects of your health including digestion, inflammation, and weight loss.
- Contains antioxidants, vitamins and minerals – Kombucha is high in antioxidants (polyphenols), that are known for decreasing inflammation, the root cause of many chronic diseases. It also contains small amount of B group vitamins, minerals and organic acids, that fight against bad bacteria.
- Provides the benefits of Green Tea – Green Tea contains a lot of benefits and beneficial compounds such as polyphenols, which are a powerful antioxidant. Other benefits of green tea include improved metabolism, lowered blood sugar, increased weight loss, etc. Green tea has also shown the capability to reduce the risk of prostate, breast, and colon cancer. Kombucha that is made from green tea contains all of these benefits since they contain the same plant compounds.
- May reduce risk of Heart Disease – A study published in 2015 showed that rats that consumed kombucha showed improvement in the two markers of heart disease, LDL and HDL cholesterol in as little as 30 days. Green tea drinkers have been found to have 31% less risk of having heart disease, and since a variety of kombucha is made from green tea, this benefit applies to the latter as well. Since heart disease is the leading cause of death all over the world, drinking kombucha can help keep your heart healthy and safe from disease.
Although kombucha has many incredible health benefits, such as the ones we mentioned above, if not made properly or stored in the wrong way, it can be harmful to your health. Here are a few of the health concerns related to kombucha, that are often mentioned by the health experts, and the reasons why they might be not as big as they sound:
- Sugar – Kombucha is made with sugar, and it logically raises concerns among those who lead a sugar-free lifestyle or have blood sugar level problems. Here, it is important to understand that the sugar is consumed by the culture, and the ready drink doesn’t have the same amount of sugar that you put during its preparation. To be precise, one glass of kombucha will contain app.roximately 2-6 grams of sugar (vs 13 grams in natural orange juice, for example). That said, people with high blood sugar levels or diabetes should avoid drinking processed kombuchas since manufacturers add a lot of sweetening ingredients to it.
In other words, sugar is a big concern in a store-bought kombucha, as it’s impossible to control the amount and the quality of sugar used during the manufacturing process. If you make kombucha at home, however, the type and amount of sugar can be reduced to its minimum, yet it will not compromise on the quality of your drink. At home, you can also use healthier alternatives to white sugar, like jaggery (evaporated cane juice).
- Alcohol – fermentation process of kombucha involves the breakdown of sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Normally the level of alcohol in kombucha doesn’t exceed 0.5%, as in case with any other fermented drink (including kefir etc.). It was reported that homemade kombucha can reach up to 3% of alcohol, mostly due to inappropriate storage and prolonged fermentation process.For this reason, it is often recommended to pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems to proceed with drinking kombucha with caution.
- Caffeine – Kombucha is made with tea, and hence the final drink has caffeine content as well, which can be of concern to people who choose not to consume caffeine. The amount of caffeine, however, is reduced during the fermentation process and is not the same as in the amount of tea used, coming up to not more than 10 mg per glass (vs 100 mg per glass of coffee).
While some health concerns are associated with kombucha, the health benefits of this ancient drink by far overweight its risks. Moreover, usually, they can be avoided by consuming properly prepared and stored homemade kombucha, when the high quality and healthier ingredients are used (green tea instead of black tea and jaggery instead of white sugar). Kombucha is an incredibly healthy drink that also tastes delicious, just don’t forget the golden rule for any kind of food and beverage, even the healthiest of all: moderation is key.