America’s latest bottled health-craze, Kombucha, has consumers reaching for a fizzy, sweet-and-sour drink made with black tea. Some fans genuinely enjoy the vinegar-like smell and fermented taste while others include this beverage in their diet for its many purported health benefits. The jury is still out; is kombucha really worth all of the hype? Your Food Coach explored the topic and is bringing you the facts.
So What’s The Story?
It is believed that Kombucha was first brewed in China nearly 2,000 years ago1. The drink became popular in Japan and Russia before spreading to Europe at the beginning of the 20th century. In recent years, US sales of bottled kombucha increased such that in 2016 big beverage business PepsiCo purchased kombucha maker KeVita for approximately $200 million dollars to get into the game2.
What IS Kombucha?
A kombucha culture is a combination of certain bacteria and yeast. The culture is added to a broth of sugared tea and left to ferment in a sterile environment for a period of up to 10 to 14 days at room temperature. The resulting liquid is strained and bottled for a secondary ferment lasting a few days3. Homebrewers must prepare with caution as the drink can grow harmful bacteria or mold. Experts recommend using proper hand sanitation and sterile glass, stainless steel or plastic containers to ensure safe brewing.
Is it Healthy?
Some health claims promoted by kombucha advocates include, but are not limited to, boosting energy and the immune system, weight loss, warding off high blood pressure, cancer and heart disease. These claims, though fantastic, are unsupported by reputable evidence-based research. Therefore, consumers should choose kombucha products based on taste preferences and not health claims.
One likely health benefit of kombucha is the presence of probiotics or “good bacteria”. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics4, probiotics help to enrich the community of microbes residing in the gut referred to as “gut flora”. A well-balanced gut flora can boost immunity and overall health, especially gastrointestinal health. If you are thinking about including more probiotics into your diet, choose fermented dairy foods including yogurt, kefir and aged cheese. Some examples of probiotic-rich non-dairy foods include kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, and cultured non-dairy yogurts
- Hamblin, James (8 December 2016). “Is Fermented Tea Making People Feel Enlightened Because of … Alcohol?”. The Atlantic. Retrieved 26 November 2017
- Esterl, Mike (23 November 2016). “Slow Start for Soda Industry’s Push to Cut Calories”. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 24 November 2016.
- Jayabalan, Rasu; Malbaša, Radomir V.; Lončar, Eva S.; Vitas, Jasmina S.; Sathishkumar, Muthuswamy (2014-06-21). “A Review on Kombucha Tea-Microbiology, Composition, Fermentation, Beneficial Effects, Toxicity, and Tea Fungus”. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety. 13(4): 538–550. doi:1111/1541-4337.12073. ISSN 1541-4337.
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Prebiotics and probiotics: Creating a healthier you. Updated February 27, 2018. Accessed November 24, 2018.
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