Kombucha is a fermented, lightly carbonated beverage found on health food store shelves — and even convenience store shelves — all over the world. To make kombucha, black or green tea are lightly sweetened and then fermented using a SCOBY, i.e. a mushroom-looking “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.” The exact origins of this bubbly beverage are unknown, but historically it has been known to be consumed by people in China, Russia, and Germany.
But, why is kombucha “good” for you? Why are wellness fanatics adding this drink to their daily beverage line up? While there isn’t too much scientific evidence to support every kombucha health claim just yet, studies suggest that kombucha consumption can reduce blood pressure, relieve arthritis pain, improve gut health, boost immunity and maybe even prevent against certain cancers.
Why is kombucha popular?
Kombucha, like other fermented foods (e.g. kimchi, yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut), is easy to make at home. After you get your hands on a healthy SCOBY, you simply brew black or green tea and sweeten it with raw sugar or honey, giving the SCOBY something to feed off of, transforming the tea into an acidic, lightly carbonated drink. You could compare the end result to an apple cider vinegar beverage or elixir.
Like with any at-home fermentation project, you must pay close attention to the look and smell of your kombucha beverage. If you ferment it for too long or don’t use sterile containers and utensils, you can compromise the bacteria or acidity levels, which in turn can lead to health issues when consumed.
In addition to being easy to brew at home, kombucha is super easy to buy at stores. Now sold commercially in a wide variety of flavors, kombucha is available at most health food stores, supermarkets, and convenience stores. In major cities, you might even find kombucha on gas station market shelves.
What are the benefits of kombucha?
Kombucha has a few health benefits. Some include:
- Gut health: During the kombucha fermentation process probiotic bacteria are produced. Probiotics are known to help improve digestion, reduce inflammation and even aid in weight loss.
- Antibacterial properties: Some bacteria are good for the body and some bacteria are bad for it. The black or green tea in kombucha has potent antibacterial properties, helping your body fight against harmful, infection-causing bacteria.
- Antioxidants: When brewed with green tea, kombucha has powerful antioxidant properties that help detoxify the liver. Black tea also contains some antioxidants which become enhanced during the fermentation process.
- Cardiovascular health: Green tea is the magic ingredient in many kombucha recipes. This variety of tea is known to improve LDL and HDL cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart disease.
- Diabetes: While some commercial kombucha beverages have added sugar, the kind brewed at home — or ones without post-brew added sweeteners — can help manage the symptoms of diabetes. This is due to the antioxidant content and its effect on the liver and kidney functions.
- Liver health: Let’s talk a bit more about the liver. The liver’s primary function is to filter the blood coming from the digestive tract before it enters the body again. It also detoxifies chemicals and metabolizes drugs like acetaminophen. The antioxidants in kombucha may not only help protect the liver from oxidative stress but also any damage caused by the intake of too much acetaminophen.
So, is kombucha good for you? The short answer is: Yes, but the jury is still out on just how good. Not ready to brew your own — or buy — kombucha? Add fermented foods to your diet with our Sauerkraut & Leek Pizza, Orange Salmon with Sauerkraut or Sauerkraut, Couscous, and Egg Bowl recipes.