Kombucha is a fermented tea that has been consumed for thousands of years. Originally found in China and Japan, kombucha offers the same health benefits of tea with the addition of probiotics and antioxidants. Many health experts believe that this fizzy beverage may help treat all sorts of chronic health problems.
How it’s made
Kombucha is produced by the fermentation of tea and sugar, as well as bacteria and yeasts that form a fungus. Black tea and white sugar seem to brew best, but green tea is also used. Yeasts are simple fungi that are one cell in size and kombucha yeasts in particular will bud rather than scatter spores to reproduce. Essentially, the yeast and bacteria eat up the sugar and grow into a Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast (SCOBY). The yeasts contain vitamins, minerals, sterols and proteins, and when they break down the sugar in kombucha; they leave behind ethanol, B vitamins, CO2 and acids.
First and foremost, kombucha is a rich source of probiotics. The fermentation process produces a large amount of probiotic bacteria that has been shown to improve digestion, reduce inflammation and aid in weight loss. Kombucha also provides the bioactive compound polyphenol (found in various teas) and functions as a powerful antioxidant in the body. Tea polyphenols may improve cholesterol levels and help with blood-sugar control. Additionally, kombucha kills the harmful bacteria in the body allowing for colonization of the “good bacteria.” One of the main substances produced during the fermentation of kombucha is acetic acid. Similar to the polyphenols found in tea, acetic acid is able to kill many potential harmful microorganisms suppressing the growth of undesirable bacteria and yeasts.
Kombucha can be an extremely beneficial addition to a balanced diet. While there are many potential health benefits, it is essential to remember that research is ongoing and not all benefits have been proven in studies with human participants. Experts suggest individuals with a healthy and resilient gut ecosystem to incorporate it one to two times a week. With a fizzy texture, variety of flavors and low sugar content, kombucha can also be a great substitute for soda drinkers. It is available at most natural food stores for $3-$5, and is now starting to be carried by most major grocers.
Written by GUADS intern Lindsey with contributions from healthline.com.