Have you ever tried a bottle of kombucha before? It is definitely quite the contentious drink: you either absolutely love it or hate it with a passion. If you haven’t experienced the magic that is kombucha, here is a quick run-down of what you could expect. Its fizzy texture and slightly sour taste combine to create a unique experience, unlike any drink you have ever indulged in before. To put it plainly, it is a drink made from fermented tea.
The kombucha girl’s reaction may perfectly sum up your own experience trying this drink for the first time. You may be turned off after the first taste but for some reason you can’t resist going in for that second sip. That is exactly how we felt! No matter how hard you try, you most likely won’t be able to stay away from the mysterious allure of kombucha.
However, this may work out perfectly for your health in the end! Not only does it provide an interesting flavor, but the health benefits of kombucha are endless. From a plethora of probiotics to bacteria killing superpowers, a cool glass of this bubbly tea will aid your body in a variety of ways.
So, What is Kombucha?
This ancient fermented drink has its roots all the way back in history, and the health benefits of kombucha have been praised since then as well. The records tell that it most likely originated in 220 B.C. in Northeast China and was used for medicinal purposes. This magical drink reappeared a little later when Dr. Kombu from Korea reportedly gave the emperor of Japan some kombucha as a medical remedy. In fact, this exchange is thought to have laid the foundation for the drink’s name! (1)
Let’s now take a deep dive into what constitutes this ancient elixir that has stood the test of time. There are four major ingredients that make up a bottle of kombucha:
- Green or Black tea
These four ingredients interact over time and create the unique taste that kombucha is known for.
If you ever notice some separation in your bottle of kombucha, that is actually the healthy yeast and bacteria! These little bits settled on the bottom are known as SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast). Here is where you find all the good stuff in a bottle of kombucha. We know that the scoby does not look all that appetizing because it’s essentially a slimy, gelatinous disc; however, its role in the creation of kombucha is absolutely fundamental. You don’t have to worry about the scoby anyway while drinking, since it gets taken out at the end! A disc of scoby is added to the sweetened bottle of tea and left to ferment over the course of a couple of weeks. (2) It is a crucial ingredient because healthy bacteria could not grow without it. Once the concoction is complete, you will be left with a bubbly refreshing drink that is slightly sweet.
Is Kombucha Alcoholic?
Another small detail you might have noticed while browsing the bottles of kombucha at your local market may be the small alcohol content warning. Turns out that due to the natural fermentation process, a small amount of alcohol resides amongst all the health benefits of kombucha and will always be present in the tea. However, most brands are labeled as non-alcoholic because they contain 0.5% alcohol content or less. There will be a few brands that have more alcohol as well, though those will require ID upon purchase. As a warning, home-brewed kombucha is also more likely to contain a higher alcohol content as well.
Because of this slight alcohol content, it is recommended that pregnant women and those breastfeeding avoid consuming kombucha. The drink also has some caffeine as well, due to the tea leaves, creating another reason for pregnant individuals to avoid it.
How is Kombucha Good for You?
Like with any other fermented goodies, kombucha provides your body with a bounty of benefits. You have probably heard the praise for kefir and greek yogurt’s large amounts of probiotics. Well you can apply those same cheers to kombucha as well! The process that makes the drink a fizzy delight also packs in everything that makes a healthy elixir that can do wonders for your body.
In fact, kombucha is considered a functional food, meaning it provides additional benefits to your body besides nutrition. Quite amazing for just a fizzy tea drink!
You want to indulge in drinks that not only taste amazing but are also healthy for you mind and body, right? Well, let’s dive into the health benefits of kombucha and discover why this drink may be your answer!
The Health Benefits of Kombucha
One of the major pluses of occasionally drinking some kombucha is that it may improve your gut health. When the bacteria and yeast ferment, the tea becomes loaded with probiotics. These colonies of super-helpful microorganisms live in your stomach and intestines. They help keep your digestive system in tip-top shape by giving a boost to your gut microbiome. Kombucha also contains some amounts of lactic acid, which can have a similar effect as probiotics. When you have a healthy gut microbiome, your body will feel much happier. While most tests have been focused on animals, there is strong evidence linking probiotics to a healthy gut. Therefore, more testing is needed to solidify kombucha’s relationship with our digestive system.
Kombucha is also thought to help prevent heart disease, the number one cause of death in America. Animal studies show that kombucha has the capability to remove bad LDL cholesterol in the blood and help increase the “good” HDL cholesterol levels. Once again, more tests are needed to confirm that these findings apply to humans, but it can’t help to occasionally sip on a bit of kombucha anyway. It is even better to choose a green tea kombucha, as green tea has been proven to reduce heart disease. If you want to learn more about heart health, check out our other article about the best foods you can eat for your heart.
Taking care of your mental health should always be of utmost importance, especially since the start of the pandemic and all the additional stressors this unfortunate time has brought. Without a healthy mindset, your body will be off balance, and you will be left feeling under the weather. Luckily, kombucha’s benefits are not just restricted to the body, but they can help out your mind as well! Enjoying some kombucha may help stabilize and improve your mental health! 95% of your serotonin is produced in your gut. Serotonin is a chemical that helps regulate your happiness and can stabilize your mood. Remember how we established that drinking kombucha can possibly lead to a happy and healthy gut? Well when your digestive system is in good shape, you will be less susceptible to poor mood. There has even been some recent research in 2017, finding that a good gut can help reduce incidences of depression. However, more research is needed to directly link kombucha with these benefits. Depression is also linked with inflammation.
Kombucha also contains powerful anti-inflammatory properties, showcasing another way this tea can improve your overall mental health.
Tea Plays a Big Role Too
Not only does the fermentation process cause a lot of health benefits to bubble up, but the tea that makes up the base of the kombucha can add to this list. I am sure you already know that tea is super great for your body, but let’s quickly go over the benefits of the two most used teas in kombucha brews: green and black tea.
- Green Tea: This tea blend is considered one of the healthiest drinks on the planet due to its bioactive ingredient, polyphenols. These act as antioxidants within the body, helping you fight off any illness that may come way your way. (3) You will actually be able to find some of these same ingredients within Kombucha, showing how the tea’s benefits carry through to the fizzy drink!
- Black Tea: This tea also contains the same antioxidant ingredients as green tea. Black tea also can help promote focus, may boost your heart health as well, and can possibly lower bad LDL cholesterol levels. (4)
These positive effects only build off of the health benefits of kombucha mentioned earlier, creating a super powerful drink that can heal.
Making Your Own Kombucha
If you are looking to take the plunge and make your own kombucha, luckily there are tons of tutorials available. You can actually create everything on your own, even the SCOBY. Though the process will be slow, we’re talking multiple weeks, your homemade kombucha will be worth it! You will have the ability to customize your drink to suit your tastes exactly. Adding additional fruits or ginger root into your jars is a great way to incorporate some extra flavors into your teas and some extra healing boosts.
The longer you let your kombucha sit and ferment, the bolder the flavor will be. If you are looking for a tame drink, then you will not want to leave it sitting for a while.
However, when brewing your own kombucha, it is especially important to pay close attention to the scoby. A scoby in good shape will help prevent your kombucha from getting any bad bacteria. (5) Though it may take some practice, you will eventually be making your own brews with ease in no time and reveling in all of the health benefits of kombucha.
As a warning, overly-fermented kombucha may cause serious health effects if ingested. You will be able to tell if your kombucha has been sitting too long by its smell. A batch of kombucha gone bad will emit a strong, rather than slight, vinegar aroma.
What You Should Expect
Kombucha over the years has risen in popularity, and it is not for no reason. What started out as a novelty drink in a few health food grocers, has become present in almost every store imaginable. It provides amazing taste coupled with a ton of health benefits. Who wouldn’t enjoy a wellness elixr like this? However, it is important to keep in mind that kombucha is not a replacement for sugary drinks like soda. Even though sugar is a major ingredient, most of it gets eaten up by the yeast and bacteria. Therefore, by the time the process is complete, your left with a slightly sour flavor that balances perfectly with fruity undertones. If you go into your first kombucha experience expecting a fermented tea rather than a sweet drink, then you will have a much better time.
If you are unsure where to start, we recommend GT’s low-alcohol kombucha and Holy Kombucha. Both brands offer amazing flavor and are low in sugar. Trader Joe’s own kombucha line contains very little sugar and is a great choice if you have a store near you.
It is also great to think of kombucha as a celebratory drink for special occasions. Its fizzy bubbles are reminiscent of champagne. Therefore, if you are trying to avoid consuming lots of alcohol, you can pour some kombucha in your glass instead as a healthier alternative. It tastes just as amazing and instead of harming your body, you will be nourishing it with all the benefits that it has to offer. Which sounds to me like a much better experience!
So, are you inspired to give this tea a go after learning all the health benefits of kombucha? If so, make sure to share this article with a friend who also enjoys experimenting with beverages and taking care of their health.
If you are interested in learning more health benefits about tea drinks, head over to our other blog post that dives deep into the health benefits of chamomile tea.