Kombucha has been around for ages, but it recently gained popularity as clever soft drink replacement due to its low sugar content. The drink is quickly filling up shelves in supermarkets as consumers clamour for other options away from traditional high-sugar drinks. In the recent months, it has become impossible to scroll through Instagram without noticing our savvy celeb or healthiest friend posting the health benefits of Kombucha.
So, What Is Kombucha?
Kombucha is a fizzy, sweet tea produced through fermentation of sugared green or black teat with yeast and bacteria. The Yeast and bacteria are contained in a SCOBY culture which forms gelatinous, spongy, biofilm in the tea. The yeast converts sugars in the tea into alcohol which then the bacteria feeds on to produce acids. The bacteria and yeast work in unison to produce a light, effervescent drink that resembles something like apple cider.
The fermentation Kombucha process is more like beer making –what really matters in the process is how it’s done, the length of fermentation, the vessels used and the fermentation temperatures. A number of such factors are what make different brands of Kombuchas test different. It’s quite a complex process that even when you’re given the exact levels of tea and sugar used and you will still not be able to make authentic Kombucha. It’s like a form of art –the final taste has something to do with everything the manufacturer does.
The Health Benefits Of Kombucha
The research on Kombucha has recently increased with the increase in its popularity and consumption. The drink is often marketed as a “probiotic” with an existing long list of claimed health benefits. Some of them include reduction of bloating, reduction of inflammation, lowering blood pressure, relieving asthma, blood “detoxification” and even treating and preventing illnesses such as cardiovascular, cancer, and diabetes.
It should, however, be made clear that Kombucha is not medicine but food. The health benefits of Kombucha comes from its preparation process. Some strains of yeast and bacteria provide some health benefits to the consumer which give the drink its “probiotic” properties.
Kombucha formulation also significantly contributes to its health benefits. The drink contains a number of organic acids such as gluconic and glucuronic acid, acetic acid and L-lactic acid depending on the strain of bacteria used. The acids have a great potential of providing protection to the body, but it’s an area that needs more research.
Kombucha has also been widely mentioned as an antibiotic, thanks to the polyphenols contained in the tea used in brewing the drink. Most available studies have been done using cell culture and rodent models, and while there’re limited scientific studies in humans, the results are impressive.
Perhaps the most outstanding attribute that you cannot discount off is the extremely low sugar content. For those wishing to bypass sugary soft drinks such as Pepsi and Coca-Cola without jumping straight to water, Kombucha provides an excellent alternative.
Watch out for added ingredients
While Kombucha is generally low in sugar content, some brands of the drink can be quite high in added sugar. 5 grams or less for each Kombucha serving should be fine. Having said that, check the serving size as one bottle can contain more than one serving. While at it, check out the label for ingredients whose name you can’t pronounce –ideally, all the ingredients used should be those you can find on a grocery shelve.
One of the most common questions asked is can you drink too much Kombucha? Well, yeah –too much of anything eventually becomes poisonous. As earlier mentioned, Kombucha contains some level of lactic acid. There’re reports that drinking too much Kombucha could potentially cause lactic acidosis, which is essentially a buildup of lactic acid in the bloodstream to life-threatening levels. The risk is however pretty slim as long as you’re not galloping bottle after another.
It contains some alcohol
There some small amount of alcohol in Kombucha due to the fermentation process. Theirs is however very little chance that this will make you tick since brews found in grocery stores have less than 2% alcohol content. So you will have to drink about 6 or more 12-ounce bottles to get the same effect of drinking one light beer. There are, however, some Kombucha brands which are marketed as alcoholic beverages.
Can I brew Kombucha at home?
Yes, you can brew your own Kombucha at home and enjoy the health benefits that come with the drink. However, you need to proceed with caution along this line. Since it involves fermenting live organisms like yeast and bacteria, issues of food safety can arise.
There have been a few cases of allergic reactions, lead poisoning and heart attacks that have been linked to home-brewed Kombucha. So if you decide to go the DIY route, make sure that you use a recipe from trusted sources or simply stick to the brands sold in the groceries and supermarkets.