Brightly colored bottles of fizzy liquids are making modern markets look like old apothecaries since people started drinking kombucha regularly. There’s a pretty radical trend in kombucha these days, but do all fermented foods and drinks live up to the hype? Is kombucha good or bad for you?
There are so many advertised fermented foods with health benefits out there that it is becoming harder and harder to tell which gut health products are legitimate and which are actually magnets for bad bacteria. Knowing what to eat and drink can sometimes become confusing.
Is kombucha good or bad for you? Drinking kombucha can support prebiotic and probiotic bacteria in your gut, but many bottled kombuchas are loaded with sugar.
What Is Kombucha? How Is This Fermented Beverage Made And Is Drinking Kombucha Good Or Bad For You?
What is kombucha, exactly?
Well, kombucha is a probiotic drink that has undergone a very specific fermentation process. Though it is recently being marketed as a wave-of-the-future in the health and nutrition world, people have actually been drinking kombucha for thousands of years.
The recipe for the drink is pretty simple: To make kombucha all you really need is tea, a SCOBY, sugar, and a starter (which is basically just an already finished batch of kombucha).
What Is The Kombucha SCOBY?
Did you recognize that word, “SCOBY”? It’s actually just an acronym for “Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast”.
Put another way, a kombucha SCOBY is a beneficial bacteria and yeasts that work together to produce a certain kind of fermentation. Those tiny bacteria and yeast strains actually end up living together harmoniously in kombucha — they support each other.1
But long does the fermentation process for kombucha take? Well, it varies. Most kombuchas are fully fermented within 7 to 31 days.
And when it’s done, kombucha tea is naturally fizzy. You should see some naturally occurring yeasts in the bottom of your glass. Gently stir or swirl the drink to mix its contents. Then enjoy. Down the hatch!
What Are The Health Benefits Of Kombucha?
For starters, kombucha has probiotic effects when it comes to your gut health. And the World Health Organization clarifies that probiotics are “live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host.”2 The World Health Organization maintains that good bacteria (or probiotics) offer significant health benefits for your gut health and your body.
As you may know, your gut contains billions of good bacteria. These bacteria work to ensure your gut stays balanced and helps to keep you healthy. But how?
Well, forces like stress, an imbalanced diet, antibiotics, or illnesses can harm good bacteria. Unfortunately, this opens a window for bad bacteria to enter your system and wreak havoc. The most effective way to maintain your probiotic levels is to take a probiotic supplement or consume probiotic and fermented foods.
There is an array of helpful (natural) probiotic foods starting with yogurt, kimchi, or sauerkraut. And you can absolutely add kombucha to that list. Plus, when you ferment your own kombucha, you’re growing powerful probiotics to help your body.
Of course, it’s been said that your health begins and ends in your gut. And it’s true. Things like allergies, obesity, high blood sugar levels, autoimmune issues, be linked to imbalances of gut bacteria.3
Polyphenols And Antioxidants In Kombucha
But there are even more ways in which kombucha can help benefit your health. Did you know kombucha also contains polyphenols and antioxidants? They come from the tea that kombucha is made from. In fact, the polyphenol content in the tea you use to make kombucha grows during the fermentation process.4
Your body can always put these antioxidants to work to help fight free radicals. Free radicals are tiny molecules that can actually damage your body’s cells.
But when kombucha is fermented using green tea it can be even higher in antioxidant power – up to almost 6 times more antioxidant-packed than kombucha made with black tea.5
Check the Ingredients on Your Bottle of Kombucha: How Much Sugar is in the Kombucha You’re Drinking?
So, it turns out kombucha can actually be really good for you. But you have to remember one important thing: you’ve got to take into account the sugar content of a given drink.
There are kombucha products out there that are basically soda pop or sweet tea disguised as kombucha. If they’re too sweet, chances are that they’re just not good for you.
Also, most bottles contain 2 to 2 ½ servings. So, even if it seems to have lower sugar content, look twice. If there happens to be more than one serving per container, you’ll need to multiply the listed sugar content by the serving size.
The level of sugar in bottled kombuchas can be concerning. But here’s something about kombucha – the sugar used to ferment the drink is actually breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the bacteria. Without sugar at all there can be no fermentation.
Ultimately, a proper kombucha shouldn’t have much more than 1 percent of the sugar content remaining once fermented. But store-bought kombuchas often add a ton of sugar. Check the labels if you buy your kombucha.
Or… take a crack at making your own. Here’s how…
Make Your Own Homemade Kombucha: Try This No Added Sugar Kombucha Recipe For A Healthier Option
And now it’s time to try and make your own batch of kombucha. Are you ready? This recipe will yield a quart of kombucha when all is said and done.
And remember, while there is sugar in this recipe, it’s content will reduce by the time you’re ready to drink your kombucha. That’s because the sugar will become gluconic acid during fermentation. You’ve got to have some sugar to allow the SCOBY to work. The less sugar you want in your finished kombucha, the longer you should allow for your kombucha to ferment.
What You’ll Need:
- ¼ cup of table sugar
- 2 bags of green tea
- An “alive” activated SCOBY
- 3 cups of spring water (don’t use mineral water)
- ½ cup distilled white vinegar (acetic acid in the vinegar helps the fermentation process)
What TO DO:
- Boil the water. But then allow it to cool so it’s warm enough to steep the tea. Then combine the water and sugar in a large jar. Stir the mixture until the sugar dissolves.
- Steep the green tea bags in the sugar and water mix.
- Let the mixture cool to about 75ºF. Depending on how strong you’d like the tea to taste, let it steep for 7 to 15 minutes. Then add the distilled white vinegar.
- Add your SCOBY to the tea mix. Then cover your jar with a cloth and secure it with a rubber band.
- Do your best to let the jar sit, untouched, at room temperature (70 — 80°F) for between 7 and 10 days. Also, make sure the jar is out of direct sunlight.
- On day 7 you can begin to taste the kombucha. When it’s flavor is balanced well between sweet and tart, you’re ready to serve it.
- Pour your kombucha into a bottle so you can refrigerate it. Once you’re done, you have about 30 days to consume the kombucha.
NOTE: Don’t forget to save the SCOBY and a little bit of liquid from the bottom of your kombucha jar for your next brew.
Kombucha: Fermentation For Your Gut Health
Not only do you now know what kombucha is, you know what the SCOBY is and even how to make your own kombucha at home.
Making your own kombucha ensures you’re able to have a light-sugar version of the fermented drink.
So give it a go. You can use different teas for different flavor profiles — but if you’re looking to reap the most antioxidant and polyphenol benefits go with green tea. And enjoy.