Sweet ambrosia, nectar of the gods, elixir of life! Bubbly and sweet like a soda, tangy and sour like a good vinaigrette, and teaming with good bacteria and yeast full of vitamins and nutrients to help your digestion and immune system. There’s a reason this drink has seen such a popular trending as of late; it’s darn tasty and it’s good for you. How many products can you say that about in this day and age?
By now, odds are if you aren’t already drinking the stuff by the gallon, you’ve at least seen it in the grocery store, at a farmer’s market, or seen one of your “alternative” friends taking delightful swigs of the sour stuff. If you haven’t yet been lucky enough to give it a try, here’s what you’re missing.
Kombucha is the living byproduct of sweetened tea fermented by a SCOBY (“symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast”). Much like beer and wine are fermented by yeast, the SCOBY eats the sugar from the brewed tea and produces a variety of beneficial compounds. While it does produce a very small amount of alcohol (in most cases so little it is not even legally considered an “alcoholic beverage”, though commercial brands which sit in secondary fermentation for long periods of time may produce more than a continuous home brew which is consumed relatively close to bottling time), more importantly it produces en mass living bacteria and good strains of yeast (important to populate your digestive tract and keep bad “bugs” from proliferating), as well as beneficial organic acids, active enzymes, amino acids, B vitamins and polyphenols.
Kombucha has been reported to be beneficial as an aid to liver detoxification and support, digestive aid and a potent probiotic. Research is also being done on various compounds found in kombucha as relief for joint pain, a general analgesic effect, and potential preventative properties against cancer. Check out this great article on the myths and truths of kombucha to learn more about its benefits. http://www.phoenixhelix.com/2013/03/25/kombucha-myths-vs-truths/
If you’re new to the drink, start with a few sips a day and build your probiotic load slowly. Introducing too much bacteria too quickly to your digestive system can cause serious GI distress. Also, if your body is in need of a detox or the beneficial bacteria and yeast cause a “die-off” of bad bugs, you may experience what is known as a “healing crisis” where your body is actively purging these unwanted hitch hikers. Lowering the daily intake and increasing slowly can help minimize these effects. If you’re starting out with a mass-produced kombucha, be sure to check the nutrient label to make sure they haven’t added back a great deal of sugar (some brands load the drink with upwards of 10-15grams of sugar per serving). If you get hooked on this wonderful bubbly drink as I did and are tired of paying $3-5/bottle (it can quickly become a VERY expensive habit) and are interested in brewing your own kombucha, stay tuned for my next article on how to make your very own continuous brew at home. It’s incredibly easy, requires little equipment and only a few ingredients, and the flavoring options are endless. Open your mind and your palate!
Have you experienced kombucha? Did you notice any beneficial (or damaging) effects from it? What are your favorite flavors? Let me know what you think!