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Kombucha- worth the hype?

I enjoy drinking kombucha! I'm not an avid water drinker. My fluids in a day typically come from coffee in the AM (and lots of it) to water-containing foods (fresh fruits and veggies) to tea/wine at the end of the night. But after discovering kombucha, I've added that into my routine. I enjoy it as an afternoon pick-me-up or at the end of the day as an alternative to alcohol. So what is kombucha anyway?

Kombucha Basics

Kombucha (pronounced kom-boo-chah) is a fizzy, slightly sweet, fermented tea drink commonly consumed for its alleged health benefits. Juice, spices, fruits, and other flavorings are often added for taste. Kombucha is typically low in sugar and calories, ranging from 30-80 calories per bottle.

How it’s made - Do you really want to know?.. Similar to sausage, some things are better when you don’t know how they’re made! Kombucha is produced by the fermentation of the sugars in tea using cultures of bacteria and yeast. The fermentation process involves adding a bacteria and yeast culture (a SCOBY) into the sweetened tea.

The container then sits for several days (fermenting) growing live bacteria. This fermentation process can be done at home or commercially.

What are the benefits? - The living bacteria in kombucha are said to be probiotic. Probiotics are live microorganisms that claim to improve or restore your gut health. Some other health benefits include: reducing GI discomfort, improving immune health, relieving constipation, and decreasing the risk of the common cold. It is important to note, that none of these claims are supported by scientific evidence. Probiotics are found in all fermented products (some examples include: yogurt, kefir, kimchi, pickled veggies, sauerkraut, sourdough bread, miso, soy sauce, and buttermilk.) (Many of these are my favorite things by the way!)

Any downsides? – A super small percentage of people may have an issue with kombucha. Since the fermentation process can be done at home, there is a possibility of pathogenic microorganisms contaminating the tea during preparation. Due to its microbial sourcing and possible non-sterile packaging, individuals with a lowered immune system, women who are pregnant/breastfeeding, and children under 4 should avoid kombucha. Kombucha does contain a small amount of alcohol so certain medications should not be taken at the same time. There is also a risk that heavy metals can leach into the beverage during the brewing process. Kombucha is highly acidic so it should not be consumed in excess.

Bottom line – Although there are a plethora of health benefits alleged by the drink, there is little evidence to support any of the claims. There are also some potentially negative side effects of consuming the beverage. In my opinion, if you enjoy the sweet/tart taste, I think kombucha is a great addition to your diet as a calorie-containing beverage. If you haven't tried it yet, it's definitely worth a taste! And the possible health benefits are always a plus :)

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