While kombucha used to be something relegated to health-food stores, it has become an increasingly popular and mainstream beverage in the last couple years. Many tout both its health benefits as well as its flavor (many even find it to be a satisfying substitute for alcoholic beverages).
So, what is kombucha? Where does its unique tart and effervescent flavor come from? And why should you consider trying it?
Read on for the answers to all of that and more.
First, What Is Kombucha?
Simply put, kombucha is a fermented tea drink. It is typically fermented from sweetened green or black tea. The fermentation process produces vinegar, trace amounts of alcohol, and carbonation—all of which combine to form kombucha’s signature tangy flavor. This fermentation process—as with foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi—also produces probiotics.
Kombucha may have originally been created as recently as two hundred years ago or as long ago as two thousand years. Regardless of its history and origin, kombucha has been considered to have health benefits for a long time (and by a variety of cultures).
Probiotics are probably the biggest reason most people consume kombucha, and what it is best known for. Probiotics can help restore balance to the flora in your gut, and therefore aid in everything from digestion, to inflammation, to weight loss, and more.
But kombucha isn’t just good for us for this sole reason; there’s a lot more to this unique drink. So, let’s talk through four reasons besides probiotics that you might try kombucha, and the science behind these claims.
1. Improved Liver Health
Kombucha is rich in antioxidants and appears to have a powerful (and positive) impact on our livers. Studies done on rats appear to show that kombucha consumption reduces the toxicity of known liver stressors. This may be due to kombucha’s antioxidant properties or because it increases the body’s ability to metabolize certain substances.
This means drinking kombucha can be a double whammy when it comes to alcohol consumption. In part, because many people use kombucha as a substitute for alcohol and, therefore, reduce their alcohol consumption. And also, in part, because of the way kombucha powers up our livers.
2. Empowered Immune System
The “vinegar” flavor of kombucha actually comes from acetic acid. Kombucha can also be high in polyphenols, since it comes from tea. Both acetic acid and polyphenols have been shown to kill bacteria that are harmful to us. So, kombucha offers a one-two punch of providing you with “good’ bacteria through its probiotic dose, while also eliminating the “bad” bacteria.
3. Fighting Diabetes
A 2012 study examined the impact of kombucha on diabetic rats. The researchers discovered that feeding these rats kombucha slowed the digestion of carbs and, therefore, reduced the rats’ blood sugar levels. It also seems to have boosted the function of their livers and kidneys.
4. Fighting Cancer
Multiple studies have shown that the administration of kombucha could prevent the growth of cancerous cells. A 2013 study published in Biomedicine & Preventative Nutrition even stated “that kombucha may be useful for the prostate cancer treatment/prevention.”
Although not completely proven, kombucha is believed the polyphenols it contains are able to block the growth of cancer cells. This may relate back to the fact that tea drinkers in general are less likely to develop certain cancers.
Conclusion on Kombucha
If you’ve never tried kombucha before, keep an open mind. Remember, it can be very tangy and is also effervescent. This is also what can make it an enjoyable way to hydrate, though, if you are giving up carbonated drinks or alcohol. Many people find kombucha to be a healthy and satisfying alternative for “happy hour.”
Unlike in the past, kombucha is widely available in almost every grocery store and in a wide range of flavors. Look for varieties that are lower in sugar if you plan to consume kombucha regularly. If you make your own kombucha, please do so carefully—always sanitize your equipment and closely observe your fermentation process.