What is Kombucha?
Kombucha, also known as the “tea of immortality”, is an ancient eastern tradition that ferments sweetened tea using a “scoby”. You might be asking, “what is a scoby?” A scoby is a symbiotic culture of yeast and bacteria. With time, a scoby utilizes the caffeine and sugars in the tea, transforming it into a effervescent and tangy drink. During this transformation process, billions of living probiotics are created. Often times you may even find some of these culture strands floating in your beverage. These probiotics can then help aid in digestion and support gut health.
What is in Kombucha?
- Black and/or green tea
- Sugar source: various sources. Honey, fruit, or cane sugar.
- Scoby: a colony of bacteria and yeast responsible for the fermentation process.
Following fermentation, kombucha becomes acidic and transforms into a carbonated beverage, also known as a natural effervescent. Effervescence is the bubbles or fizz you find in a beverage or liquid. This fizz is generated by the release of gases during the fermentation process. After fermentation, kombucha will also contain
- B vitamins
- Caffeine: While the scoby utilizes some of the caffeine, about 1/3 of the amount of caffeine that was in the original tea remains. Depending on the exact ingredients used, the range of caffeine in kombucha can be rather broad.
What Does Kombucha Taste Like?
I personally love kombucha but it can take a little getting use to. There are a number of different flavors for sale but overall I would describe it as tart, slightly sweet, fizzy, with a hint of vinegar taste. You can also make your own concoctions at home, creating a variety of flavors.
Can you Lose Weight Drinking Kombucha?
Many people ask if kombucha can help them lose weight. Kombucha is a great lower calorie substitution for sugar sweetened beverages and soda. However, make sure to read the label to see how many calories are in each bottle. Some are very low in calories, while others can be as high as 120 calories per serving. In addition, the acetic acid in kombucha can help curb appetite. By decreasing calorie consumption, weight loss is possible. The opposite is also true, over consumption of kombucha can also lead to weight gain.
Can I Consume Kombucha on a Ketogenic Diet?
I can’t stress enough how important it is to read labels. If you are on a ketogenic diet, make sure to read the label and pay attention to serving sizes. The amount of sugar and carbs vary widely between manufacturers and sometimes even between flavors. If a kombucha is brewed a second time, where additional fruits and flavors are added to make the product “taste better”, you can be assured more sugar and carbohydrates were added. You may not be able to consume an entire bottle of kombucha, but if you count your carbs and sugar allowances you should be able to consume kombucha on a keto diet in moderation.
Kombucha Contains Sugar. Is it Safe for Those with Diabetes?
The truth is kombucha does contain sugar and the amount varies widely between brands and flavors. The good news is the sugar isn’t necessarily added for flavor, but rather to feed the scoby. Therefore the amount of sugar is greatly reduced during the fermentation process. Unflavored kombucha will have around 2-6 grams per 8 ounce glass but it’s important to check labels to be certain as kombucha sugar content can vary.
With that said, there is some research to suggest that consuming low sugar-containing kombucha may help manage diabetes. Green tea kombucha in particular may be more beneficial as green tea itself has been shown to lower blood glucose levels as well as improve insulin sensitivity. (1) A study in diabetic rats showed that kombucha helped slow the digestion of carbohydrates and in turn lowered blood sugar levels (2).
Health Benefits of Kombucha
Support Gut Health and Fight Bad Bacteria
The high levels of beneficial acid, amino acids, probiotics, and enzymes are what make kombucha so supportive in GI health and digestion. The bacteria contained in kombucha are beneficial forms of bacteria and therefore not harmful. Rather they are supportive in everything from immune function, to nutrient absorption, mental health and even recolonizing the digestive system with good bacteria. So while it may seem counter-intuitive to drink live cultures in kombucha, they can help push out (or destroy) populations of bad bacteria in the GI.
Antioxidant Support and Risk of Chronic Diseases
Kombucha is a great source of antioxidants which can lead to a reduction in inflammation and protect against many chronic diseases. This can benefit life-threatening conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer.
Our livers are filtering powerhouses and work hard to remove toxins and other harmful substances from our bodies. The liver is critical in overall health as well as digestion. Kombucha tea may have antioxidant and hepatoprotective effects, as well as help protect the liver from damage caused by acetaminophen overdose. (3, 4)
While some practitioners warn diabetics from taking kombucha, it is important to read labels. Some low sugar varieties may be beneficial and help support liver and kidney health which is often compromised in those suffering from diabetes. (5)
Improve Mental Function
B vitamins are known to increase energy levels as well as overall mental well being. Kombucha has a high B vitamin content and therefore may improve mental function. In addition, kombucha is a good source of probiotics which play a role in overall digestive health. The majority of our serotonin is actually produced in the digestive tract. Therefore a healthy GI supports supports serotonin, an important chemical and neurotransmitter, believed to help regulate mood.