Unless you’ve been living under a rock within the health and wellness space for the last few years, you might have heard of Kombucha. The fermented tea beverage is recognised for its number of positive benefits on the body and the mind. In this article, we’ll explain what is Kombucha, how its made and the key benefits to drinking Kombucha regularly.
What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is a fermented tea beverage. Allegedly, it was said to be discovered in the early 200BCs, in the northern regions of China. However, this is not an exactitude. The drink is typically made using loose green or black tea leaves, sugar, fruit juices and spices to flavour. The Kombucha mix then goes through a 2-3 week fermentation process, allowing for natural healthy bacteria to form before it is ready to be refrigerated and consumed.
The science behind fermentation
Scientifically, the fermentation process can be explained as the chemical effect by which molecules such as starch and glucose, are broken down by active bacteria and yeast. Thus, transforming the starch and glucose into either alcohol or acid.
To properly ferment Kombucha, a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of yeast and bacteria) will be required to ingest most of the sugars and starch from the liquid and allow it to release all the healthy bacteria during the fermentation process, whilst maintaining some sweetness. Usually, a SCOBY can be obtained from the residue of a past Kombucha or it is possible to be purchased online. The original mix with the added SCOBY will then be stored and sealed shut, and left to ferment in a dark place at room temperature for around 1-3 weeks. Once, this is done, the Kombucha is ready to be bottled and can be left in the fridge to consume within the next 1-2 weeks. At this stage, the Kombucha should have retained some carbonation as well as the natural flavourings of the added fruit juices, tea and sugar. It is a light, fizzy and refreshing drink full of antioxidants and healthy gut bacteria!
Let’s go through some of the key benefits of regularly drinking Kombucha :
Benefits of Kombucha
- Gut health
It is no secret that fermented anything contains lots of healthy gut bacteria for the body! The bacteria found from the result of fermenting foods and drinks (such as yoghurt, tofu, tempeh, blueberries, kimchi, sauerkraut and kombucha) have scientifically been recognized over time to significantly improve gut health, digestion, mood and overall health. The more healthy bacteria we have in our gut, the more it will outnumber and feed off the ‘bad’ bacteria from unhealthier processed foods. That is why choosing to actively consume fresh produce and foods high in probiotics (healthy bacteria) has become increasingly important in maintaining a healthy gut and combating digestive issues in the long run. Studies have repeatedly shown that our gut is the second brain, and that is why it is important to take care of it, as it can help manage physical and mental health.
- A healthier alternative to alcohol and sugary drinks
How can Kombucha be healthier than standard fizzy drinks with ALL that sugar? Well, as mentioned before, during fermentation the live bacteria from the SCOBY feeds off of the sugar added to the original mix of tea and fruit juices. Resulting in lesser sugar content than other fizzy drinks available on the market. In addition to this, Kombucha has the added benefit of having all that healthy bacteria that other unfermented fizzy drinks do not contain. Also, Kombucha contains far lesser processed ingredients, concentrates and additives than other drinks available. It is a more natural energizing drink. Due to the fermentation, some Kombuchas do contain traces of alcohol, however, these are generally below 0.5%. This explains why a lot of people opt for Kombucha as an alcohol alternative, as it can carry similar tasting notes to beers and ciders, without the physical effects of alcohol.
- Good for blood sugar control
Due to its lower content of processed sugar, reduced by the fermentation process. Kombucha is a wonderful alternative for those who need to manage their blood sugar and insulin levels. Although it varies, most Kombuchas contain around 3-4g of sugar per serving. Whereas other regular fizzy drinks on the market average at around 10g per serving! According to a study conducted by Krista Bennett DeMaio for HealthCentral, Kombucha may even be a great alternative for individuals suffering from type 2 diabetes as it could help lower blood sugar levels. It could delay the absorption of LDL (‘bad’ cholesterol) and boost the level of HDL (‘good’ cholesterol). There is no doubt that drinking too much kombucha wouldn’t be healthy due to the sugar content and caffeine. But, it still remains a healthier and more nutritionally beneficial alternative to most other sugary fizzy drinks on the market.
- An energizing antioxidant-rich drink
Because Kombucha is made from tea, it contains doses of caffeine that are slow releasing and can provide energy for longer than regular coffee. Depending on which kind of tea and added juices are used, Kombucha typically contains a lot of good antioxidants with anti-ageing properties, vitamins and minerals, which can help with managing skin, hormones, energy levels and digestion.
Overall, drinking Kombucha regularly would induce more healthful and long-lasting benefits for the mind and body, than opting for other standard sugary drinks available on the market. It’s a great source of probiotics for the gut and can help support digestion. The market for Kombucha products has significantly increased in the last few years, as the demand has gone up following its popularity. Kombucha can easily be found in different flavours in supermarkets and independant health shops.