What is Kombucha?

At the fancy food show, Kombucha was definitely making a presence.  I had heard about it before, knew some friends and coworkers who drank it.  It looks all hipster and trendy and healthy.. what what the heck is it?

I asked a local kombucha bar owner at the show and did some of my own research too.

Basically, Kombucha is  a tea, usually green or black tea that is fermented and slightly effervescent.  The supplier told me it is basically a healthy “soda” replacement filled with health benefits and vitamins.  It tasted like a flavored seltzer or a carbonated beer/champagne I have had at local breweries.

Basically you have sugar and tea, and add a colony of yeast and bacteria (a culture) and allow the mixture to ferment… similar to how you would make a beer or wine. The culture, known as the “mother culture,” is combined with tea and sits for roughly 10 days. During this time, a thin colony of bacteria forms on top. After the fermentation process is complete, the new culture can be scooped out and used to start other brews, while the pungent beverage below is ready for drinking.  The culture is often referred to as SCOBY (Symbiotic culture of Bacteria and Yeast)

kombuch_howto-01

Kombucha is not new, it dates back to ancient China, where it was regularly consumed to remedy inflammatory ailments such as arthritis and thought to ward off cancer.

I’m kind of amazed by all the “proposed’ health benefits.  Mind you, none have the claims have actually been verified in a clinical controlled study.

Why Do People Care?
According to SHAPE magazine,

Grocery store shelves and trendy restaurants alike are featuring fermented foods like kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and yes,kombucha. All kinds of people, from health nuts to celebrities to chefs, are becoming more conscious of the benefits of eating grub rich in healthy probiotics, which are tiny microoganisms similar to the “good bacteria” naturally found in our intestines. Research has found consuming probiotics can help fight colds, lower cholesterol, and promotes a healthy gut, alleviating issues such as irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea, and food allergies.

So what about the alcohol content?  There are come kombucha that are 3% alcohol, just like your light beers!  The MAJORITY though are kept under 0.5% alcohol so they can be sold on grocery store shelves.   Fermentation of sugars produces alcoholic beverages, and there isn’t enough sugar in Kombucha to have a high alcohol content.

One benefit I have been reading over and over again is about it’s super antioxidant power.  Don’t remember what antioxidants are?  Check out my post about how antioxidants work.  The primary benefits I have been reading about are:

  • Detoxification: Detoxification produces healthy livers and aides cancer prevention. One of kombucha’s greatest health benefits is its ability to detox the body. It is rich in many of the enzymes and bacterial acids your body produces and/or uses to detox your system, thus reducing your pancreatic load and easing the burden on your liver. Kombucha is very high in Glucaric acid, and recent studies have shown that glucaric acid helps prevent cancer.
  • Joint Care: Kombucha contains glucosamines, a strong preventive and treatment all forms of arthritis. Glucosamines increase synovial hyaluronic acid production. Hyaluronic acid functions physiologically to aid preservation of cartilage structure and prevent arthritic pain, with relief comparable to NSAIDs and advantage over glucocorticoids. Hyaluronic acid enables connective tissue to bind moisture thousands of times its weight and maintains tissue structure, moisture, lubrication and flexibility and lessens free radical damage, while associated collagen retards and reduces wrinkles.
  • Digestion & Gut Health:  Kombucha is a probiotic beverage. This has a myriad of benefits such asimproved digestion, fighting candida (harmful yeast) overgrowth, mental clarity, and mood stability. As such, it’s noted for reducing or eliminating the symptoms of fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety, etc.
  • Immune Booster.  Kombucha is extraordinarily anti-oxidant rich, and you all know the benefits of anti-oxidants for boosting your immune system and energy levels.  If you want to know more about how antioxidants work, check out my past post on them.

I’m going to give it a shot.  See how I feel and will let you know.  One warning though, definitely only purchase manufactured Kombucha from a reliable brand.  Home brewing has many negative side effects because you are not working in a sterile environment and can contaminate the culture.  It can lead to upset stomach and other side effects.    Also if you brew in ceramic, the culture will leach the led out of the glaze and you can get some pretty serious toxins in your system.

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