What the heck is Kombucha?

Three different flavoured kombucha

Wellness warriors, yogis, health food gurus and hipsters have lauded kombucha and labelled it a superfood. But what actually is it and does the science support its lofty superfood title?   

Kombucha is a fermented tea. Sounds pretty funky, right? It’s made by adding a culture of bacteria and yeast to a concoction of tea and sugar. It also undergoes pasteurization to ensure that any harmful nasties are killed off. The final product is a slightly fizzy and tart drink with a hint of sweetness.

Kombucha is acidic in nature and it contains B vitamins, antioxidants and gut-friendly bacteria. It also contains about 30 calories per cup – a fraction of the calories found in soft drink and fruit juice.

Kombucha has been hailed as a magic elixir, curing everything from AIDS, cancer, diabetes and digestive issues to poor libido and arthritis. It is interesting to note that none of these claims are based on peer-reviewed research on humans. That being said, the probiotics present are likely to bestow a positive effect on our digestive system. And, after all, there are known benefits of tea so it is a healthy option. 

Probiotics are live micro-organisms that include bacteria, yeasts and fungi. Studies have shown that probiotics can boost the immune system, improve digestion and protect against disease. Some studies have even shown that these microorganisms can reduce the severity of irritable bowel syndrome – positive news for the almost 15% of the population with digestive troubles. In addition to kombucha, probiotics are also found naturally in yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, pickles and sourdough bread.

So, should you include kombucha in your diet? While the jury is still out on its healing and curative properties, drinking it is probably not going to do you any harm. Include it if you wish, just don’t think that it’s going to cure all your health ills. 

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