Have you heard of Kombucha? Probably. It has been gaining popularity for some time now but it seems as if recently it has reached an all high time high on the buzz-o-meter and for good reason.
Not only is this health drink unbelievably delicious (once you get past the vinegar smell) but is also is insanely beneficial and healthy for you.
You have heard it called a mushroom tea or “elixir of life,” but no matter what you call it, kombucha is one of the hottest trends in health beverages right now. However, this fermented tea drink has been around for centuries. Regular drinkers of the fizzy vinegar smelling tonic claim it aids digestion, sleep, weight loss and detoxification; stimulates the immune system, prevents cancer, stops hair loss, and improves liver function.
What is Kombucha?
Often referred to as mushroom tea, kombucha is not made from mushrooms, but the bacteria and yeast that grow on top of the beverage result in a mass or lets call a spade a spade, a blob, that resembles a mushroom. It is made by adding the bacteria and yeast to sugar and black or green tea and allowing the brew to ferment.
At first taste, kombucha tea tastes somewhat earthy, tart, with a little fizz and a vinegar-like smell – not so pleasing to the taste buds. To make the tea more palatable, juice is added to the base brew.
The fermented beverages are high in acid and contain sugar, vinegar, B vitamins, antioxidants (from the tea), trace amounts of alcohol (a natural by product of the fermentation process). Usually, a bottle of about 16 ounces comes in at around 60 calories.
So why is Kombucha so highly regarded for its health benefits? Kombucha’s popularity is in part due to the probiotic content of good-for-you bacteria that studies show can benefit digestion and boost immunity. In order to maintain the probiotic benefits, the tea must not be pasteurized.
In research published in the Journal of Medicinal Food 2014, researchers from the University of Latvia say the following about the health benefits of kombucha:
It is shown that [kombucha] can efficiently act in health preservation and recovery due to four main properties: detoxification, anti-oxidation, energizing potencies, and promotion of boosting immunity.
Lets take a look at the 5 biggest benefits of drinking Kombucha:
1. Detoxification – The detoxifying capacity of kombucha is immense. A perfect example is in its ability to counteract liver cell toxicity. In one study, the liver cells were protected from oxidative injury and actually maintained their normal structure and integrity, in spite of being exposed to a toxin. Woah! According to researchers, it was “probably due to its antioxidant activity and could be beneficial against liver diseases, where oxidative stress is known to play a crucial role.”
2. Digestion – The antioxidant superpower of this ancient tea counteracts free radicals that create disaster in the digestive system. The most well known and highly regarded greatest reason kombucha supports digestion is because of its high levels of beneficial acid, probiotics and enzymes Some research has shown kombucha’s ability to prevent and heal leaky gut and stomach ulcers. It has been said that in some instances it’s even proven to be as effective as drugs like Prilosec, which are commonly prescribed for heartburn and ulcers. Kombucha can also help heal candida yeast from overpopulating within the gut because it helps restore balance to the digestive system. Kombucha is a great way to fight candida because it contains live probiotic cultures that help the gut to repopulate with good bacteria while getting rid of the bad bacteria which is usually candida yeast.
3. Energy- Kombucha’s ability to invigorate people is credited to the formation of iron that is released from the black tea during the fermentation process. It also contains some caffeine (although in very small amounts) and b-vitamins, which can energize the body. Through a special process known as chelation, the iron released helps boost blood hemoglobin, improving oxygen supply to tissues and stimulating the energy-producing process at the cellular level. In simples terms, it helps the body create more energy (ATP). That is why people report staying energized throughout the day from drinking this tea.
4. Immune Health – The overall effect that kombucha has to modulate the immune system is best seen in its ability to control free radicals through antioxidant measures. It is suspected that the high levels of vitamin C present in kombucha are its main secrets in protecting against cell damage, inflammatory diseases, tumors and overall depression of the immune system. Also, we know the probiotics found in kombucha support the immune system.
5. Joint Care- Kombucha can help heal, repair and prevent joint damage in a number of ways. Kombucha is loaded with glucosamines. This supports the preservation of collagen. In the same way it supports joint collagen, it also supports collagen of the entire body and reduces the appearance of wrinkles on the skin.
6. Cancer Prevention – Kombucha is also said to be beneficial for cancer prevention and recovery. A study published in Cancer Letters found that consuming glucaric acid found in kombucha reduced the risk of cancer in humans. Fun Factoid: President Reagan even reportedly drank kombucha daily as part of his regimen to battle stomach cancer.
7. Weight Loss – Data from a study in 2005 showed evidence that kombucha improves metabolism and limits fat accumulation. Though we need to see more studies before we can confirm these results, it makes sense that kombucha supports weight loss since it’s high in acetic acid (just like apple cider vinegar is) and polyphenols, which are proven to help increase weight loss.
My two favorite brands are very easily accessible,Kevita and Health-Ade. They are both available at Wholefoods, Fairway and local health food stores. You can even make Kombucha at home if you have a bit of time, it seems very easy and cost effective. However, I like to grab on the go for convenience.
Have you ever tried? Will you?