Nutrition 101: Kombucha

You’ve probably walked into a health store or a regular grocery store and noticed an odd looking drink in the cold drink section, that looks rather interesting but also questionable. Once you read the label and notice it says it’s a fermented tea… you may be put off and not know what it is. So, being an avid kombucha fan myself, I thought I would put together a quick, informative post on here about this fantastic drink (in my opinion) as well as share a few of my favorites you can get in store!

What is Kombucha? 

Kombucha is a fermented tea that has been consumed for thousands of years. It’s made by adding specific strains of bacteria, yeast and sugar to black or green tea, then allowing it to ferment for a week or more. During this process, bacteria and yeast form a mushroom-like film on the surface of the liquid. This blob is a living symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast, or a SCOBY, and can be used to ferment new kombucha. The fermentation process produces acetic acid (also found in vinegar) and several other acidic compounds, trace levels of alcohol and gases that make it carbonated.

Simply put, friendly bacteria (aka probiotics), yeasts and enzymes convert sweetened, brewed tea into kombucha. It can then be fermented a second time with fruit purees or natural juices for a more varied taste.

Most people drink kombucha for the great taste, to replace sugary sodas and because it makes them feel good.

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Why is it good for you? 

Kombucha, like other fermented foods, contains symbiotic living probiotics, which are a key ingredient for a healthy gut! Probiotics provide you with healthy bacteria which can improve many aspects of health, including digestion, gut health and may help fight diarrhea and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).

Kombucha has ample levels of B vitamins (B1, B2, B6, and B12, to be specific), which are essential for maintaining and producing new, healthy cells. It is rich in polyphenols and acetic acid, which have both been shown to suppress the growth of undesirable bacteria and yeasts. And it also contains quite a lot of antioxidants, especially when made with green tea, which may aid in helping with liver disease.

Another key feature of kombucha is that it is carbonated and a lot of store bought ones have delicious fruity flavours to choose from. Swapping them out for your traditional chemical and sugar-filled sodas is a great idea to incorporate a bit of a healthier option into you diet.

Can you make it at home? 

You can purchase kombucha in stores or make it yourself at home. However, be sure to prepare it properly. Contaminated or over-fermented kombucha can cause serious health problems. Homemade kombucha may also contain up to 3% alcohol, so be careful.

The safer option in my opinion, is to buy kombucha at a store. Commercial products are tasty and considered alcohol-free, as they must contain less than 0.5% alcohol. However, check the ingredients and try to avoid brands that have high levels of added sugar.

If you do decide you want to give making some of your own a go, make sure you do everything extremely carefully and follow online guides step by step. (There are hundreds of great videos on YouTube that show how you can make it at home).

I used to make homemade kombucha for a while and I did end up having some not-so-great batches, so it can be quite challenging. However, it can be a great way to save lots of money if you end up drinking it often and master the brewing process!

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What are some of my favorites? 

In the UK, my favorite kombucha used to be the L.A. Brewery by Louise Avery, but here in California the selections are endless! I’ve tried many kombucha brands and different flavors, but I keep going back to my favorite- Health Ade. When I first tried it 4 years ago when visiting Jonas’ dad in Chicago over the summer, I wasn’t a big fan as I though the flavor was too rich and not sweet enough compared to some other ones I’ve tried. But now knowing what real, good quality kombucha should taste like, this one is by far my favorite. The other ones I’ve tried whilst living here in California, have been too sweet for me and I prefer the more natural tasting kombucha that Health Ade has. I normally pick them up in Target or Trader Joe’s, but if Costco has their value packs- I end up buying 2!

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Health Ade’s kombucha is very fizzy and has that delicious tartness in every flavor I have tried. My favorites from Health Ade have got to be the Bubbly Rose (hawthorn berry, mangosteen and rose petals), Pink Lady Apple, Tropical Punch and the Ginger Lemon. Another reason I absolutely love this brand is because one of the founders is Lithuanian and they even have the Lithuanian coat of arms on the bottle. It’s always lovely to support fellow Lithuanians!

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