There are plenty folks out there who believe that kombucha has some healthy upside. I’m less enthusiastic, but the downside is limited and, in moderation, it’s a fine drink. From cleancuisineandmore.com:
Kombucha (pronounced “kom-BOO-cha”), often called “mushroom tea,” is a fermented beverage made from black or green tea, sugar and a fungus culture. It’s been used as a health tonic for centuries in China, Japan and Russia.
Didn’t I recently suggest I wouldn’t be engaging in product reviews? But, but, but… they’re so fun. I reserve the right to change my mind at any given time for any reason. You know the drill, altering course can be healthy.
Many moons ago, my best friend (and wife at the time) Lisa was purchasing unreasonably feminine bottles of the fermented tea. I really only noticed because they were four bucks a pop from Whole Foods. She has always dug shiny, pretty packaged foods, bless her heart. The claims on these bottles were audacious. The website’s declarations are equally bold.
100% raw and organic, Kombucha nourishes the body, delights your taste buds, bolsters your immunity, and makes your spirits fly. You feel on top of the world. Healthier. Happier. Stronger. It is living food for a living body.
I’ll take two of those, and you forgot drunker (more on that later). The beverage is tangy and slightly spicy, served icy cold but warms the belly. It’s mildly sweet and features a refreshing effervescence. On flavor and experience alone, this stuff is rad. Now, as a health elixir, it’s a clever marketing play. From NPR:
There is really very little evidence to support any kind of claims about kombucha tea,” says Andrea Giancoli, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “So we don’t know if it does anything at all.
C’mon, we ain’t stopping our research at the tealeaf plucking level. We must get some dirt in our nails and brew (see?) a full narrative about kombucha’s healing properties. After all, GT Dave, the maker of those bottles, can’t be all wrong. There has to be some truth to what he’s saying. The taste and the vivid colors alone can’t sell millions of bottles a year (um, Coke says hi, Kap).
Nevertheless, most kombucha drinks contain live bacteria. And evidence is mounting that friendly bacteria or probiotics aide digestion and possibly even strengthens the immune system.
These good bugs “actually live inside of us and help digest our food, digesting particles we can’t digest on our own,” nutritionist Reinagel says. “And they actually produce certain nutrients for us, which is a very nice trick.
This sounds an awful lot like any fermented foods (kefir, sauerkraut, miso), but kombucha has one up on them. Those foods don’t give you a cool buzz. The first time I gulped a bottle of the fizzy tea, I noticed I was marginally tipsy (admittedly, my system is fairly sensitive). “Well now,” I thought to myself. “No wonder she’s buying these by the case.” I must admit, it was a pleasant surprise, feeling kind of groovy from a “soft” beverage.
The yeast used to ferment kombucha converts sugar into carbon dioxide, and alcohol is the natural byproduct. It’s not much, around 0.5%, but there is some in there.
What does this mean for our health goals? We know that alcohol is highly caloric, 96 calories for 1.5 ounces of tequila, for example. But kombucha isn’t going to smash your fitness goals. Don’t stress. The bottle of Gingerade, has only two ingredients, raw, organic kombucha and fresh pressed ginger juice. It clocks in at around 30 calories per 8 ounces. More from cleancuisineandmore.com:
…because the fermentation converts most of the sugar into organic acids, the resulting drink has as few as two grams of sugar per cup.
So go for fermented tea if you please, just don’t be surprised if you start looking for a bowl of pretzels and Chex mix. Personally, I’ll stick to water, sensibly farmed and cultivated black coffee and the occasional scotch, neat.