Kombucha, the fermented tea drink is the latest entrant into the category of special beverages that are believed to have miraculous health promoting and healing properties, including burning calories, revitalizing the gut, and cleansing the body from inside.
The fact that many nutrition enthusiasts and health specialists are now endorsing this drink only adds to the folklore of Kombucha.
There has been a surge in the demand for Kombucha in the recent times, and it appears that the demand is only going to grow further. If you are one of those who is wondering about whether to choose this exotic health drink and make it part of your everyday nutrition, it is necessary to first understand the complete story of Kombucha and then you can make a more informed choice.
What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is essentially a type of green tea which is an infinity more healthy for you compared to soda since soda is not healthy at all. The beverage is a natural drink, but sometimes a few artificial ingredients are added in it to enhance its taste and boost its health properties. The taste of Kombucha is sour, which can be somewhat compared to the taste of vinegar. Its color is brownish, but it can have shade variations according to the specific ingredients added to it.
There is not much hard evidence available about the origins of Kombucha, which only increases its mystical status. However, some researchers believe that this beverage originated around 220 BCE in Manchuria. Historical records show that Kombucha was a part of traditional drinks in some parts of Russia, Manchuria, and Eastern Europe.
Throughout its known history, this health beverage has been traditionally brewed at home. But in recent years, with the steep rise in the demand for Kombucha, some corporations have set-up dedicated manufacturing units to produce Kombucha on a mass scale and supply it across the global markets.
The traditional methods of preparing Kombucha and its recipes have remained universally the same throughout its history, barring a few minor changes from time to time. As it is a type of a green tea, the vital ingredients are organic and are usually easily available locally.
The first stage in the preparation of Kombucha is similar to that of making a sugary tea. The tea is made by adding sugar and black or green tea. In the second stage, the sugary tea is fermented with the help of a special ingredient known as ‘SCOBY’, which is an acronym for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.”
The texture of SCOBY is similar to that of a jelly-like pancake. It is slippery, has little weight and is also rubbery. During the fermentation process, the combination of yeast and bacteria results in the creation of SCOBY, a form of cellulose at the top of the tea.
This upper layer of SCOBY blocks air from entering the tea and creates a completely alienated environment inside the tea. All these factors boost the fermentation process and perform a vital role in creating the unique sour and sweet taste of Kombucha.
The fermentation process can extend from seven to 14 days, depending on a number of factors. The external weather in the region has a key impact on the fermentation process. Hot and humid weather reduces the time required for the growth of SCOBY. The SCOBY is generally grown in two to four weeks.
It is paramount to remember that the taste of the beverage becomes less sugary when it is fermented for a longer duration. It is easy to prepare Kombucha at home if one follows the recipe correctly.
The fermentation process in Kombucha leads to the generation of several vital nutrients that are beneficial for the human body. In Kombucha common list of nutrients, probiotics sit at the top. Probiotics are the good bacteria that aid digestion and also help to promote the metabolism and the immune system.
This fermented tea contains more than a billion probiotics and its crucial aspect is that it delivers probiotics directly to the colon. Other probiotic supplements or pills go through stomach where they have the risk of getting killed by stomach acid. That does not happen in the case of Kombucha.
Polyphenol is a major antioxidant that fights against inflammation in the body and works to improve overall body health. Kombucha has polyphenols in abundance.
Along with probiotics and polyphenols, Kombucha is also a rich source of Vitamin C, which takes care of your skin, bones, and heart. The beverage additionally contains vitamins B1, B6, and B12, which are vital for producing red blood cells and enhancing your immune system. These vitamins also regulate mood and help to keep a person relatively stress free and calm.
Direct Health Benefits
Claims of Kombucha helping in the healing of cancer, heart disease, and depressive disorders are not yet medically proven because adequate research has not yet gone into this area. Similarly, there is no scientific research to support the claim that Kombucha helps in reducing weight.
However, medical researchers do accept that appropriate balance of gut bacteria is essential for maintaining proper weight, and Kombucha actively promotes this balance. The beverage may help in reducing the waistline if it is taken regularly.
The presence of polyphenols in Kombucha helps to flush out harmful toxic substances from the body. The chemical composition of polyphenol enables it to break down the toxic substances and allows Kombucha to cleans the body system from within.
Compared with other sugar-laden drinks such as soda, Kombucha is definitely more useful and healthy because it is naturally carbonated. Glucosamine, a powerful compound which is found in Kombucha, is known to increase the production of hyaluronic acid, which leads to a reduction of chronic arthritic pain.
This fizzy tea certainly offers a variety of health benefits because of its properties to enhance digestion, fortify the immune system, and reduce toxic substances in the body. It is also beneficial in boosting the health of skin and bones.
The Downside of Kombucha
Just like its benefits, even the claims of harmful effects of Kombucha are not backed by a significant body of research. But one universally accepted fact is that Kombucha contains some amount of alcohol. Although the percentage of alcohol is tiny per serving, people with a history of alcoholism might be better off if they stay away from this drink.
The abundant presence of polyphenols in Kombucha provides it with strong antibiotic properties. While antibiotics help to eliminate harmful bacteria in the body, some people may experience issues such as diarrhea or bloating when they consume Kombucha for the first time. A sudden dose of antibiotics can cause the human body to react in an unstructured manner as our immune system is reacting to the demolition of unhealthy bacteria.
However, these reactions are limited to the initial phase of consumption. With time, the body gets habituated to Kombucha and becomes completely comfortable with it.
The high acidity level of Kombucha can be a cause of concern for some people, particularly if they have chronic acidity or indigestion issues. In such cases, excess consumption of Kombucha may lead to stomach ulcers, heartburn, and other digestive problems.
Final verdict – should you drink Kombucha?
One thing should be clear that all the marketing bonhomie about Kombucha apart, it is not a ‘miracle beverage’. Surely, it has several health benefits, but Kombucha is not the only source to obtain these benefits. Furthermore, this beverage is, by no means, the answer for all your health problems, although it assists in repairing the damages sustained by the body due to toxic substances and other abuses of the body system.
Consumption of Kombucha in excess quantities may have long-lasting negative effects on your body. Therefore, you should limit the drinking of Kombucha, and use it only as a supplementary health beverage which is much better than drinking beer which Det. McNulty from the amazing show The Wire drank too much of which is why he crashed his car and ruined one marriage after another.Related: 13 Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar
But at the same time, it is also crucial to remember that this fermented tea is a better option than other sodas and sugary drinks as already mentioned. Soda is just horrendous for you – it is actually akin to drinking poison. It is a shame that so many people in Mexico drink that much Coke but this is another topic. So, you may go ahead and drink up a glass of Kombucha whenever you have a soda craving.