Super Foods Blog: Part 2 of 3
Kombucha (pronounced kom-boo-chah) is a fermented drink made with tea, sugar, bacteria and yeast. It is slightly sparkling, has a mild acidic/ sour taste and contains a small amount of alcohol (<0.5%). The exact origin of kombucha is not known but it is thought to have originated from North Eastern China between 200 to 2000 years ago.
The role of the gut microbiome (also called microbiota) in health and disease is an area of intense research. The gut microbiota refers to the collection of microorganisms (including bacteria, viruses and fungi) that lives in our gut. Our gut microbiota can change depending on our diet, environment and medications (especially antibiotics). Imbalances in our gut microbiota have been linked to certain diseases including cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Diet has a huge influence on our gut bacteria composition which is why fermented foods such as kombucha are believed to be beneficial for our gut health and have increased in popularity.
Kombucha is usually brewed at home where a starter culture of symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (called a SCOBY which look like a mushroom) is added to a jar of sweetened tea.
The tea is fermented twice; first fermentation (6-10 days) to make the actual kombucha and then second fermentation (3-10 days) to carbonate the drink and make it slightly fizzy.Brewing kombucha at home can be risky as it could become contaminated with bad bacteria which can make you very ill. Nowadays, the drink is available commercially and you can buy it from the supermarkets, food outlets and convenience stores. This avoids the issue of contamination as commercially bottled kombucha are checked to meet strict safety standards.
There have been numerous implausible health claims attributed to drinking kombucha which includes curing AIDS, aging, anorexia, arthritis, cancer and diabetes but there’s been no evidence to support any of these claims. Very little research has been done on kombucha and its health benefits, the only research that’s been done on this drink shows that fermenting the tea increases the amount of bacteria in the beverage but it does not directly show that it will improve health.
So, whether kombucha is worth including in your diet depends on your reasons for drinking it. If you want to include more fermented foods in your diet to try and improve your gut bacteria than yoghurt and sauerkraut are just as good. If you’re trying to wean yourself off soft drinks than this might be the lesser of the two evils as it still provides the fizzy feeling without all the sugar.