The fizzy and delicious fermented soda
When a drink comes along that had cult followers like Joseph Stalin sipping it on the regular a girl’s got to investigate. Kombucha is a deliciously fizzy, sweet, fermented vinegar drink that’s been around for thousands of years. I asked google what the benefits of drinking kombucha were. Apparently it can cure cancer. I’ll make sure to notify the American Cancer Society.
As a nutritionist I error on the side of skepticism when learning about new health food product. In my book, scientific research still trumps thousand year old traditions. When it’s comes to kombucha there is not enough evidence supporting the health claims you’ll see plastered all over the internet. Kombucha does have antioxidants, likely due to the green or black tea, which is the base of kombucha. The nutritional data for kombucha shows it is a relatively good source of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, and vitamin B12. That’s more than I can say about a bottle of Dole’s orange juice.
The Science Behind the Brew
Kombucha is made by brewing black tea, adding sugar and bacteria, and letting the culture ferment. The yeast breaks down and feeds on the sugar ethanol, B vitamins, CO2, and acids are left behind. This is a perfect feast for little bacteria. When the bacteria eats the ethanol, it produces acid, which gives kombucha a vinegar like taste. When the bacteria digest the yeast the byproduct in CO2 which gives kombucha it’s fizzy quality.
So what are we looking at? A beverage that has the fizzy characteristic of pop, is largely made of carbohydrates, has a little bit of caffeine, alcohol (2-5%), and vitamins. Far from the cure all health claims but not a bad substitute for a diet coke. My interest in kombucha is largely due to the bacterial content. There is scientific evidence that probiotics support a healthy gastrointestinal tract and are beneficial for the digestive process. As a fermented product, kombucha is loaded bacteria, the strains of bacteria will differ depending what tea is used in the brewing process. The bottom line is that it’s folklore that could be incredibly valuable to contributing to a healthy lifestyle – there just isn’t proof yet.