Do You 'Boucha?
For the last decade my husband has been trying to get me to drink Kombucha. He was one of the first people I knew who drank it regularly and loved all the different flavor combinations, but I honestly thought it looked odd, with the cloudy bits of who-knows-what floating at the bottom of the glass bottle. He had a variety of flavors and various brands he loved, and would always try to get me to take a sip, but being the wonderfully stubborn person I am, I always passed. My reasoning was that I really loved just drinking lemon water and green tea throughout the day, and didn't see a need to bother with a new type of drink, (especially one so expensive). However, it was probably the fact that I was unaware of the myriad health benefits of this "magic elixir," that kept me away from the drink for so long, since the moment I learned about the perks of drinking it (while studying gut health in nutrition school), I became a Kombucha-a-day drinker, and have never looked back....much to my husband's delight.
Kombucha is a beverage derived from fermenting green or black tea with sugar as well as a range of yeast and bacteria (known as "SCOBY" or the "Mother"- this culture essentially eats the sugar and grows, thereby fermenting the tea, so by the time the drink is consumed there is very little sugar and/or alcohol present). The exact origins of Kombucha are unknown but some believe it originated in Manchuria sometime between 200 - 2000 years ago, and was consumed and praised for its health and longevity benefits. Today, it is believed that the benefits of regularly drinking Kombucha include, but are not limited to, the following:
(1) Improves digestion - Kombucha is especially great to drink after a rich or heavy meal, or anytime you may have been "glutened" (accidentally ingested gluten)
(2) Supplies the gut with healthy probiotics which is essential for gut health and immunity (Fun fact: 70% of your immune system is "located" in your gut)
(3) Detoxifies the body - may reduce liver toxicity caused by toxic chemicals
(4) Promotes weight loss by boosting metabolism
(5) Antioxidants - provides similar benefits to green tea when fermented with it; antioxidants fight free radicals, molecules which damage our cells
(6) Anti-microbial/ Anti-bacterial - May kill harmful bacteria and microorganisms
(7) Decreases inflammation (Fun fact: low level chronic inflammation is believed by many to be the root cause of ALL chronic diseases)
(8) May help reduce the risk of heart disease, manage Type-2 Diabetes, and help control blood sugar
(9) May help reduce the risk of cancer- Kombucha has a high concentration of polyphenols and antioxidants which help protect the body from various cancers
(10) May help decrease arthritis pain and gastric ulcers
While Kombucha has gained in popularity in the United States over the last decade, it is important to note that not all Kombucha brands are created equal. Some have a high level of added sugar from fruit juices added to the culture to enhance or change the flavor, which results in negating of many of the above-mentioned benefits. If you are new to Kombucha, it may be hard to know which brands or flavors to try, so my general advice is to make sure the brand is reputable and purchased in a store (as opposed to home-brewed varieties which may have been exposed to unhealthy levels of acid, yeast or mold). It is also important to look out for added sugars, and opt for Kombucha with the lowest sugar content possible. Finally, if you shake or "burp" the bottle prior to opening it, it will "explode" upon opening due to its high concentration of carbonation, so make sure never to shake the bottle. (Tip: I hold the bottle upside down in my hand and swirl it around slowly to mix the cloudy yeast at the bottom of the bottle prior to opening, then open the cap very slowly to let the "fizz" out prior to fully opening and drinking it). Three brands I know, love and trust are:
(1) Brew Dr.: their Kombucha is raw, certified organic, certified non-GMO, certified Gluten-free, and they are a certified B corporation (which I personally like to support). Two of my favorite flavors are the Lemon, Ginger, Cayenne and the Vanilla Oak, but they also have interesting flavor combinations such as Chai Apple, Mint Lemon, and Clear Mind, which is made with rosemary, mint and sage.
(2) Health-Ade: their Kombucha is certified organic, certified non-GMO, certified Gluten-free and made in small batches. They have some interesting flavors such as Bubbly Rose, Power Greens, and my personal favorite - Ginger-Lemon. (The Ginger-Lemon is extremely gingery, so I only recommend it for those who love the tanginess of ginger, but its really great for settling your stomach after a rich or large meal, or after being "glutened.")
(3) GT's: this brand has been around for much longer than some of the other popular brands in the US, may be less expensive than its counterparts, and is certified Gluten-free and certified organic. This company does a great job with its fruity flavors and has a wide variety of them for people who want a more fruity tasting Kombucha experience. Many consider their Kombucha a good "stepping stone" for the Kombucha novice. They make Kombucha flavors such as Strawberry Lemonade, Pomegranate Power, Watermelon Wonder, Mystic Mango and Guava Goddess.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends drinking no more than 12 oz. of Kombucha per day, so I typically recommend one bottle per day, depending on the serving size, since some of the popular brands come in 16 oz. bottles. Once opened, a bottle of Kombucha should be refrigerated and consumed within a day or two. An unopened bottle may be refrigerated for anywhere from three to nine months, however I recommend drinking them as close to the date of purchase as possible for optimal health benefits.
If you have any Kombucha-related questions, please do not hesitate to reach out, and I will do my best to answer them. I hope if you have never tried Kombucha before, that I have inspired you to try it, and if you're already a connoisseur, I hope you are excited to learn of the many health benefits you are deriving from consuming it!