Like I mentioned in my 'Where to Find Ingredients' post, I used to think Kombucha was a form of tae-kwon-do. Guess what? It's not.
The basics: Kombucha has only been around in the U.S. since the 1990s, but has been a part of tradition in Asia for 2,000+ years! It's a fermented beverage that's made by combining yeast and bacteria with natural sugar, green or black tea and letting the solution ferment. Basic Kombucha has a vinegar-like and somewhat tart taste, and the real good stuff has organic berry juices, spices, herbs and/or greens added.
The benefits: Kombucha helps your body detox. It has bacterial acids and enzymes that the body produces and/or uses to detox your system, thus lightening the load for the pancreas and liver.
Kombucha is also said to help prevent arthritis with its glucosamines. Glucosamines aid in hyaluronic acid production, which enables connective tissue to bind moisture, maintains tissue structure, moisture, lubrication and flexibility, and lessens free radical damage.
Kombucha aids in digestion and gut health. It's a probiotic beverage. The naturally fermented yeast and bacteria help with bowel movements, bile creation, absorption of vitamins and minerals, and protection of toxins and 'bad' bacteria. Pretty much, Kombucha helps move nutrients through your gut.
Speaking of bacteria and yeast, the most common strains found in Kombucha are the following, which I gathered from Cultures for Health:
- Acetobacter: an oxygen-requiring bacteria strain that produces acetic acid (Kombucha's vinegar-like taste and smell come from this) and gluconic acid (combines with other substances such as drugs, toxins, and hormones to either carry them to other parts of the body or eliminate them). Acetobacter xylinoides and acetobacter ketogenum are two strains that you might find in Kombucha.
- Saccharomyces: a number of yeast strains that produce alcohol and are the most common types of yeast found in Kombucha. They can be aerobic or anaerobic (requires an oxygen-free environment). They include Saccharomycodes ludwigii, Saccharomycodes apiculatus, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, Zygosaccharomyes, and Saccharomyces cerevisiae.
- Brettanomyces: another type of yeast strain, either aerobic or anaerobic, that produce alcohol or acetic acid.
- Lactobacillus: a type of aerobic bacteria that is sometimes, but not always, found in Kombucha. It is a "friendly" bacteria that can aid in some digestive symptoms.
- Pediococcus: Also sometimes, but not always, found in Kombucha. Usually occurs in pair with Lactobacillus and serves as a PH-balancing agent.
- Gluconacetobacter kombuchae: an anaerobic bacteria that is unique to Kombucha. It feeds on nitrogen that is found in tea and produces acetic acid and gluconic acid.
- Zygosaccharomyces kombuchaensis: another yeast strain that is unique to Kombucha. It produces alcohol and carbonation. Results from fermentation.
When to drink it: If you are pregnant or nursing, whether or not you choose to drink Kombucha is up to you. Most store-bought Kombucha beverages only contain around 1-2% of alcohol at the most, depending on the amount of time between bottling and purchasing (the longer the beverage continues to ferment, the more alcohol that exists). Homemade Kombucha typically contains .5% or less. In general, however, drinking Kombucha can be substituted for your typical morning caffeinated beverage after breakfast, enjoyed before or during lunch to aid in digestion, or consumed during the afternoon alone or with a snack. I don't suggest that you grab a Kombucha beverage after 4pm because of the caffeine content that can interrupt your sleep cycle. However, you know your body, and the more you drink Kombucha or tea in the afternoon, the more you'll know how you respond to the caffeine content come bedtime.
If you're going to take anything away from this, understand that Kombucha is a fermented tea beverage that can help aid in digestion or fake-hunger symptoms.
It's the perfect soda substitution for me. I have enjoyed Kombucha at different times of the day for different reasons, and each time I'm reminded how awesome it is. A few of my favorite brands that can be purchased at Whole Foods or any natural grocery store are GT's Enlightened Organic Raw Kombucha, Kevita Master Brew Kombucha, Health-Ade Kombucha, and Live Kombucha Soda.
Do you have a favorite Kombucha brand or flavor?