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What is Kombucha, and is it Really Healthy?

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It seemed, at first, that kombucha was only popping up at farmers’ markets and natural food stores. Now, it’s established on the shelves of big brand grocers and chain restaurant menus. What is this new, trendy wellness drink, and is it just one more here-today-gone-tomorrow health trend, or is it a genuinely healthy beverage that you should incorporate into your weekly meal planning? We’ve got the answers.

What is Kombucha?

Kombucha is a fermented tea, and it’s anything other than new. In fact, kombucha has been around for thousands of years, dating back to, researchers believe, ancient China or Japan.

How is Kombucha Made?

To make kombucha, specific bacteria strains, sugar, and yeast are added to green or black tea and allowed to ferment for at least one week. During the fermentation process, the yeast and bacteria form a balloon-like film on the tea’s surface. The film becomes a living symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). By setting aside a sample of the film, producers can use it to create further batches of kombucha.

What are the Health Benefits of Kombucha?

Kombucha offers all the same health benefits as tea, plus a whole lot more.

  • Bioactive Compounds – Green tea includes polyphenols and other bioactive compounds. Studies have found that regular consumption of green tea offers such health benefits as controlled blood sugar, improved cholesterol, reduced belly fat, and improved calorie burn.
  • Probiotics – Kombucha is rich in probiotics, the same good-for-your-tummy bacteria, and yeast that you find in yogurt. Such bacteria may offer such health benefits as weight loss, reduced inflammation, and improved digestion.
  • Antioxidants – Kombucha is packed with antioxidants (like superfood blueberries) and can kill harmful bacteria, which helps it serve as part of your body’s immunity support team. Thanks to these powerful substances, studies have found that regularly drinking kombucha can reduce liver toxicity by at least 70 percent.
  • Acetic Acid – Kombucha’s fermentation process creates acetic acid, a substance also found in vinegar. The acetic acid is what gives kombucha its mild carbonation, and these acids can also help kill potentially harmful microorganisms, particularly infection-causing bacteria and candida yeast, which can cause fungal infections.
  • A Healthy Heart – Kombucha may help to reduce the risk of heart disease by helping to improve two heart disease markers, Low-Density Lipoproteins (LDL) known as “bad cholesterol,” and high-density lipoprotein (HDL), known as “good cholesterol.”
  • Reduced Blood Sugar – Regular consumption of kombucha may help to regulate blood sugar, which is critical for those living with Type 2 Diabetes. Studies have found that kombucha may slow carbohydrate digestion, which reduces blood sugar levels and improves kidney and liver function.

It is essential to recognize that while kombucha has been around for centuries, and that preliminary studies are revealing potentially significant health benefits, the studies are just that—preliminary. Much still needs to be assessed about the health benefits of kombucha in longer-term research. As with any significant modification to your diet, before you make any changes, talk to your doctor. He or she can guide you toward the food and exercise lifestyle adjustments that will have the most significant impact on your overall health.

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