Ever heard of Kombucha? Also known as “Immortal Health Elixir” this beverage’s popularity has been steadily increasing over the past couple of years. But kombucha can hardly be considered the new kid on the block, since it’s been reportedly around for more than 2,000 years.
And with a wide array of purported health benefits, ranging from improved digestion and reduced joint pain all the way to a stronger immune system, improved energy and reduced risk of developing cancer; this beverage might be something to get acquainted with. Read on to get the down-low on what it is, what it can do for you and how you can get your hands on some!
What Is It?
Although kombucha is also often referred to as “mushroom tea”, mushrooms are definitely not on its list of ingredients. Practically speaking, kombucha is a sweetened tea that is fermented with a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (often referred to by it’s acronym; SCOBY). These friendly bacteria and yeast party together during fermentation, producing a blobby disc which resembles a mushroom, hence the not so flattering nickname. The fermentation process yields a nutrient-rich, low-sugar beverage that fans describe as a great alternative to soda.
The first known-of scientific research on this beverage was produced back in the first half of the 20th century, and started due to Russian scientists suspecting that the drink (known in Russia as tea kvass) may have been part of the reason why entire regions of the spectacularly large country had very low rates of cancers compared with others. They began a series of experiments and began pinpointing to what exactly it is that’s so beneficial about kombucha.
It took until around the 1990s for kombucha to reach the west, and, it’s been taking North-America by storm ever since. So far, not much research is available but thanks to its rising popularity over the last decades, more papers are slowly starting to emerge. And, while the evidence on kombucha itself is sparse, research is far from lacking on the individual nutrients it contains.
What Nutrients Does Kombucha Actually Contain?
The main nutrients you’ll find in this fermented beverage are:
- vitamin B1
- vitamin B6
- vitamin B12
- vitamin C
Kombucha is also high in probiotics, antioxidants and glutaric acids.
Why Should I Care About Kombucha?
Kombucha is far more than just a trendy drink. It’s been associated with beneficial effects on a wide array of health-related aspects.
What’s more, at only 60 calories per 16 oz bottle, kombucha contains is a much healthier alternative to soft drinks. That’s because over 90% of its sugar content is used up by the fermentation process (similarly to what happens with sourdough bread or kefir).
A Little More About Kombucha’s Health Benefits
Digestion And Gut Health
Let’s start with the most obvious. Since kombucha is naturally fermented with a living colony of bacteria and yeast, it is considered a probiotic. And, as you should know, probiotics play a beneficial role on many aspects of health, including on digestion, gut health immunity but also mental clarity and mood stability. There’s not much not to love about these little beasts.
An article published in the Journal of Food Microbiology established that the following probiotic strains can be found in kombucha (in decreasing order):
Research in mice has found kombucha to be as effective as omeprazole (a drug commonly prescribed for heartburn, gastric-reflux and ulcers) in healing ulcers.
The first three microorganisms are responsible for diarrheal disease, food-borne illness, and gastroenteritis, all of which have the unpleasant tendency to eject you food back out in one form or another.
Candida is a fungus that can cause candidiasis (also known as thrush), which commonly includes growth of white patches on the tongue or other areas of the mouth and throat. In women, candida can also cause yeast infections.
Fights Free-Radical Damage
Since the main component of kombucha is tea, its high antioxidant content may not come as a surprise to most. Antioxidants are good little soldiers to have on your side, as they help you fight a good fight against damage-causing molecules known as free-radicals, helping ward off many different diseases. Check out this article for more antioxidant-rich foods!
What you may not know is that kombucha contains an additional powerful antioxidant not found in tea alone. It’s known as D-saccharic acid 1, 4-lactone (or DSL for short). DSL seems to be produced through the fermentation process and scientists believe that it is this particular antioxidant (combined with a good dose of vitamin C also found in the beverage) that give it it’s antioxidant effects.
Plus, since it’s fermented, kombucha is more powerful than plain tea. It’s antioxidant activity has been found to be 100 times higher than vitamin C and 25 times higher than vitamin E.
Direct research on the effects of kombucha’s antioxidant properties found kombucha was able to reduce the damage caused by radiation exposure in mice. Now we’re just waiting for future research to confirm the same in humans.
As mentioned a little earlier, kombucha contains a good amount of glutaric acid. Our bodies can convert this glutaric acid into glucosamine, which helps lubricate joints and maintain a good supply of collagen, thereby reducing and perhaps even preventing joint pain.
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