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How much do you know about kombucha? If you think that SCOBY is a humorous, crime-solving canine, you probably don’t know a whole lot. But even those who enjoy drinking it on a regular basis may not know how it’s made or what sort of health benefits come from drinking it. The big kombucha fans out there claim it’s almost a miracle elixir — from warding off cancer to boosting your energy. But before we get into what it can do, let’s look at what it is.
So what is kombucha anyways?
Kombucha is made by fermenting either green or black tea by adding sugar, yeast and live bacteria. After sitting for about a week or more, a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) forms like a film on the surface to ferment the mixture. It may look gross, but this living thing is what makes kombucha, well, kombucha. You can also transfer a SCOBY over to a new batch of tea to turn it into kombucha! It’s similar to how sourdough breads have a “mother” to start new batches. Fun fact: It’s sometimes called “mushroom tea” — not because it has mushrooms but because the SCOBY looks sort of like fungi. And it’s not some new fad — it’s been around for quite some time (about 2,000 years) and is thought to have originated in China.
Is it as healthy as people say it is?
We won’t leave you guessing throughout this whole article whether kombucha is or isn’t healthy. We’ll just give you the straight, no-nonsense answer. When you really get down to it, kombucha contains B vitamins, antioxidants and probiotics. So all the health benefits associated with those three things can also be attributed to kombucha: better gut health, less inflammation, a healthier liver and lowered risk of infection.
As far as anti-cancer agents go, there still needs to be a lot of testing done before this claim can be verified. Is it healthy? Sure. Is it a miracle elixir? We can’t say.
OK, but does the sugar make it unhealthy?
Since each store-bought kombucha will vary based on the brand, it’s best to take a good hard look at the labels. According to the USDA, kombucha will have anywhere from 2-8 grams of sugar (whereas sodas have about 26 grams) per eight-ounce serving. So if you’re thirsty, it’s definitely a better choice for sugar intake as opposed to a soft drink.
Will I get too caffeinated drinking kombucha?
That’s very unlikely. After the brewing process, kombucha contains about 10-25 milligrams of caffeine per serving. For reference, a cup of coffee is about 95 milligrams of caffeine for the same amount of liquid! The fermentation burns off a significant amount of caffeine when the yeast, sugar, oxygen and tea come together.
Is there really alcohol in there?
Yes, but only a small amount. The fermentation process naturally produces some alcohol, but if you’re buying it from the store, kombucha is only allowed to contain less than 0.5% alcohol by volume. However, a few companies have started making more alcoholic kombucha as a competitor with beer and wine, but that’s under the same rules and jurisdiction as their boozy counterparts.
When all is said and done, kombucha is generally harmless and could benefit you in the long run. If you’re concerned it will affect a preexisting health condition, always check with your physician first. But if they give you the go-ahead, why not give it a sip?