Lately, kombucha has been the drink of choice for my husband and me. (In fact, I’m drinking some as I write this!) Each night, we’ve been splitting a 16-ounce container of kombucha with our dinner. We’ve never brewed our own; instead, our go-to brand is GT’s, which offers a variety of tangy flavors (my personal favorites are mango and guava).
A bit of background: Kombucha is classified as “a fermented and sweetened tea often made with black or green tea,” according to Forbes. It has gained popularity in the United States and originated in China around 220 B.C., the publication noted.
I first tried kombucha while recovering from a bad bout of food poisoning a few years ago. The fermented tea calmed my upset stomach (and was one of the few things I could keep down). It wasn’t until last year that I started drinking it regularly, more for its fruity flavors than anything else. But recently I got to thinking about its health benefits. Is kombucha healthy? Are there any downsides to drinking it? I turned to the experts for some insight.
What is kombucha?
“Kombucha is a fermented product. Fermented products can be super great for our gut health by providing probiotics that can aid in digestion,” said registered dietician Colleen Christensen.
That’s probably why kombucha seemed to help me feel better when I had food poisoning.
What are the benefits of kombucha?
Christensen added that the drink can be a source of B vitamins and that it’s “made from tea which contains compounds that can act as antioxidants and protect our cells from damage.”
Nutritionist Lisa Richards, the creator of the Candida Diet, noted that kombucha can improve one’s energy. “It is best enjoyed around midday when there is food in the gut to digest while you also may be needing the extra energy boost,” she said.
What are the downsides of kombucha?
But on the other side of the coin, there are a few cons to the beverage. One such downside is added sugar, which Richards defined as “a sugar sourced from outside the food product and added in as a means of enhancing flavor or texture.” For those drinking store-bought kombucha, she recommended buying low-sugar brands.
Additionally, Christensen noted that kombucha contains a small amount of alcohol. This is, as Kombucha Brewers International points out, “a natural byproduct of the fermentation process.” While it usually isn’t something to worry about, Christensen said it “may be something to take into consideration if someone has a history with substance abuse or is drinking large quantities.” The GT’s kombucha bottles also note that those who are pregnant or breastfeeding should consult a healthcare professional before drinking kombucha.
Overall, there’s still not a ton of research on kombucha, Christensen pointed out. Similarly, internist Dr. Brent A Bauer wrote on the Mayo Clinic’s website that “valid medical studies of kombucha tea’s role in human health are very limited.”
As of right now, I plan to keep drinking kombucha. For me, it’s been a tasty drink that has settled my stomach on more than one occasion. Have you tried kombucha? Share your experience with us in the comments below.