Kombucha 101

Kombucha is among a growing segment of beverages that claim “better for you” status. Health claims aside, kombucha has gained many fans who simply love it for its flavor and mouth feel. For some though, it’s an acquired taste. And what the heck is that stuff floating inside the bottle? (Don’t worry, it’s nothing harmful.) Not only is kombucha a beverage enjoyed by many for its unique flavor, but it’s also chock-full of good bacteria!

Kombucha begins with something called a SCOBY – a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. Sounds delicious, right? The SCOBY is added to a batch of brewed tea, plus sugar, where the bacterial colony munches away at the sugar, fermenting the drink, and transforming sweet tea into the elixir known as kombucha. After the fermentation process is complete, additional juices or flavorings may be added to achieve the desired taste. One common addition is ginger. The end result is a fizzy, tart yet slightly sweet beverage that’s rich in beneficial bacteria. Small strands of the yeast culture are often seen floating in the drink, and although they look a little weird, they’re okay to consume.

Due to the probiotic content of kombucha (like other fermented foods), many people have anecdotally reported health benefits related to regular consumption of the tea. Probiotics have been linked to improved gut health, and some have suggested that kombucha intake has eased bloating and other digestive ailments, as well as improving quality of bowel movements. Probiotics are also known to be beneficial for the immune system. The tea may not have these same beneficial effects for everyone though. Also, note that due to the fermentation that occurs, kombucha contains a small amount of alcohol (but less than the amount required for a beverage to be sold as an alcoholic drink).

Compared to juices and sodas, kombucha is lower in calories, typically clocking in at less than 100 calories per 16-ounce bottle. If you’re looking to cut back on your soda habit, consider swapping the pop for kombucha tea for a similar carbonated beverage experience.

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