I am a professional. What I meant was: What’s The Fuss?
This last work week was all about kombucha. Everyone from newly diagnosed diabetics, to folks struggling to lose weight, to headache sufferers wanted to hear my two cents.
Since I really try not to spout opinions on topics I know nothing about, I decided to read up on kombucha and it’s supposed health benefits. After several hours of scouring medical and non-medical sites I am ready to share what I know. Hope you are sitting.
What I Know About Kombucha:
That’s right, I still basically, know nothing about the health benefits of the stuff. That’s probably because nobody does.
What is it?
Kombucha is considered a “functional beverage.” Put simply, that is a drink that does something for one’s health. To me, coffee, wine, and summertime Mojito’s are “functional beverages.” However, technically speaking, these drinks cannot contain alcohol and should have some nutritional/herbal components. I will argue that Mojito’s have lime and mint….But, that’s for another post.
This fermented tea drink is made by mixing black tea, sugars, and SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast). As a result of the fermentation, a thick gelatinous layer forms in the tea-reminiscent of floating seaweed or “kombu.”
I know. My mouth was watering too.
Don’t run out to get some yet. It will still be there on the shelf when you are done reading this post. In fact, chances are it will still be there in a few years.
What’s It Taste Like?
Drinkers describe kombucha as “bubbly and a bit sour.” At times, a particularly high quality bottle will have “floaters” in it. According to the kombucha manager at our local Whole Foods, “Don’t worry! It’s totally safe to swallow the floaties.”
Thank goodness. I certainly wouldn’t want to miss out on the yeast backwash floating in my tea.
What’s It Do?
Proponents of ‘bucha (that’s what you call it if you’re cool like that–Namaste dude) say that the microflora, B vitamins, and alcohol created in the process have health benefits. People have credited this humble beverage with doing everything from curing migraines, to healing ulcers, to warding off cancer.
[Sorry, did my "that sounds like a load " voice come through there?]
The truth is: there are absolutely ZERO medical studies proving any of the health claims made by kombuchers.
There is however, evidence to suggest that “brew your own” varieties can be dangerous. Handling these bacterial and yeast cultures improperly can lead to contamination which in turn can lead to illness…and even death.
The good news is that for a mere $3.00 you can buy a single serving bottle of commercially brewed kombucha. Are you going to put a price tag on a healthfully rotted beverage?
The kombucha/kefir rage seems to have started by folks seeking the good health of Eastern cultures such as the Japanese.
While it is true that the Japanese live longer and healthier AND drink kombucha, that is not necessarily a causal relationship.At a mere 3%, Japan boasts the LOWEST obesity rate in the developed world. Compare that to our sickening 32%. The Japanese way of eating: tons of fish, vegetables and broths in much smaller portions to our “all-you-can-eat-processed-taken-out-delivered” diet is the real difference. In fact, feeding a Japanese person a Western diet (with or without the ‘buch) rapidly causes the very same weight and health problems we Americans have. It’s not that Japanese people have better genes or that they swig kombucha all day.
So, if I were to try to emulate the health laden consumption habits of the East, I would go ahead and eat some raw food and some cooked food. I would eat things with a face and without. I would decrease my portions and increase my exercise.
As for kombucha, if the concept of a carbonated, sweet-sour drink that you may have to chew to swallow appeals to you, proceed with caution. Just be forewarned that ‘bucha is not Paleo. Apparently, cavemen drew the line at fermentation.