By now, you’ve likely at least heard about Kombucha, but odds are unless you’re already drinking it you probably don’t really know just what it is. This beverage has actually been consumed for centuries and has been popular among alternative health advocates for quite a while, but it’s only gone mainstream in recent years.
Kombucha isn’t some magical elixir, although it’s definitely something you should be drinking as it can support your health in many different ways.
What Kombucha Is
Kombucha tea is a type of fermented drink. It’s loaded with billions of healthy gut bacteria, AKA probiotics, which help to strengthen the immune system by raising the levels of those friendly organisms that live in your gut. As it result, they offer protection against pathogens that can enter your body from foods and drinks you consume.
The tea is basically made by mixing in a culture of bacteria and yeast to a blend of tea and sugar (note: while kombucha contains sugar, it is a relatively small amount as it feeds the SCOBY and is converted into vitamins and antioxidants, which means the finished brew contains far less). Sometimes flavorings may be added as well. It usually contains a residual amount of the bacteria solution, similar to sediment that you’d usually find in wine. It’s very nutrient rich and has a sweet-tart flavor, yet it contains only about 45 calories per 12 ounces. Compare that to soda which contains nearly 150 calories for that same 12 ounces, and is loaded with sugar and contains virtually no nutrition whatsoever. Kombucha, on the other hand, is filled with enzymes, vitamins, and minerals, offering numerous benefits to your health.
How Kombucha Helps Support Your Gut – And, Your Overall Health
While it might sound strange, nearly three-quarters of your immune system can be found in your gut, and those beneficial gut flora are a must for enjoying good health. When you have too many unfriendly gut bacteria and not enough of the friendly type, a wide range of health problems can develop or worsen, as numerous studies have shown. Just some of those include allergies, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, acid reflux and even mental issues like anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
To ensure a good balance of healthy gut flora and a strong immune system, eating a diet that contains a good amount of probiotics is recommended, which includes Kombucha, as well as foods like miso, kefir, and plain yogurt, among others.
The Benefits of Kombucha
Just some of the benefits you can expect to derive from kombucha includes:
- Greater energy
- Better mood
- Improved digestion
- Stronger immune system
- Liver detoxification
- Elimination of candida (yeast)
- Weight loss
Of course, once again, it’s worth mentioning that kombucha is not some magical potion – simply drinking it without making any lifestyle or diet changes won’t mean that you’ll suddenly drop stubborn pounds. What it can do, however, is to help limit the amount of fat your body stores as well as to support a well-running metabolism. While more studies are needed to confirm its weight loss benefits, it does make sense that kombucha can help as it contains a high amount of acetic acid (similar to apple cider vinegar) and important polyphenols, both of which have been found to aid weight loss efforts.
Making Your Own Kombucha
Thanks to the popularity of kombucha, most grocery stores carry it across the U.S., however, it can be pricey, which is why you might want to make it yourself. It’s easy to do and you’ll save quite a bit while enhancing your health at the same time.
- The first step is to get a kombucha tea starter culture or SCOBY, which stands for Symbiotic Cultures of Bacteria and Yeast. There’s no right or wrong way to score one, the easiest way is arguably to purchase it online as they’re shipped in a dehydrated state, and you’ll know that it’s been pathogen-tested for your safety. As you’ll need starter liquid too, you can get that from the same place – you need at least one cup to make a one-gallon batch.
- Now, you’ll need to gather your other ingredients, but once you have your SCOBY and starter liquid the rest is fairly easy. Here’s what you need: 8 tea bags (unflavored black, white or green), 1 cup sugar, 1 SCOBY, 1 to 2 cups starter liquid, 1-gallon glass jar, breathable cotton fabric to cover the top and one rubber band.
- It’s time to begin – start by boiling four cups of water. Add the tea and allow it to steep for about 10 minutes/ remove tea bags and stir in the sugar until it’s completely dissolved. Transfer the tea liquid into the gallon container and then fill it almost to the top with water; let it cool to room temperature. Carefully place your SCOBY on top and then add the starter liquid, pouring slowly. Cover the container with the cotton cloth and then secure it with a rubber band.
- Now that your kombucha is all mixed, it needs a good home. The right spot is warm, yet far away from direct sunlight. Ideally, the temperature should be between 75 and 85 degrees which is the ideal breeding ground for that healthy bacteria.
- The next step may be the hardest. Now, you just have to wait and let the yeast and bacteria do their thing, which can take anywhere from seven to 20 days. After the fifth day, take a taste – when it’s ready, it should have a flavor that’s not too sweet and not too sour.
- Once your kombucha has achieved the right flavor, you need to scoop out at least a cup of the starter liquid for your next batch, placing it into a clean bowl or glass jar, and remove the SCOBYs. It should have the original SCOBY, known as the “mother,” and another one which has formed on top called the “baby.” You only need one for your next batch, so you can toss one out or give it to a friend.
Finally, now it’s time to bottle it up and enjoy! You can add fresh fruit or herbs as flavorings if you’d like – fresh-squeezed lemon juice and a pinch of grated ginger is fantastic, but the combinations are pretty much endless.