What Is Kombucha And Is It Healthy?

What is kombucha, why is this craze sweeping the nation, and does it have any real health benefits?

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People are constantly looking for ways to eat and drink more healthily. Many consumers (and corporations) are on an unending quest to find the latest healthy and trendy food product. The beverage industry is no exception. For a while, certain "fitness waters" were quite popular, telling us that simple drinking water was not doing nearly enough for our bodies. More recently, coconut water started showing up in grocery stores, promising all kinds of health benefits. This episode of DNews discusses kombucha, another popular type of beverage among natural food enthusiasts.

Kombucha "tea" is made from a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (aka SCOBY), mixed into tea and sugar. As with many methods of fermentation, the yeast eat the sugars, producing alcohol (ethanol) and carbon dioxide. The bacteria eat the ethanol and it is turned into acetic acid. Altogether, this produces a slightly sour, acidic, effervescent, and alcoholic drink. If kombucha is left to brew and ferment for a long time, it will ultimately become vinegar.

While kombucha is wildly popular, the jury is still out when it comes to its health benefits. Trace discusses some of the existing research here. At the very least, it's best to take any health benefits you read about with a grain of salt. We could not find a solid scientific study that showed any significant health benefits to drinking kombucha. If anything, the CDC recommends no more than 4 ounces (118 ml) of kombucha per day. And whatever you do, avoid making it at home, unless you are very, very meticulous about sterilization.

Learn More:
What Is Kombucha? (Live Science)
"What smells like beer, tastes like carbonated vinegar and looks like something you forgot in the back of the refrigerator? Why, kombucha tea, of course!"

Kombucha Fermentation and its Antimicrobial Activity (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry)
"Kombucha was prepared in a tea broth (0.5% w/v) supplemented with sucrose (10% w/v) by using a commercially available starter culture."

What is kombucha tea? Does it have any health benefits? (Mayo Clinic)
"Kombucha tea is a fermented drink made with tea, sugar, bacteria and yeast."