Kombucha: Is it worth the hype?
Fad diets and superfoods can come in and out of vogue quicker than the seasons, but kombucha looks here to stay.
Kombucha – a sour-tasting fermented tea thought to have originated in China or Japan – has been around for thousands of years, but it’s only recently that its health benefits have been widely lauded.
But is it worth the hype?
What is kombucha and how do you make it?
Kombucha is made from either a green or black tea base.
White sugar fermented with a type of “tea fungus” called a scoby – a symbiotic culture of acetic acid, bacteria and yeast – is then added.
During the fermentation process, the yeast converts the sugar to alcohol and the bacteria converts the alcohol to organic acid.
That gives kombucha its unique sour taste, not unlike apple cider.
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Health benefits of kombucha
Kombucha has been credited with anti-cancer, anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, detoxification and probiotic properties.
A recent University of Sri Lanka study found while the bacterial component of the kombucha culture has health benefits, more research is needed.
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Accredited practising dietitian Nicole Dynan says while kombucha has been around for many centuries, there is still not a great deal known about its health benefits.
“There are claims it can cure cancer, diabetes and inflammation but we really need a lot more research on the human population,” the Dietitians Association of Australia spokeswoman says.
“Whether it can truly be called a true probiotic is the question – that is, you ingest the live bacteria then it makes it through to the other end. Some pasteurised versions of kombucha actually contain no live bacteria.”
Mrs Dynan says kombucha made at home using a scoby is likely to have more health benefits than some store-bought versions.
“You need to make sure that scoby comes from a reliable source,” she says.
Other options for good gut health
Nicole says other fermented foods such as kefir, freshly made sauerkraut and milk drink filmjolk may be more beneficial to gut health than kombucha.
Prebiotic foods that help feed the good bacteria in the gut, such as legumes, grains and potatoes, are also essential in a healthy diet.
Written by Sally Heppleston.