No longer is kombucha just for hippies and holistics. The slightly fizzy, somewhat odd-tasting (it's an acquired taste!) drink is mainstream now, available at most grocery stores. Have you tried it yet? Not sure what to make of it? Here, I tapped into kombucha advocate Dr. Bindiya Gandhi, who is opening Revive Atlanta, MD, an integrative and functional medicine practice in September, to answer all of your kombucha-related questions...
What is kombucha?
Basically, it is fermented black tea mixed with sugar. It is a probiotic-rich drink.
Where did it originate from?
People have been drinking this for centuries in China, Japan and Korea. It is not just some fad that popped up yesterday.
What are probiotics and why do we need it?
We all have good and bad bacteria in our gut, called microflora. When we have consumed the "standard American diet," including medications and toxins in everyday life, over the years, the gut microflora changes and the bad bacteria can outnumber the good. Probiotics are good bacteria that help make sure we have a higher balance of good vs. bad in our gut.
The more probiotics and diverse microflora we have in our gut, the healthier we are. Studies are linking depression, Alzheimers, heart disease, diabetes and more all to an imbalance of microflora. Probiotics also have skin benefits. If you have bad acne, treat the gut first. It is our "second brain," and releases serotonin, hormones, insulin, all that good stuff. When the microflora is off, it affects whole body.
What are the benefits of kombucha?
The benefits are many. It increases energy, helps with digestion, aids in detoxification and supports the immune system.
Who can benefit from drinking kombucha and who should avoid it?
Everyone can drink it, except lactating mothers and pregnant women, as the fermentation process does produce a natural alcohol that is less than 1%. Just in case, it is the only time you shouldn't drink it. You can safely give a small amount—say, a shot-glass full—to kids.
How much kombucha should you drink per day?
You can safely drink about two bottles per day, but one bottle per day—bottles are each typically 14 to 16 ounces—is plenty. More than two bottles per day could erode the enamel on your teeth, just like soda does.
What is the best time of day to drink it?
On an empty stomach in the morning is the best time to drink energy-boosting kombucha. It contains very little caffeine, but avoid drinking it in the evening.
But is it OK to sip kombucha throughout the day?
The minute you open the bottle, it begins to lose its live bacteria cultures. So, you want to finish it off within a couple hours, if possible.
There are so many brands and flavors of kombucha. Which one is the best?
Get the purest form of it you can find and look for organic and pure ingredients. Always look at the back of the bottle to check the sugar content. The good kombuchas that are low in sugar don’t actually taste as good, to be honest, but they are definitely better for you. In general, try to stick to no more than 5 grams of sugar per serving.
One brand Dr. Gandhi highly recommends (and is not affiliated with): Brew Dr., which you can find at select Fresh Market, Whole Foods, Sprouts and other retailers.
Is homemade kombucha better than the bottled kind?
The new craze is making your own kombucha, where you buy the SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) that you mix with black tea and sugar. But if you don’t brew it appropriately, sometimes the balance can be off between good and bad bacteria, so I don't recommend it unless you really know what you are doing and follow the recipe to a tee.
Where can you buy kombucha?
It’s so mainstream now. You can buy it at any grocery store. Some bars even have them on tap!
What does it cost?
It is relatively expensive—depending on the brand, it's about $6 per bottle.
The funky taste of kombucha may not be for everyone, but give a few different brands and flavors a try before you write it off. You just might surprise yourself and like it. I did and do.
While you're playing with new flavors, learn how to cook with turmeric so that it actually tastes good with the advice from this blog.