Kombucha is a fermented drink made from tea, yeast, bacteria and sugar. It has grown in popularity and some believe it has many health benefits.
That’s because the ingredients work together to create probiotics, the bacteria needed to keep your gut healthy.
Research on the exact health benefits of kombucha is limited, but its components are known to help your body. “Kombucha provides vitamins, antioxidants and probiotics, which are components of a healthy diet,” says Lindsey Wohlford, wellness dietitian at MD Anderson.
Here she shares more about the pros and cons of drinking kombucha.
Kombucha contains antioxidants
Antioxidants are compounds found in food that help protect your body. They can help reduce inflammation, support your immune system, and reduce DNA damage. They may also help reduce your risk of diseases like cancer.
Kombucha contains antioxidants, so it can be a nutrient source in addition to your regular intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and other plant foods and beverages like tea.
“However, scientists don’t know if we could get the same amount of antioxidants from just drinking regular tea, rather than fermented teas like kombucha,” says Wohlford.
Kombucha may contain natural probiotics
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that promote a healthy gut, which is important for your overall health, especially your immune system.
The best way to get probiotics is through food, and kombucha can be a good source along with yogurt and other fermented products like sauerkraut.
“You can get probiotics from kombucha, but it shouldn’t replace the probiotics you get from a healthy, plant-based diet,” says Wohlford. “We won’t know how beneficial the bacteria in kombucha are until more research is done.”
Drinking kombucha can bring the benefits of tea
Tea is believed to have many health benefits, and if you don’t like the hot or iced type, drinking kombucha may be a way for you to enjoy tea in a form you like.
It also contains very little caffeine, so if you avoid or limit that, kombucha can be a good option.
Kombucha contains alcohol
Kombucha contains alcohol, so avoid it if you’re concerned about your intake. Alcohol is created during the fermentation process, and in some types of kombucha it is high enough for the drink to be considered an alcoholic beverage.
“The alcohol content of kombucha could be an issue if you avoid alcohol or take medications that interact with alcohol,” says Wohlford.
For cancer prevention, it is best not to drink alcohol.
Beware of added sugar
“Kombucha can contain a lot of added sugar,” says Wohlford. “Sugar causes inflammation in our body, so we have to be careful not to consume too much sugar.”
According to American Heart Association, men should consume no more than 36 grams of added sugar per day and women should consume less than 25 grams of added sugar per day. Some bottled kombucha drinks contain most of this daily recommendation in a single bottle.
Risks of Drinking Kombucha
Kombucha contains live bacteria, which could be harmful to immunocompromised or pregnant people. Store-bought kombucha might be safer since the production process is regulated, but homemade kombucha might have bacteria or mold growth.
“Homemade kombucha is best avoided because it can be easily contaminated by the container it’s made in and may not contain safe levels of bacteria and yeast,” says Wohlford.
If you drink kombucha, Wohlford recommends choosing a store-bought version with a low amount of added sugar.
“Most people can drink moderate amounts of kombucha as part of a healthy diet along with a wide variety of plant-based foods,” says Wohlford. “It’s better to eat a variety of probiotic foods such as miso, kefir, yogurt, or sauerkraut than relying on kombucha.”
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