Traditional kombucha is made by fermenting black or green tea leaves with sugar in a jellyfish or pancake-looking mass called SCOBY. SCOBY stands for “Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast.” The SCOBY is the catalyst in the fermentation process, which takes about two weeks to complete.
Kombucha has been around for thousands of years, but has taken off over the last ten years with over $700 million in sales. This is largely due to marketing it as a health food and even a superfood due to containing probiotics or healthy bacteria.
And with all the talk of a healthy microbiome leading to a healthy immune system, grabbing a kombucha off the shelf may seem like a great health choice.
But is kombucha healthy? It depends. Here are five things to keep in mind when you’re deciding on whether or not to drink a kombucha.
1. How much sugar is added? To find this, look at the nutritional facts on the back of the label. The average 16 oz kombucha has over 20 grams of added sugar in it. These are most certainly not healthy.
When choosing, the added sugars should be under 5-7 grams per serving.
GT’s Trilogy has been my go-to brand. But this week I was introduced to UpDog Kombucha from Winston Salem, NC. This has 7 grams in 12 oz. One can is one serving. GT’s is 6 grams of sugar in 8 oz. One bottle has two servings.
Another local brand with low amounts of added sugar is Mountain Culture. This brand has a 12 oz bottle thas is made of 2 servings. Each serving has 3 grams of sugar, or 6 grams for the bottle. Again, low sugar, but potentially confusing labeling.
2. Do you struggle with Candida overgrowth? If you do, a sip of kombucha now and then will not matter. Drinking a whole kombucha may hinder your ability to heal. And drinking kombucha regularly will most likely to cause you to take steps back in your battle with this fungus.
3. Are you already taking a probiotic? Many of you may grow your own kefir, which has on average 11 different stains of good bacteria. Many of you may take a probiotic in a capsule, which has on average 6 stains.
If you’re drinking kombucha for it’s probiotics, it’s important to remember that it has, on average, 3-4 strains of good bacteria.
4. Are you on a keto diet? I add this because many of you follow a keto diet. And if you are, almost all kombucha will lower your blood ketone-to-blood glucose ratio that you try so hard to increase. I know this from experience.
5. Are you eating prebiotics too? While probiotics are important, prebiotics are the food for the bacteria. Prebiotics are like gas to the fire. In order for the good gut bacteria to grow and thrive, you need a healthy amount of prebiotic fiber found in fruits and vegetables.
Onions are my favorite prebiotic. I use them in salads (shallots) and brown them to go with most meat dishes. If you’re a smoothie drinker, consider adding inulin which is a prebiotic powder.
To conclude, I’m a fan of kombucha, but it has to have low amounts of sugar. The lower the better. But I only drink it occasionally – like once a quarter. And I don’t drink it for the probiotic benefit. If I’m concerned about my microbiome, I focus on what I’m eating. Here, I recently discussed how a high fat diet can shift your microbiome diversity significantly in 2-3 days.