Is kombucha actually healthy? A nutritionist talks about pros and cons

  • Many people are replacing their tea and coffee with kombucha considering it as a healthier alternative. So is it as healthy as it is being marketed to be?
Kombucha is a form of fermented tea that can fight infections and cancer, as well as help to treat arthritis.(Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)
Kombucha is a form of fermented tea that can fight infections and cancer, as well as help to treat arthritis.(Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)
Updated on Jan 25, 2022 10:33 AM IST
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Kombucha, the sweet and slightly bitter fizzy drink made from tea, sugar, bacteria and yeast is gaining popularity among fitness enthusiasts. The fermented drink boasts of a host of benefits from boosting immunity, mental health, liver health to improving gut health thanks to the probiotics, vitamins and enzymes in it. No wonder, in pandemic times, people are looking at kombucha to provide the much-needed boost to their immunity.

Kombucha is made by fermenting the sweetened green or black tea with a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). During this process, the yeast in SCOBY breaks down the sugar in the tea and releases friendly probiotic bacteria.

Many people are replacing their tea and coffee with it considering it as a healthier alternative. So is kombucha as healthy as it is being marketed to be?

ALSO READ: Heard of Kombucha? Is it really a miracle superdrink or another weird wellness fad?

"Kombucha is just fermented green or black tea. You get the benefits of tea and probiotics in a drink which can be very low calories. The antioxidants from green tea are obviously good. Practical benefits from probiotics from Kombucha in humans are not well researched and proven so take that claim with a grain of salt. In theory, probiotics help gut health but caffeine worsens the same," says nutritionist Bhuvan Rastogi in his latest Instagram post.

Benefits

Kombucha is said to help with your digestion and detoxify your body. A low-calorie drink, it gives a boost to your immune system as well as help you lose weight. It is also considered effective in controlling high blood pressure and heart disease and prevent cancer. However, these claims are not supported by a lot of evidence.

"If this is replacing your recreational drinks, like more sugary soft drinks or even high alcohol beverages like beer, then this is a major improvement. If this is your core probiotic source, then not really a good choice," says Rastogi.

Calories

Calories vary from very low from 6 cal/200 ml to even 150cal/200ml. Calories are mostly from sugar content, so always check the label. Kombucha usually has alcohol in trace amounts, usually less than 0.5%. It has no fibre or protein.

Side-effects

"Kombucha needs to be made properly with standards, in a sanitised environment, in glass vessels, otherwise any batch can have problems. Harmful bacterial growth, higher bacteria amount and even alcohol amount can go up. This can lead to harmful side effects, stomach issues and even major health issues," says the nutritionist.

He advises against the overconsumption of kombucha by people with gut issues or who have compromised immunity from any illness or if recovering from illness. It should also be avoided during pregnancy, cautions Rastogi.

"Always buy from an established company and not local homemade products unless they prove the quality. This is important as this is like beer a non-pasteurised fermented product (beers are pasteurised but kombuchas are mostly not, and if pasteurised Kombucha will lose most of its benefits from both antioxidants and probiotics)," adds the nutritionist.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2022