Is kombucha good for you: More research is needed

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You may have noticed beverages labeled as “kombucha” or “kombucha tea” while out at the store. Initially, it may have only been found in health food stores, but it has become more popular and more mainstream. It’s a fermented beverage, which means the process of making the drink employs a unique kind of yeast and bacteria to convert sugar into alcohol. This process is also used to create beer and wine, but in kombucha tea, the alcohol level is very low – low enough that it can be sold as a non-alcoholic beverage.

There have been studies that have shown fermented foods like kimchi or sauerkraut are healthy for you because of the antioxidants and “good” bacteria, but further research is needed to link kombucha to any health benefits.

Does kombucha really help your gut?
Dolores Woods, RDN, a nutritionist with UTHealth Houston School of Public Health, says there isn’t any data that suggests it can help your gut, and it may even harm your gut.

“Kombucha is a fermented drink, but there aren’t enough research and medical studies to link it to any health benefits. In fact, it can cause stomach upset and is not safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women, or people with weakened immune systems.”

However, one could speculate about the potential benefits. Kombucha contains antioxidants, which could aid in the prevention of certain diseases like cancer. It also contains helpful B vitamins and probiotics.

Is there a downside to kombucha?
Kombucha beverages can contain a significant amount of added sugar, which can increase your risk of developing certain diseases or can exacerbate existing diabetes. Additionally, as Woods mentioned, kombucha contains live bacteria, which can be problematic for immunocompromised individuals.

The Mayo Clinic also writes that if the kombucha tea is made with ceramic pots, you may need to worry about lead poisoning, because the acid from the tea can cause lead to leak out.

What are some recommended healthy beverages?
If you’re on the hunt for your next healthy beverage, Woods has a few recommendations. “Water, sparking water or an infused option is the best option. You can add lemon, lime, fresh herbs or frozen fruit and make some delicious and refreshing infused water.” She gives a few combination recommendations:

Strawberry, basil, lemon

Cucumber, mint, lemon

Watermelon, mint, lime

Blueberries, lemon, basil

Pineapple, coconut, lime

If health is the goal, kombucha may not be the best option. But if you’re not in one of the vulnerable groups mentioned, and you enjoy the sharp tang of fermented foods, you can give kombucha a shot!

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