Virtually unheard of in Kiwi households until recently, kombucha tea is gaining popularity as the new trendy go-to drink to improve your health.
We take a look at why kombucha could be good to include in your diet.
What is kombucha?
Kombucha is a centuries-old drink that starts out as a sweetened green, herbal or black tea which is combined with a SCOBY (a 'Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast').
Sometimes referred to as a fungus or mushroom, kombucha is actually a yeast which forms a rubbery mushroom-like film which floats to the top and digests the sugar content of the tea. The SCOBY grows during this process and can then be used to brew more batches of kombucha.
The process causes the mixture to ferment, resulting in a lightly effervescent beverage that tastes tangy and almost fruity. Sometimes fruit juice is also added.
Kombucha is rich in B vitamins, antioxidants and probiotics; the good bacteria which assist in digestive health.
The origins of kombucha have been lost over time, however it appears to have been home-brewed traditionally in China, Japan, Korea and Russia.
Is kombucha good for you?
Aside from the probiotics which can aid digestion, kombucha is thought to stimulate the immune system, improve liver function and general health, alleviate joint pain, reduce high blood pressure and reduce memory loss among other uses.
Kombucha typically does have some alcohol content, but commercially-prepared kombucha with a shorter fermentation process will likely only have a very small amount.
It is traditionally used as medicine, however there is currently little official research to back its medicinal properties. Some people have experienced negative side effects from drinking kombucha including allergic reactions, nausea and stomach problems, but these are rare and thought to mainly occur from home brews due to over-fermentation or contamination resulting in mould.
Commercially prepared kombucha is the safest to drink as it has been made in controlled conditions.
How can I include kombucha in my diet?
You can either buy pre-made kombucha drinks or, if you do your research you can source a SCOBY and make kombucha yourself from scratch.
Refrigerating kombucha stops the fermentation process and makes a refreshing drink, so you will often find it cold when sold in supermarkets, cafés and health food stores.
NZ Real Health is a blog by Ange Noy where you can find practical information and advice on health, wellbeing and fitness. For more articles like this, visit www.nzrealhealth.co.nz.