Is Kombucha Nutritious?

Posted on November 16th, 2017
With emerging research regarding the importance of the microbes in and on our bodies collectively known as the microbiome, probiotic foods such as kombucha are gaining popularity among health and wellness gurus and the general public alike.
Before we dive into answering this question, what exactly is kombucha?
Kombucha is a fermented beverage made with tea (most commonly black tea), sugar, and live, active bacteria and yeast cultures (probiotics). If you’ve never had it, unflavored kombucha as a vinegary taste with a light, natural effervescence.
Vinegar taste....but it is made with sugar? You might be wondering, “How?!”
Since kombucha is a fermented beverage, the bacteria and yeast feed on the sugar and caffeine creating vinegar-tasting by-products (acids). Theoretically, a well-made kombucha will be very low in sugar because the bacteria and yeast have consumed most of it! And that natural effervescence? Those bubbles are CO2 from microbes respiring! Kinda cool, huh?
So, why does kombucha get touted as a health beverage? Researchers now know the gut microbiome plays a crucial role in overall health, and many scientific studies suggest consuming certain bacteria known as probiotics are beneficial to our overall health. Kombucha is rich in probiotics. You can often see the actual strains floating in the beverage!
Kombucha can absolutely be included in a healthy diet. 
However, you do not NEED kombucha to meet your nutrition needs.

The primary driver to a diverse, abundant, and healthy gut microbiome is the consumption of indigestible carbohydrates known as prebiotics. Long story short, this translates to the regular and consistent consumption of high fiber foods such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. This will arguably stimulate a healthier gut microbiome alone, without the use of probiotics more than the consumption of probiotics paired with a sub-optimal diet that is low in fiber. Translation? Drinking kombucha will not “make up” for a poor diet, and consuming a diet rich in plant-based foods will stimulate a healthy gut without the use of probiotics.

Things to consider before drinking kombucha:

--- Even unflavored varieties of kombuchas have small amounts of sugar in them. And many store-bought kombuchas are flavored, meaning fruits, fruit juices, spices, vegetables, etc. were added to the beverage. Flavoring kombuchas requires a second round of fermentation, but typically the fermentation is not held long enough to ferment all the sugar. This means most flavored kombuchas taste sweet. It’s also important to read the food label to see where the sugar is coming from in the beverage. The sugar content of the flavored varieties of G.T.’s Kombucha (found here at Reasor’s) predominantly comes from fruit juices and fruit puree. Although fruit is a natural sweetener, we recommend that individuals consume fruit from fresh, frozen, or canned as these foods retain more of their natural nutrition and fiber.
 Nutrition Label of G.T.’s Kombucha Original (unflavored) and a flavored variety:

Original: 4 g of sugar per bottle | Flavored: 8 g of sugar per bottle. *Note there are 2 servings per bottle & 1 tsp = 4 g of sugar

--- While researchers know probiotics can contribute to a healthy diet, there is not enough evidence to warrant a recommended daily amount to consume. Research in this area is still in its infancy, so it will be interesting to follow along in years to come!
If you’d like to consume kombucha on a daily basis, I recommend consuming no more than 8 ounces per day, and choosing the unflavored varieties to limit intake of sweeteners. If flavored kombucha is your jam, take a peek at your overall diet and see how much added sugar you’re consuming to determine if and where you would benefit from making adjustments. I also know a few dietitian nutritionists who can help you optimize your nutrition. 😉
 Hayden James, MA, RDN/LD is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, and enjoys running, rock climbing, and experimenting in the kitchen. Hayden offices from the Jenks Reasor’s, and she also provides dietitian services at both Reasor’s locations in Owasso.

 Information included does not constitute medical advice and should only be used as a general recommendation for a healthy diet. Reasor’s Registered Dietitian’s opinions and recommendations are of their own; they are not paid to endorse any products.