Blog Post

Is Kombucha Worth The Hype? A Dietitian’s Review 

Making Kombucha

Kombucha is really having a moment as a widely used ‘health food’. 

Most supermarkets and corner stores usually stock not just one, but several brands of this fermented beverage. 

But does kombucha actually provide health benefits? Is it worth all of the hype it is receiving?

As a dietitian, kombucha is not a food that I would go out of my way to recommend to everyone. However, I do see it as a great option when water won’t quite quench that thirst.

Personally, I love the taste of kombucha and the recent variety of flavors that are now available on the market. 

Most kombucha options are low-calorie, contain very little sugar, and are generally a really good option when it comes to beverages. 

Although, there are a lot more health claims linked to kombucha online, so let’s explore these. 

What Is Kombucha?

Kombucha is a beverage that originated in China & Japan. 

It is made by adding specific bacteria, yeast, and sugar to tea. It is then allowed to ferment. This process uses up the majority of the added sugar and adds an almost beer or cider-like flavor to the tea.

The bacteria added to the tea comes in the form of a colony of bacteria & yeast which is referred to as a SCOBY.

For anyone who hasn’t seen a SCOBY before, they are not the most appetizing looking but they are not included in the end product.

The fermentation process produces trace amounts of alcohol, gases that make the beverage carbonated, and acetic acid which provides a vinegar-like taste.

Kombucha

Is Kombucha Gut Friendly?

Since kombucha is a fermented product made with live bacteria, it is often touted as a probiotic-rich option great for gut health. 

At this point in time, human studies on kombucha consumption and the impact on the gut microbiota are unavailable. 

However, preliminary studies in mice have shown some beneficial effects on the gut microbiome from kombucha consumption. 

Although it is likely that kombucha provides a similar benefit to gut health as other fermented foods, such as yogurt and kimchi, we cannot say for certain.

It is also possible that the probiotics contained in kombucha differ from brand to brand due to the type of SCOBY used in the fermentation process. 

I wouldn’t be writing off kombucha’s proposed gut-friendly properties just yet, but there are a lot more sure-fire ways to improve the health of your gut microbiome.

Check out our article on improving gut health for more on this topic. 

Kombucha & Its Antioxidant Properties 

Being produced from black or green tea, most kombuchas boast a fairly good content of polyphenols. 

Polyphenols are a type of phytochemical with antioxidant properties.  Other sources of this in our diets include fruits, vegetables, legumes, and coffee. 

The antioxidant action of these foods plays a role in preventing several diseases related to oxidative stress, such as cancer, heart disease, and neurodegenerative diseases.

Plus, the fermentation process that kombucha undergoes actually increases the total polyphenol content in the end product. 

However, whilst kombucha may be a great source of anti-oxidants, I would argue for most of the population, simply getting in an adequate amount of fruits and vegetables would be an even better option than having a daily kombucha drink. 

Key Take-Away

Kombucha is a great beverage option for those who enjoy the taste. 

It likely carries many of the same benefits as drinking tea such as containing a significant amount of polyphenols. 

In addition, its probiotic content is likely going to be somewhat beneficial for gut health. Although more human studies are needed to verify this. 

It must be noted that kombuchas antioxidant and probiotic content is going to range vastly between the different types of tea used as well as the SCOBY and fermentation process. 

So if you enjoy kombucha, absolutely go for it. But if you are not the biggest fan, there are so many other ways to improve the probiotic and antioxidant content of your diet.

By Leah Higl

Leah is an accredited practising dietitian from Brisbane. She also competes as an under 75kg powerlifter with Valhalla Strength Brisbane. As both an athlete and dietitian, she spends much of her time developing her knowledge and skills around sports nutrition, specifically for strength-based sports. Although, she works with a range of athletes from triathletes to combat sports and powerlifting. Leah also follows a plant-based diet and her greatest passion is fuelling vegan/vegetarian athletes and proving that plant-based athletes can be just as competitive as their non-vegan counterparts.​