Kombucha is a fermented drink made from tea, yeast, bacteria and sugar. It has grown in popularity, and some believe it has many health benefits.
That’s because the ingredients work together to create probiotics, the bacteria needed to keep your gut healthy.
Research around the exact health benefits of kombucha is limited, but its components are known to help your body. “Kombucha provides vitamins, antioxidants and probiotics, which are components of a healthy diet,” says Lindsey Wohlford, wellness dietitian at MD Anderson.
Here, she shares more on the pros and cons of drinking kombucha.
Kombucha contains antioxidants
Antioxidants are compounds found in food that help protect your body. They can help reduce inflammation, support your immune systems and reduce DNA damage. They also may help reduce your risk for diseases like cancer.
Kombucha does contain antioxidants, so it can be a source of nutrients along with your regular intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and other plant foods and drinks like tea.
“However, scientists aren’t sure whether we could get the same amount of antioxidants from simply drinking regular tea, rather than fermented teas like kombucha,” says Wohlford.
Kombucha may contain natural probiotics
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that promote a healthy gut, which is important for your overall health, especially your immune system.
The best way to get probiotics is through food, and kombucha may be a good source along with yogurt and other fermented products like sauerkraut.
“You can get probiotics through kombucha, but it should not replace the probiotics you get from a healthy plant-based diet,” says Wohlford. “We won’t know how beneficial the bacteria in kombucha are until more research is done.”
Drinking kombucha can provide the benefits of tea
Tea is thought to have many health benefits, and if you don’t like the hot or iced kind, drinking kombucha may be a way for you to enjoy tea in a form that you like.
It also contains very little caffeine, so if you’re avoiding or limiting that, kombucha may be a good option.
Kombucha contains some alcohol
Kombucha does contain some alcohol, so avoid it if you are concerned about your intake. The alcohol is created in the fermenting process, and in some types of kombucha, it is high enough to make the drink considered an alcoholic beverage.
“The alcohol content of kombucha could be an issue if you avoid alcohol or take medications that interact with alcohol,” says Wohlford.
For cancer prevention, it is best not to drink alcohol.
Watch out for added sugar
“Kombucha can have a lot of added sugar,” says Wohlford. “Sugar causes inflammation in our bodies, so we have to be careful not to consume too much sugar.”
According to the American Heart Association, men should have no more than 36 grams of added sugar per day, and women should consume less than 25 grams of added sugar per day. Some bottled kombucha drinks contain most of this daily recommendation in one bottle.
Risks of drinking kombucha
Kombucha contains live bacteria, which could be harmful to immunocompromised or pregnant people. Store-bought kombucha might be safer since the production process is regulated, but homemade kombucha could have an overgrowth of bacteria or mold.
“It’s best to avoid homemade kombucha because it can be easily contaminated by the container it is made in and may not contain safe levels of bacteria and yeast,” says Wohlford.
If you drink kombucha, Wohlford recommends choosing a store-bought version with a low amount of added sugar.
“Most people can drink moderate amounts of kombucha as part of a healthy diet with a wide variety of plant-based foods,” says Wohlford. “It is best to eat a variety of probiotic foods such as miso, kefir, yogurt or sauerkraut rather than rely on kombucha.”