It seems like everyone’s enjoying a beer or a glass of champagne this time of year, and there you are on the other side of the room desperately trying to be faithful to your anti-cancer diet—which of course doesn’t include alcohol. Never fear, there’s no need to feel awkward as your raise a toast. Kombucha is a refreshing alternative that will give a flavorful kick to your palate and a healthy boost to your body.
Kombucha is essentially a fermented beverage made with tea, sugar, bacteria and yeast. The sweetened tea is allowed to ferment for up to a month, as a pancake-like mass called a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) floats on top. The SCOBY eats the sugar, acids and caffeine in the tea, which creates a myriad of microorganisms, organic acids, vitamins and antioxidants (as well as carbonation). The result is a refreshing, sweet yet tart drink with a cider-like flavor. (The process does create a trace amount of alcohol as well, but the amount is lower than the 0.5 percent threshold set by the FDA.)
Brewed for Better Health
Just like yogurt, kimchi and sauerkraut, kombucha is classified as a probiotic food, which can aid digestion and keep your gut in good health—and in turn strengthen your immune system. Some even report the drink can improve liver and gallbladder function, and help the body detoxify. GT’s, the largest manufacturer of kombucha, makes several varieties with additional health-inducing ingredients such as ginger and juices.
The precise history of kombucha is unknown, although some report the drink was consumed in China as early as 221 BC during the Tsin Dynasty. Over the centuries, it has been known as “The Tea of Immortality” and used by wellness practitioners to treat everything from cancer to diabetes.
In recent years, the drink has grown more and more popular. It’s now available in a variety of flavors, and much easier to find: What first started as only a high-end product in specialty grocers like Whole Foods has now gone mainstream, to stores such as Safeway, Target and Walmart. MicroMarketMonitor estimates that the global kombucha market will grow from $0.6 billion in 2015 to $1.8 billion by 2020.
In the Store or in Your Kitchen
In addition to the different brands and flavors available at your local supermarket, you can also make a batch at home, easily and cheaply. In fact, kombucha is a much more affordable way to get your probiotics: The Paleo Mama estimates the cost of brewing a gallon of your own kombucha is about $1 (compared to a $40 bottle of probiotic capsules).
As for New Year’s, just hit the store on your way to the party. As the champagne is poured, you’ll get to ring in the new year with your own fizzy drink in your hand and a better start to a healthy 2016. Plus, no hangover—I can definitely raise a glass to that!
(Kombucha photo source: www.thekitchn.com)