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Kombucha: A New Ancient Treasure

By Chris Terrell, CSCS, ND, Merchandising Manager

Kombucha has been consumed for thousands of years, originating in northern China then spreading to Russia and the rest of the world. It is a mixture of black tea and sugar that is fermented by bacteria and yeast. During the fermentation process, yeasts break down sugar into glucose and fructose. Glucose is then used by yeast for the production of carbon dioxide and ethanol. Bacteria in the Kombucha convert the ethanol into acetic acid, which is responsible for some of Kombucha’s health benefits. Another name for Kombucha is tea fungus and it is relatively new to the health food industry in its current form as a ready to drink product.

Tea by itself contains many different compounds that are beneficial for health, including polyphenols, flavonols, and cathchins. Kombucha has additional benefits when compared to tea by itself, due to the fermentation process it undergoes.

Kombucha has been studied for many different health benefits. One of its benefits includes anti-microbial attributes. Some of these are due to the levels of acetic acid that Kombucha contains, but even after balancing the pH of Kombucha, it still has anti-microbial activity, illustrating that other factors are at work. Some of the microbes that Kombucha is effective against include E.coli, H pylori, and S. Aureus.

The fermentation process of Kombucha increases certain antioxidants that eliminate free radicals. A longevity study of mice that consumed Kombucha discovered that they lived significantly longer and gained less weight than mice on the placebo treatment. Another benefit of Kombucha includes its detoxification properties, which are thought to be due to its high levels of glucuronic acid.

It is important to remember that moderation is the key, and that Kombucha can be beneficial to a balanced, healthy diet. Please remember to consult a health care professional before starting any health protocol.

Note: You may notice that New Leaf Market is carrying two types of G.T.’s Kombucha: one in the drink cooler and another in the singles beer cooler. Several months ago, Kombucha was pulled from the shelf for having higher alcohol content than labeled. Anything containing more than 0.5 percent alcohol is considered an alcoholic beverage and regulated by Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms. An investigation by G.T. revealed that the longer Kombucha sits, the higher the alcohol content. In order to follow the law, the Enlightened formula (in the beverage cooler) is fermented for less time than the Original is has a shorter shelf life to ensure that the alcohol content is below the 0.5 threshold. The Original Formula (in the beer cooler) is allowed to ferment longer and has a longer shelf date, which may result in higher alcohol content. Therefore you must be 21 or older to purchase the Original Formula and it cannot be consumed in the store.

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