Is Kombucha Tea Actually Good For You?

Thanks to its tangy taste and purported health benefits, kombucha keeps rising in popularity. Though the effervescent fermented beverage is still somewhat of a novelty in the United States, it's been around for centuries, originating in China around 220 B.C. (per Forbes). Kombucha was introduced to American consumers in the mid-1990s, when the brand GT's Kombucha first sold their product to local health food stores across Los Angeles. Today, you can find many brands and a wide variety of flavors of kombucha in the refrigerated section of mainstream supermarkets and big box stores.

If you don't already know, kombucha is a fermented and sweetened tea beverage. It's made by introducing a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) into brewed black or green tea, adding sugar, and leaving the mix to ferment for up to a month (via Brew Dr.). Consumed cold, it not only tastes good but it's good for you. It is considered a functional beverage, meaning that it is a non-alcoholic drink that contains vitamins, amino acids, or other nutrients associated with health benefits. When made with green tea, kombucha provides health-giving catechins, that is, antioxidants that fight and may even prevent cell damage, according to WebMD.

Kombucha offers plenty of health benefits

As it turns out, fermentation is a big part of what makes kombucha so good for you. The process creates live bacteria that help your digestive system function properly. While kombucha shares its gut-friendly health benefits with other fermented foods, such as yogurt and kefir, the fizzy beverage also contains "specific bioactive compounds" — namely, polyphenols — "that are unique to kombucha," according to dietician Maxine Smith (per Cleveland Clinic). "Polyphenols are known to act as strong antioxidants in the body and decrease inflammation," Smith explains. "And the fermentation process actually increases the amount of polyphenols." 

Also worth noting, a study has shown that kombucha is even better than black tea in controlling spikes in blood sugar levels, and consequently could be a functional supplement in preventing and treating diabetes, per BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Research also demonstrates that kombucha could offer protection against prostate cancer (via the journal of Biomedicine & Preventive Nutrition).