Should you be drinking kombucha?

Soft drink sales are falling, but kombucha sales are rising! Homebrewers have been producing this favored fermented drink for thousands of years, and increasingly we see kombucha on the drink menus at restaurants, on tap in cafes and health food stores, and in supermarkets. So what is it? Is it good for us? Is all kombucha created equal????

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What is kombucha, exactly?

Traditionally, it is a drink produced by fermenting sweet tea, resulting in a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (S.C.O.B.Y.). During the process, sugar is converted from yeast and produces alcohol. The bacteria then convert the alcohol to organic acids, such as acetic acid, and the lightly effervescent, mildly sour, refreshing drink, kombucha, is created. You often find it bottled in flavors like ginger, passionfruit, lemon, and raspberry. Kombucha is touted, not only for its low sugar content but also for its health benefits, such as stimulating the immune system, preventing cardiovascular disease and some cancers.

And with Coca-Cola buying into the kombucha craze, it’s only going to increase in mainstream popularity.

Is it good for me?

With all the hype, it’s understandable to wonder if kombucha is something you should be drinking on a regular basis. There are many reported beneficial effects of kombucha, and some brands even suggest you should drink a bottle each day to reap the benefits.

Kombucha certainly has a lot going on:

  • It contains live cultures of bacteria and yeast, which can act as probiotics, and studies have concluded that these live microorganisms may benefit their host by protecting against diseases, improving digestion, and enhancing immune function.
    The organic acids produced during the fermentation process have been shown to slow the growth of pathogenic bacteria, such as Staph aureus, Salmonella, and E. coli.
  • Because Kombucha is made from tea, it contains polyphenols (naturally occurring plant chemicals) known as catechins, which have antioxidant properties and can protect or act against some cancers, tumors, and unwanted genetic changes.

Kombucha is a potential source for a range of bioactive components, and these components can significantly differ based on the quantity and types of sugar and tea used, the microorganisms presents, and fermenting temperature and time.
Whether these bioactive components make it into the gut in sufficient numbers to have a beneficial impact is up for debate and varies based on an individuals gut flora. According to senior research scientist Dr. Michael Conlon, who specializes in diet and gut health, “The health potential of probiotics more generally can vary depending on the number and type of microbes, what you consume them with, and the composition of your gut microflora. It’s likely the number of microbes in kombucha would be much lower than what you might see in a commercial probiotic product.” He added that “fermentation generates certain types of acid and other bioactive compounds that can be beneficial, but whether they get through to the large bowel so that a benefit can be gained is unknown.”

Research regarding the claimed benefits has mostly been studied on animals. Conlon continues with “there’s a lack of scientific evidence from human clinical trials to support the claims, and more research is needed.” Image result for should you be drinking kombucha

But, what about the sugar?

Throughout the fermentation process, most of the sugar is consumed by the yeast, and any residual left is based on fermenting time. As per the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a product can only be labeled “low sugar” if it contains 25% less sugar that it’s original brand or no more than 0.5g to be labeled “sugar-free.” The sugar content per an 8 oz bottle of most unflavored kombucha products is roughly 2-6g. Those that favor more on the sweeter side are still a better choice; when compared to the standard soft drink, Coca-Cola (39g sugar per 12oz), Orange Juice (9g per 3.5oz), Gatorade (6g per 3.5 oz), Lipton Mango Ice Tea (11g per 8.5oz), Glaceau Vitamin Water (32g per 20oz). Sugary drinks provide excess calories, and excess calories may lead to obesity, weight gain, some types of cancer, type-2-diabetes, and heart disease, to name a few. Therefore, the increased availability of lower sugar alternatives, like kombucha, can make a real difference, and for someone with a coke-a-day habit that adds up to a whopping 12,700g.

Does it contain alcohol?

Some alcohol remains in kombucha after the fermentation process, but it’s usually in trace amounts, and because it is sold as a soft drink it needs to comply with state-based alcohol legislation and labeled with its alcohol content (less than 0.5% alcohol by volume in the United States). However, controlling the fermentation to achieve a product with just enough acidity and sweetness, and ensuring the alcohol content meets state-based regulations is a balancing act, one that’s particularly tricky when producing on a large scale. There have been occurrences where the alcohol content went a little wild, and products were recalled. In 2010, the grocery chain, Whole Foods Market, (now owned by Amazon), recalled all kombucha products on its shelves including multimillion-dollar brand leader GT’s Kombucha, when samples tested were found to be more alcoholic than labeled.

When kombucha is not getting recalled, its minimal alcohol content can be a significant drawcard. The non-alcoholic options may be limited in pubs and bars, you may not like soft drinks and get tired of drinking juice and sparkling water, so Kombucha may be a good alternative. Although it is low in alcohol, its tart, lightly acidic flavor profile and palate-cleansing properties make it a drink that readily complements food, much like wine. Who knows, maybe you can reduce your alcohol consumption by pairing kombucha with your favorite foods instead of that glass of wine (but, let me know how that works out if you do make the swap).

Should I drink it?

Kombucha may be touted as ‘an immortal health elixir, a ‘living superfood’ that’s ‘rich in antioxidants and acids, and has the potential for containing beneficial health properties. But there is no guarantee that these features directly translate into actual health benefits or that drinking it will ‘make you feel great.’ A claim that ‘it harmonizes your body, mind and spirit’ is puffery. However, if you like the taste, you’re looking for an exciting alternative to alcohol or sugary soft drinks, or you don’t mind the price tag (roughly $5-10 per 16oz bottle in the supermarket), kombucha may be the drink for you.

Is all kombucha created equal?

Currently, there is no standard definition for kombucha, so products sold can vary widely. Compared to traditional recipes, kombucha sold in supermarkets, etc. have little similarities. Producers have gone into “overdrive” in production because of high demand. To make sure you “get what you pay for,” check drink labels and educate yourself:

  • Ingredients? If you see live cultures floating at the top, that is a good indicator the drink is made from a S.C.O.B.Y. but take caution with ingredients like “kombucha extract.”
  • Reefer? Refrigeration prevents further fermentation, which can affect the taste and produce more alcohol, so if the kombucha you buy does not require refrigeration, it may have been pasteurized. While this can help control the alcohol content and extend shelf life, the drink will likely have fewer active microorganisms as a result. Always refrigerate the fermented beverage before consumption, unless it has been pasteurized. However, although yeast has been filtered and the alcohol content is stabilized, at warmer temperatures, any remaining yeast, and other microbes can still grow and be active, posing a health risk.
  • ETOH content? Research the company to see how often they sample their product’s alcohol contents. Some companies may check the content of each batch or less frequently, such as once a year.
  • Added sweeteners? One of the main ingredients needed to make kombucha is sugar, but this is mostly used up during fermentation. Some products may contain non-nutritive sweeteners erythritol and stevia that make the kombucha taste sweeter without adding calories, which may or may not appeal depending on your stance on added sweeteners.
  • Outrageous health claims? Therapeutic claims are not permitted on foods, and if a company wants to state on the label that its kombucha has a specific health effect, the claim has to be one of those pre-approved under the FDA. The product, also, must meet certain conditions, and if you see a claim that “seems to good to be true,” it probably is.

Is Kombucha safe?

According to U.S. federal laws and regulations, kombucha is considered a traditional food. In other words, it does not require pre-approval, and there are no specific quality controls or manufacturing practices for it (as long as the alcohol content is not above 0.5% or continues to ferment after bottling), other than the general requirement under the FDA that it be safe and suitable. In 1995 the possibility of toxic effects and acidosis when consumed in large quantities became a public concern after two incidents in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC); however, both parties had severe pre-existing conditions that made them susceptible to acidosis. The investigations concluded that kombucha is not harmful when consumed in small quantities (roughly 4 ounces daily) unless of course, you have pre-existing conditions. In 2010, some commercial producers were forced to recall unpasteurized versions from grocery store shelves when the alcohol content exceeded 0.5%.

Yes, kombucha poses a higher risk when not prepared correctly but most forms of this fermented food represent a relatively low threat. The popularity and commercialization of the brewed drinks are increasing and with growth and the “popular vote,” comes work in promoting best manufacturing practices.

Nutritional Nugget

How do you like your apples? Sweet, crisp apples can be paired with almost anything! Dip into peanut butter for a quick snack or toss in a salad for that perfectly sweet crunch.

WODal Nugget

Melisma: A group of notes sung to one syllable of text

Inspirational Nugget

God's plan is always the best. Sometimes the process is painful and hard. But don't forget that when God is silent, He is doing something good for you.

 

Pain is an inevitable part of human life, as is pleasure. The difference with pain; however, is – we have to grow up to the fact, mature to the fact, and relax to the fact that there will be pain in our lives, but there should also be a good balance of pleasure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Real food on a budget

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Are you concerned with the cost of your new good-for-you food choices? Some healthy real foods, such as fresh produce and fish can be expensive. But your overall grocery bill may actually be lower because you’re eating less of other costly foods, namely all those pricey processed offerings: chips, cookies and ice cream. Plus, you may find that you’re eating more meals at home and fewer in restaurants, which can also save money.

Here are some ideas for sticking to your grocery budget while eating healthy foods:

  • Plan ahead. With smart planning, you can obtain your recommend daily servings of fruits and vegetables at a very limited price. Shop smart at your grocery store and watch for specials.
  • Buy grains such as oatmeal and brown rice in bulk. Food co-ops are often good at offering foods in bulk.
  • Visit farmers markets for summertime deals. You can usually pick up the freshest produce at the lowest prices.
  • Consider growing some of your own produce. It’s not as hard as you think. If you don’t have room for a garden, you can grow items such as tomatoes and peppers in outdoor pots.
  • Eat simple meals sometimes. A peanut-butter sandwich made with whole-wheat bread or a bowl of soup and a few pieces of fruit don’t cost much.

And remember, your health is worth the investment. Making good choices now will make your life easier later — and it may just save you money down the road.

Tip of the Day

Have fun with physical activity! Exercise can help you feel better and have more energy. Choose activities that you enjoy and that fit your lifestyle.

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5 Ways to Stretch Your Dollar at the Grocery Store

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1. Buy in Bulk When Items Go on Sale

Browse your grocery aisles for sale items and stock up on foods you can store in the pantry and freezer. Load your cart with non-perishables such as canned and bottled goods; dried beans and peas; whole-grain pastas, crackers and cereals; brown rice; tomato sauces and nut butters. Plan to fill your freezer with frozen fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and poultry. If you’re thinking buying bulk perishables that are on sale, such as fresh produce, dairy products or raw beef, chicken and seafood, think ahead. “Plan in advance and make a menu of meals for the week – don’t overbuy and have food waste be a problem in your household,” says Jessica Crandall, RDN, CDE, AFAA, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

2. Think Canned and Frozen

Canned and frozen foods can be less expensive than fresh and they’re great to have on hand when you run out of food in your refrigerator. Don’t worry about compromising on nutrition, because fruits and vegetables are canned or frozen at their peak of nutrition and quality. Do watch out for high sodium content in canned goods. Crandall suggests looking for brands with “no salt added” or “reduced sodium.” Canned food is safe as long as the container isn’t swollen, damaged, rusted or dented.

3. Use a Slow Cooker

This handy piece of kitchen equipment uses a moist heat method of cooking which helps tenderize less expensive but tougher cuts of meat. Crandall says you can stretch that meat dollar further by adding frozen vegetables or beans to your slow cooker recipes. Meals from a slow cooker are hearty and filling, and they make the house smell good!

4. Cook Meals in Large Batches, Then Freeze for Later

“Buy in bulk and freeze appropriate portions for later,” says Crandall. “Use correct serving sizes – this can help your waist line and your budget.” Batch cook and freeze meals over the weekend when you have more time. On weekdays, all you have to do is take a meal out of the freezer and simply reheat. You also can use leftovers from a roast or chicken to make a stir-fry, tacos or soup other days of the week. The more meals you make at home instead of going out, the more money you save.

5. Take Advantage of Loyalty Cards, Private Labels, Coupons and Specials

If you haven’t signed up for your grocery store’s loyalty card, do it now. Sometimes sale prices only are valid with the loyalty card and you could miss out on big savings. Consider purchasing the private label (the kind with the store’s name) version of packaged foods — they are usually a better value than commercially branded items. Scan your newspaper and weekly store circulars for sales and coupons for items you regularly purchase. Also, try company websites and apps for coupons. Check for in-store deals like “manager’s specials” of day-old baked goods or foods close to their expiration date.

Adapted from: Andrea Giancoli, MPH, RD

Tip of the Day

Make small changes! Everything you eat and drink matters. Start by making small changes that you enjoy. A fan of fruit? Focus on whole fruits- fresh, frozen, dried, or canned in 100% juice.

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Healthy Cooking for 1 or 2

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Do you make time for healthy cooking when you’re cooking for yourself or another? If not, you’re selling yourself short. Instead of settling for leftovers and frozen dinners, try experimenting with these tips on healthy cooking for one or two:

  • Make a plan. Take time to jot down the week’s menu and a shopping list. You’ll find this makes your grocery shopping easier and ensures that you have everything you need when you’re ready to cook.
  • Stock your pantry. Keep canned vegetables, beans and fruits on hand for quick and healthy additions to meals. Rinse regular canned vegetables and beans under cold running water to lower the salt content. Consider whole grains, such as brown or wild rice, quinoa, barley, and pasta. Dried foods are easily portioned for one.
  • Take advantage of your freezer. Buy in bulk and freeze into smaller quantities that you can thaw and cook for one or two meals. You may be surprised to learn that you can freeze foods, including breads, meats, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts and seeds. Freezing keeps food fresh longer and helps prevent waste. For the best quality, freeze food while it’s fresh.
  • Prepare one-dish meals. For quick and simple cooking, choose a dish that serves as the whole meal. Look for dishes that include items from several food groups, such as meats, whole grains, legumes and vegetables. Healthy examples include beef, barley and vegetable stew; chicken, vegetable and rice casserole; turkey and bean casserole; and vegetarian chili.
  • Cook a batch and freeze into single portions. For example, make a casserole or stew and freeze the extra into individual-size servings. Then take out only the amount of food you need. You will need to experiment so that you don’t have more leftovers than you can use. Be sure to write the date and contents on packages and move older packages forward as you add food to your freezer.
  • Cook once, use twice. Plan meals so that you can use the extra food in new dishes. For example, cook rice as a side dish for one meal, then use the remainder in a casserole. Bake chicken for a meal and use the leftovers in sandwiches or soup, or toss with greens, dried fruit and nuts for a tasty salad, or make a meatloaf mixture and bake some as a meatloaf and use the rest for meatballs that can be frozen and eaten later.
  • Shop with convenience in mind. You know there will be days when you don’t have the time or you don’t want to cook. Therefore, plan ahead and keep on hand ready-to-eat, low-fat, reduced-sodium canned soups and low-fat frozen meals or prepackaged single-serving foods. The latter can be pricey, so stock up when you find a sale.

Finding inspiration may be one of the biggest challenges when it comes to cooking for one. Fortunately, you can find a multitude of cookbooks about cooking for one or two people. Some even provide practical advice on such things as selecting healthy foods, planning menus, shopping and reading food labels. Don’t be afraid to mix things up and try a nutritious snack instead of a traditional meal when you’re short on time or energy. For example, spread a brown rice cake with ricotta cheese and fresh strawberries or herbed goat cheese and sliced olives.

Other snack-turned-meal ideas are corn muffins served with apple and cheese slices, or fat-free refried beans mixed with salsa, a small amount of low-fat sour cream and baked tortilla chips. Finally, why not treat yourself to company from time to time? Invite friends or relatives over to sample some of your home cooking, or start a cooking club — it’s a great opportunity to try new recipes and have fun in the kitchen.

Tip of the Day

Power up with protein this morning! Add eggs, peanut butter, or pumpkin seeds to your breakfast for a morning protein punch.

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