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What Is Hard Kombucha, and Is It Healthy?
Hard kombuchas are super trendy, but is the buzzy beverage actually good for you? Here’s how it stacks up nutritionally.By Anthea Levi September 08, 2020Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial tea
Below, nutritionists break down the basics of hard kombucha, including how it ranks nutritionally and whether it should be your new happy hour order.
What is hard kombucha?
You’re probably familiar with kombucha, the fermented drink that’s made from tea (typically green or black), sugar, and an active culture consisting of bacteria and yeast. The fermentation process that yields regular kombucha naturally produces some alcohol, but not enough for you to feel buzzed after drinking it.
Hard kombuchas differ from the “virgin” varieties in their proportions of tea, sugar, and starter culture. They’re also fermented for a longer period of time. The result? More sugar gets converted to alcohol, so the alcohol by volume, or ABV, content rises. FYI: it’s only once the ABV exceeds 0.5 percent that a kombucha product is considered to be an alcoholic beverage, per the US Tax and Trade Bureau.
Does hard kombucha contain probiotics?
One of the primary draws of regular kombucha is its probiotics. The drink contains strains of beneficial bacteria that are said to promote gut health and support digestion. The question, though, is how exactly does hard kombucha’s higher alcohol content affect its probiotics?
“At this time, it’s not guaranteed you’ll be getting a significant amount of alive and helpful probiotics in hard kombucha,” Tracy Lockwood Beckerman, RDN, author of The Better Period Food Solution, tells Health. “Some companies have tested their products and have found that the probiotics cannot withstand a high ABV (ranging from 5.6 to 7.6%), while other companies believe their probiotics can stay intact at lower alcohol percentages.”
Lisa Moskovitz, RDN, CEO of the private practice NY Nutrition Group, agrees. “While you are likely still getting some gut-friendly probiotics from kombucha beverages, the amount that ends up in your lower GI tract where they truly work their magic is questionable,” she tells Health.
While the jury is still out on whether the probiotics in hard kombucha are actually effective, alcohol can have its own negative effect on gut health, says Anna Brown, RDN, founder of Nutrition Squeezed. “Alcohol can contribute to gut dysbiosis and decreased biodiversity [of the gut microbiome], regardless of the form consumed, so that’s always something to keep in mind when choosing to consume an alcoholic drink,” she tells Health.
Is hard kombucha healthy?
Ok, so its probiotics might not be potent, but hard kombucha may still bring more to the table than a shot of vodka. “We do know that kombucha is brewed with natural ingredients like black or green tea and bacteria and yeast, which can provide a bevy of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that our body appreciates,” explains Beckerman.
Kombucha also contains good-for-you acids. “With alcoholic kombucha, you do still reap the benefits of the polyphenols and acids found in regular kombucha, including lactic, acetic, glucuronic, and butyric acids,” says Brown. The health benefits of these acids range from increasing the nutritional value of food, enhancing digestion, and increasing the activity of antioxidants, she says.
Of course, hard ‘booch is still booze. “Hard kombucha cannot be categorized as a healthy choice because it is still considered alcohol, aka discretionary calories which do not supply the body with vital nutrients,” adds Beckerman.
How does hard kombucha compare nutritionally to other drinks?
When it comes to alcohol content, hard kombuchas fall somewhere between beer and wine. Beer typically contains around 5% ABV, while wine serves up around 12% ABV. Most hard kombuchas run somewhere from 4.5 to 7% ABV.
Though it’s lower in sugar than the cranberry juice you might mix with your vodka, most hard kombuchas aren’t free from the sweet stuff. “Hard kombucha creates alcohol by using sugar, so it makes sense that it has more sugar than some other alcoholic beverages, clocking in between two and 10 grams of sugar or more, depending on the brand,” says Beckerman. Some hard kombucha varieties are virtually free from sugar, though, so just check the label if you’re in search of a lower-sugar product.
When it comes to calories, hard kombuchas are a better bet than your classic frozen margarita (which can be upwards of 300 calories), but fairly comparable to your standard glass of rosé. Most hard kombuchas range from about 85 to 150 calories per can.
Also nice: Hard kombuchas are typically free from wheat and barley. “If you have celiac disease and need a gluten-free option, hard kombucha is a good alternative to beer since it has a similar look and bubbly feel in the mouth,” adds Brown.
Bottom line on hard kombucha
“In my opinion, hard kombuchas are a comparable alternative to beer, wine, or mixed drinks, especially if a client prefers the taste of kombucha to these drinks,” says Brown. “I would recommend it as an alcoholic option over a sugary mixed drink like a pina colada.”
That said, no adult beverage will ever be a superfood (sorry), and hard kombucha is no exception. “As with any alcoholic beverage, understand the risks involved with drinking,” says Moskovitz. “The American Heart Association recommends no more than one drink per day for women and two for men.”
Basically, if you’re going to drink hard kombucha, do so responsibly and because you enjoy the taste—not because you expect it to bring health benefits. Some of the most popular brands include Flying Embers, which offers kombuchas in unique flavors like pineapple chili and black cherry. There’s also June Shine, which comes in tea-like varieties like honey ginger lemon and blood orange mint, and Boochcraft, an organic brand with a 7% ABV (so you may feel buzzed after just a can or two).
The Health Benefits of Peppermint and Green Tea
I recently gave up my daily latte for peppermint tea. … OK, in all fairness it has only been two days. But I found myself craving peppermint tea yesterday. Why? I have no idea. My body simply told me, “Hey, you want peppermint tea today.” And that was that.
When it comes to my tea, I’m very particular and biased. I like Earl Grey with sugar and milk. None of that lemon stuff. And don’t try to give me any other fancy flavor of tea. No thanks. However, when I was in the first trimester of my pregnancy over four years ago I drank many a ‘cupper of peppermint tea to help with my severe pregnancy illness (I’m talking Kate Middleton sick). And I found that peppermint tea gave me a little reprieve. I didn’t love the taste, but I did love feeling better. Funny enough, I hadn’t thought about that until today.
Then yesterday I had a hankering for it – I wasn’t feeling the greatest and my body must have known because it sent signals to my brain, “peppermint tea!” As I sat here sipping on my peppermint today, I began to wonder what the health benefits of peppermint tea are – and why was I craving it? Why did I feel better after I drank it? And what might the health benefits of some other teas be? So here’s what I found:
According to the Food NDTV website there are eight specific health benefits of drinking peppermint tea (which I’ll paraphrase here), and they are:
1. Makes you stress-free, because the menthol in the peppermint acts as a muscle relaxant and overall relaxant for mental health.
2. Help you sleep because, just like the stress-free feature above, the menthol helps you to relax and fall asleep.
3. Helps you to lose weight, simply because the tea leaves you feeling full for a longer period and so it satisfies your cravings and you don’t ingest as many calories.
4. Helps with an upset stomach again thanks to the menthol that calms and soothes your stomach.
5. Improves digestion again thanks to menthol. The menthol “… is responsible for the antiseptic and antibacterial properties… for improving digestion.”
6. Boosts your immune system thanks to peppermint’s antibacterial properties, and those in turn help to fight off disease, which helps to improve your immune system.
7. Fights bad breath. There’s a reason all of the gum and breath mints use peppermint! The menthol in peppermint helps to promote fresh breath.
This all sounds pretty good to me! It sounds healthy, relaxing, and mouth-freshening.
In comparison, I wondered what health benefits green tea touted, and so I looked into that. Now, I’ll admit that I’m not a huge fan of green tea. However, after learning about the genetic cardiovascular risks in my family and speaking with my cardiologist, I learned that green tea could be helpful in my battle to stave off heart disease. My thinking was that I could put up with the bitter taste of green tea for some incredible heart-health! I have been slacking with my green tea consumption though – but that might change after reading about the ten health benefits that green tea gives us.
According to healthline website there are ten health benefits to drinking green tea, and just like above, I will paraphrase them here.
1. It contains healthy bioactive compounds. And what exactly does that mean? Well, in short, “the green tea plant contains a range of healthy compounds…” And those include helping to reduce inflammation and helping to fight cancer due to natural antioxidants.
2. May improve brain function. This has to do with green tea’s key ingredient: caffeine. “Research has consistently shown that caffeine can improve various aspects of brain function, including mood, vigilance, reaction time, and memory. However, caffeine isn’t the only brain-boosting compound in green tea. It also contains amino acid L-theanine, which can cross the blood-brain barrier.”
3. Increases fat burning. Well, isn’t that something that most of us want? Green tea does this because it boosts metabolism and therefore increases fat burning.
4. Antioxidants may lower the risk of some cancers. There’s a lot involved in this, but in (very) short, green tea’s antioxidant elements are what help to lower the risk of cancer.
5. May protect the brain from aging. “Not only can green tea improve brain function in the short term, it may also protect your brain as you age.”
6. May reduce bad breath.
7. May help prevent type 2 diabetes. Diabetes involves elevated blood sugar levels and green tea may “improve insulin sensitivity and reduce blood sugar levels.”
8. May help prevent cardiovascular disease. This is the big one for me personally. “Studies show that green tea may improve some of the main risk factors for these diseases [heart disease and stroke], which includes improving total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.” And here’s a pretty impressive fact: “…people who drink green tea have up to a 31% lower risk of dying from a cardiovascular disease.” Well, if that doesn’t seal the deal, then I don’t know what does!
9. May help you lose weight. Green tea helps you lose weight due to it helping to boost your metabolic rate.
10. May help you live longer. I think this is a pretty important point, perhaps the biggest “seller” for why one should drink green tea. But the reason that drinking green tea can help you live longer has to do with how it helps to protect you against cancer and heart disease, and therefore you live longer.
After doing a little research and reading up on these two teas – or “sock water” as one of my coffee-drinking-co-workers refers to it – the bitter taste of my tea doesn’t taste so bitter anymore. Instead, I feel the warmth of the menthol in my mouth, then go down my throat and into my stomach, I feel calmer and healthier. Perhaps it’s a little bit of the placebo affect, but you know what? We’re not getting any younger and why not seize control of your health in all ways that you can? If that involves drinking a few cups of tea a week, why not do it? You’ll feel better! Plus you’re hydrating, you’ll sleep better, and internally your body and the tea are helping to make you stronger and healthier. Sounds like a win-win to me!
Link to peppermint tea article: https://food.ndtv.com/food-drinks/8-benefits-of-peppermint-tea-from-inducing-sleep-to-aiding-weight-loss-and-more-1748790
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