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The pros and cons of the kombucha tea health craze

By Erin Goff, KSL  |  Posted Dec 28th, 2017 @ 5:48pm

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SALT LAKE CITY — Kombucha teas seem to be taking over the grocery store shelves. You can even find it on tap at the Harmons City Creek and across the country, people brew it at home. So what is it?

"Kombucha is a tea that is a sweet tea and then you add the culture to it and the culture metabolizes the sugar and the tea creates the environment," said Harmons executive chef Aaron Ballard.

So, it's basically a fermented tea. For 23 years, Ballard has enjoyed drinking kombucha teas. He makes his own and even owned his own brewery for a time.

"Initially I was attracted to the fermented flavor and that it was fizzy and it was refreshing and it wasn't too sweet," Ballard said.

It's that taste and the health aspects that keeps Ballard drinking the fizzy drink.

"It has some organic acids in it that are fairly good for you. It helps with your gut bacteria as well," he said.

"Kombucha is healthy most obviously because it's a low sugar, very flavorful drink, so a great alternative to soda," said Harmons dietitian Laura Kohl.

But dietitians warn kombucha is not a miracle drink.

"I don't think it's required as part of a healthy diet, but if you're looking for those potential probiotic effects, I recommend drinking it often and in small amounts," Kohl said.

For the healthiest kombucha, make sure to check the labels for other added ingredients. And if you're making it at home, make sure you know what you're doing.

"It's a live culture and it can spoil and other things can grow that can make you sick," Ballard warned.

Kohl said although the push for probiotic food is popular now, it's important to also remember the prebiotics, which is the fiber that the bacteria eats.

"It's important to include all those good things like fruits and whole grains to support that healthy bacteria that you're eating," Kohl said.

Kombucha does have a small amount of caffeine and alcohol, about 0.5 percent. Ballard said that is about the amount you would find in a really ripe orange. So pregnant women should still talk to their doctors before drinking it.


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