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The rising health craze of kombucha and kefir

Written by Food

You have all probably seen the name Kombucha and Kefir floating around, whether they be in food articles, health books or are that unidentifiable item on the restaurant menu. So what are these weird health crazes?

Kombucha

Kombucha is an acidic, fermented tea-based drink consisting of sugar, bacteria and yeast. The symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast is called a SCOBY which ferments in the sugar solution. It is not a new phenomenon and has in fact been a popular drink in China for over 2000 years. 

I decided to really experience the drink I needed to try it. The kombucha brand I chose was by Equinox and out of flavour preference, I chose raspberry and elderflower. I was pleasantly surprised by the drink; it was lightly sparkling which I love and tasted like a summery cordial. There was perhaps more sugar than the original kombucha blend in order to appeal to more customers, so I wouldn’t make a habit of drinking regular shop-bought brands. however with the drink only costing me £1.50 from Waitrose and tasting quite good, I can see why it is so popular.

The main reason it has now become a major product in the world of healthy consumerism is due to its many alleged benefits. Some of these include:

  • Can kill unwanted bacteria
  • May reduce heart disease risk by protecting LDL cholesterol particles from oxidation 
  • May help manage type 2 diabetes by reducing blood sugar levels
  • May help protect against cancer
  • High in antioxidants such as polyphenols 
  • Probiotic bacteria is produced through the fermentation

While these are all suggested benefits that have been said about kombucha, there is only small samples of evidence that support each of these claims. Therefore it would not be wise to take these alleged benefits as fact. 

Kefir

Kefir is a fermented milk-based drink which originates from parts of Eastern Europe and Southwest Asia. The name is derived from the Turkish word keyif, meaning “feeling good” after eating.

Kefir is nutrient-dense, with plenty of protein, B vitamins, potassium, and calcium. Calcium helps to build strong bones, protein builds strong muscles, and potassium is essential for heart health.

The probiotics are the strongest health benefit that kefir has to offer. According to the ‘Mayo Clinic’, probiotics can help to:

  • improve the healthy bacteria ratio in the gastrointestinal tract’s environment
  • treat or prevent diarrhoea, especially following antibiotic treatment
  • treat irritable bowel syndrome, or relieve symptoms
  • reduce or prevent gastrointestinal infections, or increase recovery from them
  • prevent and treat vaginal infections
  • prevent and treat urinary tract infections

While kefir has plenty of great health benefits, it also has some side effects. These include constipation and abdominal cramping. These side effects are most common when you first start taking kefir.

Just like kombucha, I wanted to make my own mind up about the kefir drink, so I bought the organic flavour from a brand called Biotiful Dairy. In terms of the taste, the milky drink was quite sour and was thicker than I expected but I slowly started to get used to the flavour and texture  In my opinion I don’t think I would make it a regular buy but it was an affordable product – like the kombucha it costed £1.50 for 250ml at Waitrose. 

Overall, I don’t know if I am fully convinced about either health drinks, however I don’t think I will rule them out completely; they often work as great additions to cocktails and smoothies which would hide their rather prominent flavours.

Last modified: 17th February 2020

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