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There are lots of good things in kombucha and lots of benefits you get when you drink it. Below is a kinda scientific-y explanation of how antioxidants are produced in kombucha and why they are good for you, enjoy kombucha nerds!
During the fermentation process, the symbiotic microorganisms in kombucha break down complex carbohydrates, usually in the form of cane sugar, and convert them into alcohol which is then oxidized into organic acids when exposed to air. One such acid, glucuronic acid (GlcUA), is a precursor to vitamin C and its presence is dependent upon several factors such as temperature and abundance of the right kinds of bacteria the starter culture.
Another common Kombucha bacteria, Gluconobacter, converts glucose into vitamin C. The specific types of bacteria in the brew makes a difference in how and which antioxidants are formed. The culture type is also important as “wild cultures” like we use in Lucky Elixir that have a diverse range of microorganisms yield higher quantities of vitamin C than cultures with only a single type of bacteria and single type of yeast. Plus, the longer the fermentation time, the greater the amount of vitamin C; up to 6x more when fermented for at least 10 days. The microbes are key to enhancing the nutritional profile (and flavor) of Kombucha and put the “fun” in this functional food.
Another contributor to Kombucha’s functional food status is tea! Tea (Camillia sinensis) is naturally rich in polyphenols, a group of plant-derived active compounds that have been well-documented for their antioxidant properties. Polyphenols are powerful antioxidants that reduce damage caused by reactive oxygen species (ROS) found in the environment. Think of ROS like rust – when metal is exposed to rough conditions without protection, it creates rust and the corrosion ultimately results in irreparable damage. This damage can be prevented if it is treated beforehand. This is why “anti”oxidants are so important to human health. Active compounds like polyphenols protect your organs from damage and cell death.
Dietary polyphenols, such as those found in tea, fruit, and vegetables, reduce the oxidative stress that contributes to disease and helps with prevention. Studies show the concentration of tea polyphenols increase during fermentation. Much like vitamin C, the longer the fermentation time, the more polyphenols are present. The interplay between bacteria and raw ingredients enhances the nutrients of the tea and the resulting Kombucha is enriched with increased antioxidants. The free radical scavenging abilities of Kombucha increase anywhere from 20 – 200% after 15 days of fermentation depending upon fermentation conditions. Different teas contain differing amounts of polyphenols. As such, Kombucha fermented with green tea has the highest increase in free-radical scavenging ability when compared to black tea or powdered tea demonstrating that whole leaf teas yield a more nutritious product. Many Kombucha producers use a blend of different teas in order to take advantage of these natural differences and to create unique flavor profiles.
The ancients instinctively understood, as they lovingly cultivated their counter cultures and ferments, that these microbially active, nutrient dense foods and beverages have been friends of humans since the dawn of time. While they may not have even conceived of the notion of “antioxidant” or “functional foods” their senses did not lead them astray. As craft brewers and artists, the unique dance of tea type, fermentation time, culture type and so forth create a nuanced balance between the natural properties of tea and the flavors created by the symbiosis that elevates Kombucha as a delicious elixir of fizz and function.
This article is provided courtesy of Kombucha Brewers International (KBI)
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