The History of Fermented Foods
Fermented foods have been used medicinally around the world for centuries, and their myriad of health benefits have been long understood. Making fermented foods part of your regular diet will support both immune and digestive health, among other benefits. In fact, there are entire books written about the incredible properties of fermented foods and beverages.
According to Sandor Katz, author of the best-selling book Wild Fermentation, “fermentation makes foods more nutritious…microscopic organisms-our ancestors and allies-transform food and extend its usefulness. Fermentation is found throughout human cultures. Hundreds of medical and scientific studies confirm what folklore has always known: Fermented foods help people stay healthy.”
While there are various whole food and drink forms of fermented foods that are delicious and nutritious (sauerkraut, fermented pickles, miso and more), two of our favorite options come in beverage form, are easy to include on a daily basis, and offer major health promoting benefits. These two options are kombucha tea and apple cider vinegar.
Kombucha tea is a traditional, fermented beverage that has been consumed for thousands of years, and is thought to originate in China or Japan. It has made a comeback in recent years, as we learn more about its many health benefits, not to mention its delicious taste. Nowadays, you can buy it at your local health food store or you can make it at home.
Good gut bacteria (aka, probiotics) are important for optimal health and are particularly essential for proper digestive function. Kombucha tea is made by combining specific strains of good bacteria, sugar, and yeast with a tea (typically green or black), and allowing it to ferment. This fermentation process produces a probiotic-rich drink.
Good levels of healthy good bacteria can help to cool systemic inflammation and even promote weight loss.
Kombucha Contains all the benefits of green tea
Kombucha tea is often high in antioxidants, especially if a green tea is used. Studies have shown that green tea contains highly beneficial compounds such a polyphenols, which help to fight free radical damage in the body. Green tea has also been shown to improve blood cholesterol levels, balance blood sugar, and reduce belly fat.
Free radicals are potentially dangerous, reactive molecules that can damage cells and are a contributor to cancer cell proliferation. Antioxidants are key in fighting these molecules and are found in certain foods (primarily bright colored plant foods, such as berries). One study shows that antioxidants from foods are more beneficial than antioxidants in supplement form. While more research is needed, preliminary studies suggest that kombucha tea might even reduce liver toxicity.
Improve blood cholesterol levels
Especially if green tea is used (but also if it is not), kombucha has been proven to protect LDL cholesterol particles (“bad” cholesterol) from oxidation, which can put you at serious risk of heart disease.
Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
apple cider vinegarACV is also nothing new, as it’s been used for centuries in cooking, cleaning and for medicinal purposes. Similarly to kombucha, ACV has received attention in recent years for its wealth of healthy gut bacteria, and some of its benefits include weight loss, blood sugar regulation, and digestive support.
ACV for Digestive Function
If you suffer from acid reflux or GERD, ACV might just be the answer to your prayers. Mix 1-2 tablespoons of raw ACV into warm or room temperature water and drink 20 minutes before a meal to promote sufficient stomach acid and proper digestion.
Weight Loss Support
Studies have shown that ACV can support weight loss, mainly by helping achieve and maintain healthy blood sugar levels, therefore increasing satiety and controlling cravings. One study showed that including ACV with carb-heavy meals can decrease our total calorie consumption by up to 250 calories!
So, Which is Better? Kombucha or ACV?
Really, both of these probiotic rich drinks are great choices. You can include both (kombucha one day and ACV the next), or you might decide you prefer the taste of one over the other. Remember that flavored kombucha is much higher in sugar, so stick with 8 oz. serving sizes and always read nutrition labels. If you simply can’t stand the taste of either (they do tend to taste acidic), consider including a high-quality probiotic supplement, instead.
The most important factor is that you are getting plenty of healthy gut bacteria to support your overall health.