Seemingly overnight, the buzz of hard kombucha swept across social media. If you thought the White Claw takeover of 2019 was intense, just imagine when more people discover a gut-enriching, fermented tea drink can complete the perfect Friday night. But as exciting as this new drink may be, an important question lingers: is hard kombucha healthier than other alcoholic drinks? We reached out to Alyssa Bixler, MS, RD, CDCES, a registered dietitian at OhioHealth, to get the inside scoop.
Let’s start off with the basics. So…
What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is believed to have originated in East Asia over 2,000 years ago. One popular theory is the drink was named after Dr. Kombu, a Korean physician, who brought the drink to Emperor Inkyo in hopes of healing him. The belief that kombucha provides health benefits has endured through the years, as many people today believe in the power of kombucha.
Kombucha is made by allowing bacteria, yeast and sugar to ferment in black or green tea for at least a week. This process produces acetic acid (found in vinegar), about .5 percent of alcohol and different bacterias, including lactic acid. Lactic acid potentially provides good bacteria or probiotics, thus meaning that kombucha may create a healthy gut.
To learn more about kombucha, check out our “Sip or Skip? Kombucha” article.
If Kombucha already has alcohol, then what is hard kombucha?
While the fermentation process of kombucha creates a small amount of alcohol in its mixture, it is not enough to be categorized as an alcoholic drink. Traditional kombucha is mostly enjoyed for the health benefits, thus providing a path for creatives to do their thing. And voila… hard kombucha has entered the chat.
Hard kombucha is simply traditional kombucha that has been fermented for a longer period of time, with more sugar and yeasts to create a higher alcohol content. Hard kombucha usually contains the same alcohol content and calories as beer or wine, but can vary. “It is the better choice, calorie and sugar-wise, compared with a mixed drink, like a margarita,” says Bixler.
Drum roll… is hard kombucha healthy?
This is where it gets tricky. In comparison to other alcoholic drinks on the market, hard kombucha does tend to have less calories, sugars and carbs. However, “hard kombucha should not be considered a “health drink,”” says Bixler. “It is still a significant source of discretionary calories and alcohol, so it should be consumed in moderation.”
If your main concern is the probiotics in traditional kombucha, the bad news is that a higher alcohol content kills some of the bacteria. Therefore, hard kombucha should not be your probiotic-rich go-to.
Don’t lose hope though! Hard kombucha is still made with black or green tea, thus providing you with some of the benefits of polyphenols (cancer-fighting compounds) and antioxidants. And, if you’re gluten-free, Bixler says that hard kombucha is a good GF alcohol option.
At the end of the day, the healthier option is the one that meets your goals. So while hard kombucha may not be an all-magical solution, it could be a fun drink to add to your weekends.