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Kombucha vs. Soda: Health Benefits and Calories

Americans are eating and drinking too many sugary beverages and foods, which contribute to health problems such as weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart diseases. Kombucha could be a great low calorie, low carb alternative to sodas.

Key takeaways:

About Kombucha

Kombucha is considered a superfood for a good reason. It contains plenty of nutrients that can boost overall health and may even prevent some health conditions.

Kombucha is a fermented beverage made from black or green tea combined with sugar, agave or honey.

Due to the natural fermentation process, this drink is fizzy and contains probiotics, which are friendly bacteria that help improve digestive, immune system, brain function and promote overall health.

Kombucha is also a great source of polyphenols, which are plant compounds which help fight inflammation and free radicals. Compared with regular tea, kombucha contains more polyphenols because the process of fermentation increases the amount of these beneficial plant chemicals.

Kombucha provides essential nutrients like B vitamins being particularly rich in vitamin B6, B2, B1 and folate and minerals like potassium and manganese. In addition, it contains organic acids like acetic, glucuronic and D-Saccharic acids, which have documented antimicrobial effects.

About soda

Although a variety of sodas are available on the market, all have a few things in common: they are high in sugar, high in calorie content, yet empty in nutrients like vitamins and minerals. Many of them contain high amounts of caffeine, and salt, too.

Soft drinks are formed through the combination of water and sugar, along with other artificial flavors, colors and additives. Before becoming carbonated, sodas go through a process of pasteurization.

Some soft drinks have low or no calories and carbs at all, but as noted below, diet sodas are associated with health concerns, too. Some sodas replaced artificial sweeteners with natural low carb sweeteners like stevia due to increased demand for healthier alternatives, however they may contain other artificial additives.

Health benefits and safety

Kombucha. Although more research is needed to fully assess the benefits of kombucha, there is some scientific evidence that some of the compounds found in this beverage may help lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels, reduce risk of cancer, improve liver and digestive health, and may have antimicrobial effects, too.

Probiotics found in kombucha and other fermented foods like yogurt and kefir promote healthy brain function and support the immune system, in addition to their role in digestion. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the consumption of 4 oz. of kombucha does not present a risk for the consumer’s health. Kombucha should not be consumed during pregnancy and everyone should avoid drinking it in excess. For those who plan making this beverage at home, it is important to follow strict hygiene to avoid contamination with microbes.

Soda, on the other hand, has no documented health benefits. Quite the opposite, in fact. A review of studies from Penn Medicine reveals that regular consumption of soda is associated with obesity and diabetes, because it contains artificial sweeteners that slow the metabolism, while causing spikes in blood sugar levels. Artificial sweeteners, particularly aspartame, seems the main culprit for the link between drinking soda and increased risk of heart attacks and other heart diseases.

A 2011 research study presented by the American Heart Association concluded that drinking diet soda increases the risk of strokes by nearly 50%, and the high amounts of sodium in the beverage may likely play an important role. As per Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), consuming a lot of sugary drinks can also cause kidney disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver and gout. Artificial dyes have been linked with ADHD, and even cancer in some studies. Furthermore, sodas also create addictions, making a person consume more overtime.

Calories and carbohydrates

Another way to evaluate if your beverage is healthy is by looking at the amount of calories and carbohydrates. One of the best ways to track the calories and nutrients you consume is to use an app on your phone. The app can also tell you the amount of exercise you need to burn a certain number of calories, although this number is relative and depends on a number of factors like age, fitness level, body composition, and more.

The popular app MyFitnessPal shows that a can of soft drink (7Up) contains 160 calories, including 42 grams of net carbs. Of note, 42 grams of sugar is the equivalent to seven to 10 teaspoons. To burn these 160 calories, one would have to perform 58 minutes of cleaning or 24 minutes of cycling.

A can of Kombucha of the same size (355 ml or 12 oz) contains about 40 calories, and 7 grams of net carbs. About 14 minutes of cleaning or seven minutes of cycling could help a person burn 40 calories.

In summary, the average soda contains four times more calories and six times more carbohydrates compared with the same amount of Kombucha.

Commercial sodas are full of sugar, various artificial flavors, colors and preservatives while raw kombucha is an all natural, low sugar beverage preserved by fermentation and is not pasteurized. Check the labels, because some Kombucha brands may have added sugar.

Sodas are loaded with calories, sugars and artificial additives. All these ingredients contribute to increased risk of several diseases. Kombucha offers an all natural, low calorie, low carb, and nutritious alternative to traditional sodas.

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