Move over, hard seltzer — hard kombucha may just be the next big thing. Brands like Kombrewcha and JuneShine have flooded the market with spiked versions of the ever-trendy fermented tea, sold in adorable, Instagram-ready packaging. But do alcoholic versions boast the same bevy of health benefits as regular kombucha? We asked a dietitian to break it down.
First, What Exactly Is Hard Kombucha?
Kombucha has been a much-buzzed-about beverage on the wellness scene for a few years now, touted for its gut health benefits. The bubbly drink is a fermented tea that contains beneficial bacteria called probiotics. "Probiotics help us with inflammation, weight loss, digestion, regularity, and more," Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN, founder of Real Nutrition, told POPSUGAR. She said kombucha also has antibacterial properties, meaning it may help your body fight off bad bacteria.
Hard, or alcoholic, kombucha is essentially made the same way that regular kombucha is with basic ingredients of tea, bacteria, yeast, and sugar, Shapiro explained. Where it differs is in the fermentation process. The length of fermentation is longer, with more sugar and yeasts added at the end to up the alcohol content.
Is Hard Kombucha Good For Your Gut?
Unfortunately, hard kombucha won't benefit gut health in the same way that the nonalcoholic version does. "It doesn't seem to have the same amount of probiotics present in regular kombucha, as some of the bacteria cannot withstand the amount of alcohol by volume," Shapiro said. "Also, the amount of bacteria that make it to the colon where they work their magic is not high." Basically, the healthy bacteria that make kombucha good for your gut cannot survive with alcohol.
It's not all bad, though. Hard kombucha still has one important element in common with its nonalcoholic counterpart — they're both made from green and black teas that contain polyphenols and antioxidants. (Polyphenols are cancer-fighting compounds.)
How Does Hard Kombucha Compare to Other Alcoholic Drinks?
Shapiro stressed that, because it contains alcohol, hard kombucha can't be classified as a healthier choice than any other boozy beverage. However, it is lower in sugar, carbs, and calories per serving than beer, wine, and mixed drinks. Ultimately, whether it's a healthy option for you comes down to your personal goals and how alcohol makes you feel, Shapiro explained.
So as long as you aren't expecting any major health benefits from cracking a can of spiked kombucha, feel free to consider switching up your drink order with this fun, fizzy option.