Super Foods for a Super March

 March has arrived and that means National Nutrition Month has begun! Of course you should eat right everyday of the year but  National Nutrition Month shines the light on the fun side of  eating for good nutrition, something that often gets overlooked in the office.

So let the fun and games begin. I love this year’s theme because it falls right in line with the Eat Well Shanghai philosophy that eating well can be healthy and delicious!

I also like nutrition month because I get to choose a theme that carries a month of blogs.  This year we are going with…ta daa! SUPER FOODS ! I chose this topic because the trend is growing to promote particular food stuffs as super healthy. Each week (starting with today) we will investigate the science behind the hype of some of the newest and most popular super foods coming to a store shelf or added to a super smoothie  near you.

This week Kombucha is in the spot light. Kombucha (chájūn  茶菌), also known as Manchurian Tea or fungus tea , personally I will go with Kombucha, is a fermented drink of black tea ( or other teas) sugar and yeast and bacteria. The culture of yeast and bacteria will differ depending on the brew master but will probably contain one of the following: Saccharomycodes ludwigii, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, Brettanomyces bruxellensis, Bacterium xylinum, Bacterium gluconicum, Bacterium xylinoides, Bacterium katogenum, Pichia fermentans, Candida stellata, and Torula species.

What’s important to remember is this culture is what makes the drink full of probiotics and contributes to the super food status.

The fermentation takes about  a week and develops in to a fizzy drink that has  a vinegary taste. Most experts recommend that you start with small doses , 1- 2 ounces a day, working up to 4 ounces (120 ml) daily.  Some serious medical issues have been linked to drinking large amount of kombucha due to the high lactic acid content of the drink.   The taste and fiz may be enough to stop you from going over board, but I personally found it fairly easy to drink.

So why is this ancient Chinese elixir and modern day health miracle? According to Traditional Chinese Medicine Kombucha ” By aiding the stomach to better digest food and by assisting the spleen to deliver more nutrition, the body heals itself. Kombucha helps to break stagnation, reduces damp and phlegm and expels toxins from the body.”*

Modern day proponents of  Kombucha have promoted a wide variety of health benefits from curing arthritis to cancer to growing hair, however there has not been any human studies to back up these claims and the American Cancer Institute cautions that people with weakened immune systems speak with a medical professional before add Kombucha to the diet.

There may not be any  human research testing on the health properties of Kombucha, but there has been research few papers  published. One  study indicated that Kombucha enhanced sleep and improved pain thresholds in mice and the other concluded that the high acid content of Kombucha produced anti-microbial properties in a test tube. So you can sort of understand where a few of the health claims are coming from.

While you may not be able to grow hair with this ancient mixture what does seem to have possibilities is the digestive help that Kombucha could provide.  Being a fermented food, the yeast and bacteria culture does produce a healthy amount of probiotics which have been shown to restore and promote healthy intestinal flora ( the good bacteria).

So is it a super food? I doubt this drink will cure all that ails you but I believe it may have digestive benefits for some people. If you want to give it a go just remember to start slow and keep those Kombucha shots to less than 120mls per day!

Eat Well, Live Well, Have Fun!

*The Happy Herbalist: http://www.happyherbalist.com/libraryandresearch.aspx