Kombucha and Kefir: The Next Superfoods?

jars of kombucha
By: Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN

You maybe have seen versions of these beverages in the supermarket. They’re the latest hot health-food items, but what are they, and are they worth trying?

Kombucha is a type of fermented tea, while kefir is fermented milk (dairy or non-dairy) beverage. We’ve talked before about the benefits of fermented foods, but do those benefits extend to the drinkable versions?


Kombucha is super popular right now and is touted as a “miracle agent” by many; I’m not so sure I’d call it miracle material, but it may have a few benefits. Basically, kombucha is made by fermenting tea using a colony of bacteria and yeast. Other ingredients like spirulina or green tea extract might be added, along with flavorings like ginger, lemon or berries.

You can find bottled kombucha in health food stores and larger supermarkets. Because it’s fermented, it has a very small amount of alcohol (less than 1%). Brewing kombucha at home is a fast-growing hobby; you”ll need a “SCOBY”, the bacteria culture starter that looks a little like a silicone pad.

There are lots of health claims around kombucha that have been largely unproven, like cancer prevention, improved liver function and others that have not yet been proven through research. But kombucha does contain probiotics (the same types of healthy bacteria you’ll find in yogurt).

On one hand…

  • Probiotics in kombucha may provide added healthy bacteria for the digestive system
  • Contains B-vitamins that are important for energy production
  • In some commercially processed kombucha teas, there may be added ingredients like chlorophyll, spirulina, green tea extracts, chia seeds and more

On the other hand…

  • The jury is out on health claims around kombucha
  • May contain added sugars (some sugar is necessary for fermentation)
  • Some allergic reactions have been reported
  • Contains yeast in the process of making the beverage and therefore would not be compliant with a low-yeast or candida diet
  • Fermented products on the whole may be difficult to digest for some


Kefir is a fermented milk beverage that contains rich probiotics and other healthful nutrients. The good news is that like non-dairy yogurts that are being made, kefir also can be made with non-dairy ingredients.

Kefir can be sipped on its own, or incorporated into a smoothie or other recipes. Basically you can use it anywhere you might use yogurt or buttermilk.

On one hand…

  • Source of gut and immune-healthy probiotics
  • Can be made from non-dairy sources like coconut water, sweetened water and coconut milk
  • Rich source of vitamins, minerals and essential amino acids- like B-vitamins, K2, magnesium and phosphorus
  • Research suggests it may help to improve lactose digestion in adults with lactose intolerance
  • Bacteria strains in kefir may help to promote gut health

On the other hand…

  • Contains yeast, which may not work for anyone on a low-candida or yeast diet
  • May contain extra sugars or artificial sweeteners (depending on brand).
  • As with kombucha, take health claims with a grain of salt until more studies are conducted.

While making kombucha at home requires some special equipment, you can make kefir at home with ordinary kitchen supplies. Try making our coconut water kefir. You’ll need starter kefir grains, which can be purchased inexpensively online, or in some health-food stores.

Have you tried kombucha or kefir? What did you like or dislike about them?

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Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN

Isabel is a Registered Dietitian, wellness expert and fitness coach. Isabel has her own nutrition and wellness practice based in New York City, Isabel Smith Nutrition, but she works with clients and corporations both nationwide and worldwide in a variety of areas including skin health, weight loss, gastrointestinal issues and allergies, sports nutrition, general wellness and more. As a Guided Reboot coach, Isabel has helped hundreds juice their way to better health. When she isn’t helping clients achieve optimal nutrition and wellness, she can be found trying and creating new juices and making other healthy recipes, running, cooking, spinning, practicing yoga, and enjoying time with her two Yorkshire terriers. Isabel is also one of the nutritionists who runs our Guided Reboot programs.

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