We all know that high calorie drinks like soda and beer can lead to weight gain, but what about “healthy” drinks like kombucha that are supposed to be good for you?
Kombucha can lead to weight gain by adding excess empty calories to your diet. However if it is consumed in moderation with the calories accounted for, kombucha’s low caloric and sugar content can serve as a substitute for higher calorie sugary and alcoholic drinks. The probiotics in kombucha also may help promote weight loss.
If you’re someone who is trying to keep their weight under control and are curious about how kombucha is going to affect that, this article is for you. Let’s get started!
What is in Kombucha?
Kombucha is a carbonated and flavored probiotic drink made from fermented tea that has become quite popular in recent years due to its great taste and many health benefits such as improved digestion and gut health, detoxification, and immune system strengthening.
There are 5 main ingredients that make up kombucha:
SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast)
Some Type of Flavoring
How Kombucha Can Lead to Weight Gain
So what are some of the reasons why drinking kombucha could cause you to gain weight? Let's talk about 3 big ones.
In order to gain weight or “get fat,” you need to consume more calories than you burn off. These excess calories you don't use for energy are stored in your body as fat for later use.
The calories in kombucha mainly come from the sugar it’s brewed with and the flavoring that is used.
The really interesting thing about kombucha’s calories is that when the drink is first being brewed, it has more calories than when it’s finished. This is because when kombucha begins the brewing process as sweet tea, it has a lot of sugar in it. But during fermentation the SCOBY eats a lot of this sugar and turns some of it into gas which is released into the air.
One big influence on the difference of sugar and caloric content between kombucha brands is the length of their fermentation. If the brand ferments their kombucha longer, more sugar will be eaten and there will be less calories in the final drink. If a brand ferments their kombucha for less time, the kombucha will have more sugar in the end and therefore more calories.
The other thing that influences the amount of calories in a bottle of kombucha is the flavoring that is used. If a brand uses a fruit or fruit juice flavoring, there is going to be more sugar in the kombucha and therefore more calories than if a brand uses herbs, roots, or spices for flavoring, which are ingredients that have much less sugar.
Kombucha is actually really low in calories compared to other sugary drinks, but it still could lead to weight gain if drinking it caused you to consume more calories than you burned off that day.
Drinking Calories is Easier than Eating Them
One of the easiest ways to gain weight is to drink beverages with lots of sugar and empty calories. If you're unfamiliar with empty calories they're basically calories without many nutrients. They don't contribute to you feeling full, so they are usually extra calories added onto those already in your diet.
One study found that among men and women with a genetic risk of obesity, those who drank at least one sugary drink a day were 4 times more likely to become obese than those who drank less than one sugary drink a month.
In another study, people who drank soda in addition to their current diet consumed 17% more calories than before. If you’re trying to lose or maintain weight, it’s hard enough keeping calories down with your diet. Adding on an extra 17% will make losing weight nearly impossible.
The good news is that kombucha is much lower in sugar than soda and won’t add on quite as many empty calories to your diet. But these studies do show that it’s really easy to gain weight by drinking something. So even though kombucha is healthier than soda, because it’s a beverage it could be easy to drink a lot without realizing how many calories you're adding onto your diet.
Over Drinking Kombucha Because It's Healthy
The third and final way kombucha could lead to weight gain is that because it’s considered a healthy beverage, some people may drink too much of it without even considering how it could affect their weight.
The thing about calories is that they’re the same whether they come from nutritious food or unhealthy food. If drinking kombucha causes you to consume more calories than you burn off that day, you’re going to gain weight, regardless of how healthy the drink is.
For example, let's say someone is gaining weight drinking soda because they are drinking an extra 100 calories a day than they burn off. daily calories more than they do now they’re going to gain weight. If this person decides to stop drinking 100 calories of soda everyday because it’s a “bad” beverage that causes people to get fat, but substitutes it with 100 calories of the “good and healthy” drink of kombucha, they’re still going to gain weight.
Kombucha's reputation of being healthy caused this person to drink it without considering the consequences, which led to them gaining weight.
Kombucha is a really healthy drink. But even if it was the healthiest beverage in the history of the world, as long as it has calories in it, it can cause weight gain.
How Kombucha Can Lead to Weight Loss
While it’s possible for kombucha to cause weight gain, there are actually plenty of ways it can lead to weight loss. If you’re someone who is trying to maintain or lose weight, here are a few ways you can use kombucha as a tool to help out.
Kombucha is a Subsitute for Sugary Drinks
Earlier I talked about how sugary drinks are one of the most fattening parts of the modern diet and that drinking empty calories like those in kombucha can easily lead to weight gain.
If you’re someone who is drinking sugary beverages daily, limiting or even completely cutting them out of your diet could make a huge difference in terms of your weight.
And although kombucha has some empty calories and sugar, it has a lot less than most sodas and other sugary drinks. In fact, most kombuchas only have around 10g of sugar per bottle, 4x less sugar than a can of coke (39g).
This means that kombucha can be used as a healthier, lower sugar, lower calorie substitute to sugary drinks such as soda that are a big cause of weigh gain.
The reason that this works is because although it has less sugar, kombucha still has a ton of flavor to it. I’ve found that when I am craving soda, kombucha can satisfy that craving because its sweet, acidic, and fizzy taste really closely resembles soda.
Kombucha is full of Probiotics that may Aid in Weight Loss
Kombucha is known for the beneficial bacteria, or probiotics, that it contains. Probiotics are found in a lot of other fermented foods such as kefir, sauerkraut, yogurt, kimchi, and some cheeses.
Your body, especially your gut, is filled with good and bad bacteria. It’s believed that the modern diet which is so full of sugar and processed foods harms the good bacteria leading to digestive problems, diarrhea, and infections such as candida.
Fermented foods with probiotics like sauerkraut, yogurt, kimchi, and kombucha replace and replenish these beneficial bacteria, and may
A few of the studies looking at probiotics and weight loss have found that:
Normal weight people have different gut bacteria than overweight or obese people.
Some probiotics can inhibit the absorption of dietary fat, increasing the amount of fat excreted in poop, and decreasing the amount that is being added to your body.
After following people eating yogurt with the probiotics lactobacillus fermentum and lactobacillus amylovorus for only six weeks, the participants body fat had been reduced by 3-4%
Part of the reason why the probiotics like those in kombucha may aid in weight loss is because they reduce the number of calories you absorb from food and affect hormones and proteins related to appetite, fat storage, and obesity.
So kombucha not only works as a lower sugar substitute for your soda cravings, but also provides probiotics that appear to significantly help with weight loss.
Kombucha Can Serve as a Healthy Substitute for Alcohol
Alcohol has the same amount of calories per gram as fat, and just like those in sugary drinks, they are empty calories that provide your body with almost no nutrients.
Alcohol is bad for weight loss because normally your body will burn fat reserves to get energy, but when you supply it with a ton of empty calories, it just uses those for energy since they are much more convenient. Meaning that when you drink empty calories, you're making it harder for yourself to lose fat.
Alcohol also affects digestion and nutrient uptake. Because it causes stress on the stomach and intestines, leading to decreased digestive secretions and inhibiting the movement of food through the digestive tract.
This leads to your body not absorbing and using nutrients correctly, which will have a big effect on the metabolism of organs that help manage your weight. Meaning that the fatty and unhealthy snacks you eat while drinking won’t be burned off like they normally would be.
Kombucha can serve as a really great substitute to alcohol for those looking to lose weight. Although it only has small amounts of naturally occurring alcohol in it from fermentation, it tastes like it has much more.
With less than 0.5% alcohol content per bottle, you’re not going to get buzzed off booch, but it can satisfy an your alcohol craving because kombucha is slightly alcoholic and acidic, it has a bitter and vinegary taste that creates a similar throat hit and smell to alcoholic drinks. As far as I know, kombucha is probably the most alcoholic tasting, legally “non-alcoholic” drink out there.
If you are a regular alcohol drinker, your brain is in a habit of releasing the feel good chemical dopamine when you have a drink. Because of kombucha's alcoholic taste, you may be able to trick your brain into forgetting that craving and feeling satisfied by substituting kombucha on a night where you normally would have a drink or two.
This will lead to you drinking a lot less empty calories and give you the sweet probiotic and antioxidant benefits, providing you much needed help in your weight loss journey.
The Best Kombucha for Weight Loss
Most bottles of kombucha are around 70 calories, which is pretty low when compared with most sugary and alcoholic drinks.
But, if you're looking to really use kombucha to lose weight then you're going to want to drink one with really low calories, lots of probiotics, and still enough flavor to satisfy your cravings.
The lowest calorie kombucha on the market is Humm Kombucha Zero Sugar. Every can is only 10 calories!
But even though Humm Zero is low in calories, it's still packed with probiotics and has real fruit flavoring.
You probably won't be able to find Humm Zero at your local grocery store, but I was surprised at how cheap you can get it on Amazon. If you’re interested you can find a Humm Kombucha Zero Variety Pack that includes 4 Raspberry Lemonade, 4 Peach Tea, 4 Blood Orange, and 4 Ginger Lemonade on Amazon here.
If you're interested you can find the amount of calories in all the popular kombucha brands in my article, Calories and Kombucha - How Many are in Every Brand Plus The Lowest Calorie Options.
Kombucha is a healthy drink, but that doesn’t mean you can drink it as much or as often as you want without any possibility of weight gain.
If you’re someone who is trying to maintain or lose weight, substituting a kombucha for a soda or beer every once in a while can satisfy that craving while lowering the amount of sugar and empty calories in your diet and giving your body probiotics that can help with weight loss.
If you want to learn more about kombucha, how it relates to your health, and even how to brew it yourself, be sure check out the rest of my website!