Is kombucha safe for kids?

Is kombucha safe for kids?

Is kombucha tea actually healthy, or is it just another trendy drink? Le Bonheur Clinical Dietitian Anna Tuttle, MS, RD, LDN, CLC, tackles the topic below.

Although kombucha has been consumed around the globe for thousands of years, only recently has it gained major shelf space in the homes of many Americans who claim to enjoy its health benefits and fermented fizz. In my home, we drink kombucha on a regular basis. In fact, my kids use it as the "tea" at their tea parties. Here is my perspective on the drink not only as a registered dietitian but as a mom.

  1. What is kombucha?

Kombucha is a fermented drink made with tea, sugar, yeast and bacteria.  A variety of brands and flavors are available in stores, but some consumers choose to make their own. Kombucha can be found in the refrigerated section of your local grocery store and natural food market. 

  1. What about the alcohol that is produced in the fermenting process? What does that do to the body?

Commercially-prepared kombucha has to contain less than 0.5 percent alcohol in order to be sold as a non-alcoholic beverage.  As a source of comparison, a light beer contains around 4.2 percent alcohol.  Therefore, drinking a moderate amount of the kombucha will not be harmful.

  1. Is Kombucha safe for kids?

Kombucha does contain a small amount of alcohol as  a natural by-product of the fermentation process. Homemade kombucha does not have to adhere to regulations to keep the alcohol content <0.5 percent.  Therefore, it may be best to offer store-bought kombucha and keep serving size to 8 ounces per day.

  1. What are the potential benefits of drinking kombucha?

Kombucha contains probiotics, which are healthy bacteria for the gut.  Other foods such as yogurt, kefir (a fermented milk drink), sauerkraut and kimchi also contain probiotics.  Probiotics may help relieve certain GI symptoms, however, scientific studies to prove some of these health claims are still lacking. 

  1. What are the potential side effects of drinking kombucha?

Although kombucha can be beneficial, certain people should avoid kombucha since it does contain bacteria.  If you have a compromised immune system from a chronic illness, you should talk to your medical provider before consuming kombucha.

  1. How much kombucha is too much?

A kombucha lover should stick to 8-16 ounces per day.  If you want to get even more probiotics in your diet, try to eat yogurt on a regular basis or drink kefir as part of your breakfast.  Moderation is key for most foods and beverages. 

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