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Kelp Tea, Switchle, Water Kefir: How Healthy Are These Drinks Really?




A few years ago, it would be difficult to find kombucha in the supermarket. It seems to be everywhere these days.

A quick online search for kelp tea (and similar drinks such as switchle and water kefir) gives you all the kind of benefits you might get from reducing inflammation and losing weight.

But are all these drinks cracked down? And how does it compare to other drinks?

What evidence does a health claim about kelp tea have?

Kombucha is a fermented tea beverage that has been consumed by humans for over 2,000 years.

It is made by fermenting tea with “tea fungus” (also known as scoby (a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast)).

Many commercial kombucha add sweeteners and fruit juices to improve the taste, but homemade versions often have a mildly acidic taste.

There are many claims about the health benefits of kelp tea, but there is still little high-quality evidence to support it.

This is a message from Evangeline Mantzioris, Certified Nutritionist and Program Director, Nutrition and Food Science, University of South Australia.

“Most of the health claims for kelp tea are based on in vitro studies conducted in the laboratory using cells,” she says.

“Sure, some of those studies and some animal studies have shown positive health benefits, but without evidence, those health benefits are not yet relevant to humans.”

Kombucha is brewed in a bottle with a view of SCOBY and talks about the health benefits of kombucha.
Scoby can be found in this bottle of homemade kombucha.(((Unsplash: Tim-Oliver Metz)

What is kombucha?

Kelp tea contains live bacteria and microorganisms from yeast, much like yogurt and other fermented foods and beverages.

Since it is made from black tea, kelp tea also contains polyphenols — Organic plant-derived chemicals associated with some positive health effects..

One thing to keep in mind is that kelp tea is not the only polyphenol. They are also in tea, glass of wine and even chocolate.

However, although research is still inadequate, Senaka Ranadheera, a food scientist and lecturer at the University of Melbourne, states that there may be some beneficial effects from the living culture of kelp tea.

“For example, some of these microbes can produce vitamins B1, B6, and B12, and they are also rich in vitamin C,” he says.

How about sweeteners and sugar?

Most commercial kelp tea beverages are low or completely sugar-free. Instead, it often contains natural sweeteners such as stevia.

For your reference, the natural sweeteners Can be consumed safely At the level found in these drinks, according to Dr. Ranadheera. He added that there may be complications even in very large quantities.

One advantage is the low energy content.

“For example, stevia has much lower calories than raw sugar,” says Dr. Ranadilla.

Sugar content comparison

  • Coke — 12.8 g of sugar per 100 mL
  • Lemonade — 9.2g per 100mL
  • Kelp tea or water kefir purchased at the store — 1-2.1g / 100m
  • Unsweetened kelp tea — 0g / 100ml
  • Diet soft drinks — 0g / 100ml
  • Switchel — Depends on the sweetener used

Is it okay to pasteurize kombucha?

One of the challenges for drink makers is the shelf life of kelp tea. If the drink contains sugar, it should be refrigerated. If not, fermentation will continue.

To avoid this problem, some brands bottle kelp tea after all the sugar has been consumed in the fermentation process. In this way, they can store it at room temperature without any problems.

Others pasteurize their kelp tea to extend its shelf life. The pasteurization process stops fermentation by killing the culture. Therefore, keep in mind that drinks do not contain a living culture.

How about switchel?

Another drink sold for its health benefits is apple cider vinegar, a switchle that is a combination of ginger and sugar or other sweeteners.

Like kombucha, switchel is a traditional drink. It is believed to have started in the Caribbean.

Many commercial varieties of Switchle use natural sweeteners rather than sugar and are sold as healthy beverages. However, their health benefits have not been fully studied.

“There is almost nothing in the research literature on Switchle, which is mentioned in only a few articles as a traditional beverage, but I couldn’t find any research articles,” says Dr. Ranadilla.

“But there may be some potential benefits to including apple cider vinegar in this product.

Small-scale human studies use apple cider vinegar Antidiabetic effect and lowering of cholesterol..

“Once again, these benefits can be a bit vague and require further investigation.”

And you can get the potential benefit of apple cider vinegar by using it in your salad.

Water kefir

Another drink that regularly appears with kombucha and switchle is water kefir. This is also known as Tibicos.

A little like kombucha, but no tea. It is made by fermenting fruit-filled water with special SCOBY water kefir grains.

Again, little research has been done on water kefir, so no conclusions can be drawn about its health benefits.

However, Dr. Ranadilla says the drink will have a profile similar to kombucha.

“I think kombucha and water kefir have very similar advantages, except for the high phenol content of tea,” he says.

“Both use SCOBY. They have different compositions, but they both have the health benefits of probiotics.”


“If people really like the taste of these drinks or enjoy making them, then it’s okay to drink them. Just look at the sugar.” — Dr. Manziolis.

“These drinks can be much better than soft drinks.” — Dr. Ranadilla.

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