The keto diet has become one of the most popular diets for weight loss and overall health in recent years. This very low-carb, high-fat diet puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis, which has been shown to have many benefits. However, with its strict rules on carbs, many people wonder if certain foods and drinks are compatible with the keto lifestyle. One such item is kombucha, the trendy fermented tea drink that has taken the health world by storm. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take an in-depth look at whether kombucha can fit into a keto diet.
What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is a fermented tea made from green tea, black tea, or a combination of both. It’s created by adding specific strains of bacteria, yeast, and sugar to brewed tea, then allowing it to ferment. This fermentation process creates a beverage packed with beneficial probiotics, vitamins, and minerals. The end result is a tangy, effervescent drink that has become hugely popular due to its many touted health benefits. Some research has found that kombucha may help:
- Improve gut health
- Enhance immune function
- Increase energy levels
- Detoxify the body
- Aid digestion
- Boost mood
However, more human research is still needed to confirm these effects.
What is the Keto Diet?
The ketogenic or “keto” diet is a very low-carb, high-fat diet plan. It aims to reduce your carb intake sufficiently to put your body into a metabolic state called ketosis. During ketosis, your body switches from using glucose as its main fuel source to using ketones. Ketones are molecules produced by the liver from stored fat when carbs are severely limited. Some of the touted benefits of ketosis include:
- Weight loss
- Reduced appetite
- Lowered blood sugar levels
- Improved brain function
- Increased energy
To achieve ketosis, most keto plans recommend limiting your net carbs to 20–50 grams per day. This typically involves eliminating carb-heavy foods like grains, starchy veggies, legumes, fruits, and sweets.
Kombucha Nutrition Facts
When determining if a food or drink fits into the keto diet, it’s important to look at its macronutrient breakdown — especially the carbs. Here are the typical nutrition facts for an 8-ounce (240-ml) serving of kombucha:
|Total carbs||14 g|
As you can see, an 8-ounce (240-ml) serving of kombucha contains about 14 grams of carbs. The carb content comes largely from the added sugar that feeds the SCOBY, the symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast that ferments the tea.
However, not all brands and flavors contain the same amount of sugar and carbs. Flavors like ginger-lemon tend to be lower in sugar than fruit-infused varieties.
Plus, many commercial brands create lighter, lower-sugar options specifically for the health-conscious crowd. So be sure to read nutrition labels and select a lower-sugar kombucha if carbs are a concern.
Does Kombucha Fit Into the Keto Diet?
With roughly 14 grams of carbs per serving, can kombucha fit into a keto diet?
Most versions of the keto diet recommend limiting your daily net carbs to 20–50 grams per day. Net carbs are calculated by subtracting fiber from total carbs, as fiber is not digested and absorbed in the same way other carbs are.
An 8-ounce (240-ml) serving of kombucha would provide around 14 grams of carbs — all of which are digested carbs since kombucha doesn’t contain fiber.
So in terms of carbs alone, an 8-ounce (240-ml) serving of kombucha likely wouldn’t fit into a strict 20–25-gram keto diet. However, it may be able to squeeze into a slightly more moderate low-carb diet of up to 50 net grams of carbs per day.
Strategies to Make Kombucha Fit Keto
Here are some tips on how to enjoy kombucha without getting kicked out of ketosis:
- Limit portion size. Only drink 4–6 ounces (120–180 ml) per day to keep carb intake low.
- Select low-sugar varieties. Look for options with 5 grams of carbs or less per serving.
- Avoid fruit flavors. Stick to herbs and spices like ginger, rather than high-sugar fruits.
- Drink it post-workout. Your body can better tolerate carbs after an intense sweat session.
- Account for carbs. Be diligent about tracking kombucha carbs as part of your daily totals.
- Save it for carb refeeds. Drink it on the 1–2 higher carb days built into some keto plans.
Trying these tips can help you continue enjoying kombucha without getting knocked out of ketosis.
Other Low-Carb Probiotic Drinks
If kombucha doesn’t fit your keto macros, here are some other probiotic-rich beverage options to consider:
Kefir is a cultured milk drink made by fermenting milk with kefir grains, which contain a unique mixture of bacteria and yeasts. It’s a great source of protein, calcium, vitamin D, and probiotics. An 8-ounce (240-ml) serving of plain, low fat kefir contains around 5–8 grams of carbs.
Plain, unsweetened yogurt can also provide probiotics, along with protein and calcium. Choose full fat, Greek varieties and avoid fruit or sweetened yogurts for the lowest carb options. An 8-ounce (240-ml) serving may have around 5–10 grams of carbs depending on the brand.
Fermented vegetables like sauerkraut, kimchi, and pickles contain beneficial bacteria from the lactic acid fermentation process. They make a crunchy, flavorful keto-friendly side. One cup (237 ml) of sauerkraut, for example, has around 3–6 grams of carbs.
For those avoiding dairy, coconut kefir made from fermented coconut water is a fitting substitute. It’s lactose-free and lower in carbs than milk kefir. An 8-ounce (240-ml) serving contains around 2 grams of carbs.
Apple Cider Vinegar Drinks
Apple cider vinegar tonics and shots have become popular prebiotic drinks. Though they’re not fermented, the acetic acid may promote the growth of beneficial bacteria. Mix 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of apple cider vinegar into water and drink it before meals.
Other Tips for Doing Keto
Here are some other tips to help you stick to the keto diet and get the best results on a very low-carb lifestyle:
Prioritize Protein at Meals
Protein is key on keto. Be sure to incorporate a good protein source like meat, fish, eggs, or high fat dairy into each meal to help you stay satiated and meet your daily needs.
Choose Fattier Cuts of Meat
Select fattier cuts of meat like chicken thighs over breasts and chuck roast over lean sirloin. Up your intake of fatty fish, bacon, sausages, and full fat dairy too.
Cook in Healthy Oils and Fats
Cook your protein, veggies, and eggs by sautéing, baking, grilling, or roasting in olive oil, coconut oil, butter, ghee, lard, or tallow. Avoid processed vegetable and seed oils.
Load up on Low-Carb Veggies
Fill half your plate with low-carb veggies like leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, peppers, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, etc. Avoid starchy veggies like potatoes, corn, peas, etc.
Snack on Nuts, Nut Butters, and Seeds
When you need a keto snack, nuts like almonds, pecans, walnuts, and macadamia nuts are great options. You can pair them with nut butters or seeds for extra fats and protein.
Use Full-Fat Dairy
Opt for full-fat versions of milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, cream cheese, hard cheeses, and butter. Avoid low fat and sweetened dairy products.
Staying well hydrated with water helps reduce keto flu symptoms like headaches, fatigue, and cramps. Aim for at least 2–3 liters per day.
On keto, increased water excretion can flush out electrolytes like sodium, magnesium, and potassium. Supplementing with a pinch of sea salt, electrolyte tablets, bone broth, and mineral-rich foods can help prevent low levels.
Get Enough Sleep
Skimping on sleep can negatively impact hormone levels, mood, and energy. Strive for 7–9 hours per night to optimize health and fat burning.
Manage Stress Levels
High levels of stress hormones like cortisol can stall weight loss efforts. Using stress-relieving strategies like meditation, yoga, deep breathing, and adequate sleep are encouraged.
Precautions with Kombucha
Though kombucha provides potential benefits, some precautions are warranted:
- It can get costly compared to making your own fermented foods and drinks at home.
- Store-bought kombucha risks contamination if not properly fermented and handled.
- The small amount of alcohol created during fermentation may be problematic for some.
- The caffeine content may cause jitteriness or sleep issues in caffeine-sensitive individuals.
- Rare cases of illness caused by excess acid or overfermentation have been reported.
- Homebrewed kombucha may overproduce carbonation, causing bottles to explode.
That said, most commercial kombucha is safe when consumed in moderation. Those with sensitivities or on medications should talk to their healthcare provider before drinking it.
Due to its higher sugar and carb content, regular kombucha likely doesn’t fit into a strict keto diet. However, drinking small servings or opting for low-sugar varieties may allow you to enjoy it in moderation.
Focus on keeping total daily carbs at or below 20–50 grams based on your individual carb tolerance and health goals.
Pair kombucha with a very low-carb diet, plenty of healthy fats, moderate protein, and nutrient-dense foods to get the most out of your keto lifestyle.