kômˈbo͞oCHə

Ever thought about trying to kick the soda habit?

For many, Cokes and Dr. Peppers and various sodas can be the most seductively sneaky tricksters, and I am of the school of thought that the hardest way to quit anything is cold turkey.  Every time I've quit something cold turkey and ascribed a label of “bad” to it, it not only works its way back into my life, somehow, but then I also feel guilty about it.

This is why I'm a firm believer in adding in more good stuff to crowd out the other things I'd rather not consume.

I was once a Diet Dr. Pepper addict.  I drank it first thing in the morning (Diet Dr. Pepper and a slice of pizza from the bodega below my Spanish Harlem apartment was the only way I could drag myself out of bed, once upon a time).  I drank soda on a daily basis.  To be quite honest, I don't think I ever drank water aside from whatever slipped down my throat while brushing my teeth.

When I cut gluten and dairy out of my diet and began feeling an incredible shift in the way I felt, I began examining other aspects of my diet that could perhaps stand to be… improved.

Here's the thing:  store bought teas, juices, sodas, and energy drinks are deceptively marketed. Sugar free, diet, “zero”, low-carb, low calorie, etc.  These are all terms used to make us think we are making healthy choices.  However, the fact is that most juices/sodas/sparkly, pretty beverages sold in stores are high in empty calories, sugars, and/or chemicals.  If it says “sugar-free” or “diet," you can take a look at the ingredients list to see what in the world has been added instead to make it taste delicious and keep you coming back for more.

Do I drink exclusively water all the time?  Nah, girl.  While I do make sure water is the first beverage I drink (warm with lemon and apple cider vinegar + cinnamon, ginger, and cayenne), I also enjoy tea, coffee, and cocktail party beverages in moderation.  But I never, ever crave soda.  Not ever.  Not even a little bit. Not for a solid six years.

But it's not like it happened overnight.

So, how'd I do it?

I added two beverages into my rotation of drinks:  soda water and Kombucha.

Soda water gave me the carbonated kick I craved, and Kombucha hit me right in the sweet craving (with the bonus of also being carbonated).

A quick note on carbonation and why those bubbles are so satisfying (and why I recommend adding in more soda water—La Croix, anyone?—and fermented beverages with naturally occurring fizz):

A 2010 study found that the carbon dioxide in carbonated beverages activates the same pain sensors and sour-tasting cells on tongue.

Your body translates fizzy beverages as spicy! What!?

"Carbonation evokes two distinct sensations. It makes things sour and it also makes them burn." -Emily Liman, senior author of a study published online in the Journal of Neuroscience.

So we have a distinct pain response when we drink carbonated beverages, which may in response release a small dose of endorphins.

"It's unclear why animals developed the ability to sense carbonation. It may have evolved to help them detect fermentation in foods. Or, it could just be a serendipitous byproduct of a system set up to help regulate the pH balance of cells in the taste buds." -Nell Greenfieldboyce, NPR

Either way, it's pretty clear that humankind CRAVES bubblies on the tongue.

My favorite bubble delivery method: Kombucha

Kombucha has been around for thousands of years, with suspected origins in China, spreading into Asia and Russia, and eventually becoming  a health craze in the US over the past two decades. Legend has it that it was named after a Korean physician Kombu who healed the Japanese Emperor Inyko with the tea, and the tea was then named after him: “Kombu” + “cha” (which means tea).

What is kombucha?  Basically, Kombucha is a culture/probiotic:  a bacteria and a yeast.  Probiotics help keep our internal environment and gut digestive flora in balance.  Probiotics are full of good bacteria and yeasts that are naturally occurring in your system, and they help keep the balance of healthy bacteria going strong, which supports your immune system, digestive system, and suppresses the growth of harmful bacteria.

The Kombucha culture (or scoby) is brewed along with various fermented fruits (depending on the flavor).  A single serving of the juice (one bottle is typically two servings) can contain as few as two grams of sugar.

Every batch of Kombucha is different. The only things every batch contains are: (1) at least one beneficial yeast, (2) acetobacter (the beneficial bacteria in the SCOBY), (3) gluconic acid (a pH regulator), and (4) acetic acid (an anti-microbial acid, which also stabilizes blood sugar). Most batches of Kombucha will also contain an analgesic (pain reliever), an anti-arthritic compound, an anti-spasmodic compound, a liver-protective compound, and several anti-bacterial compounds. The blend varies from batch to batch.

Keep in mind that fermentation embodies change. Every batch is different, and it also changes in the bottle as it continues to ferment on the shelf.

The health benefits of Kombucha are claimed to be detoxification and energizing of the mind as well as general aid in digestion, but these are hard to quantify and study.  Some potential, isolated side effects have been reported, such as lactic acidosis (which is when the lactic acid in your blood becomes too high) and feeling worse after consuming.

However, the proven side effects of soda and high fructose corn syrup are much more disturbing than the unproven side effects of Kombucha.  Soda side effects include:  a build up of fat around your liver and skeletal muscles, artificial coloring links to causing cancer (1-methylmidazole and 4-methylimidazole), accelerated aging, cavities, and BPA's in the aluminum can lining and plastic bottles that cause hormone issues, to name a few.

The last number I'd like to leave you with is the 7g of carbohydrates in a bottle of Kombucha compared to the 65g of sugar in a 20 oz bottle of Coke.

If you've been wanting to kick the soda habit, Kombucha could be a great addition to crowd out excess pop.

Brittany KrigerComment