WTF is kombucha? A guide to all the latest health food trends

To aid us in our quest of being better about what we eat (as we stuff pizza in our mouths), our resident role model Amanda Speers broke down what some of the health food fuss is all about.


With the beginning of a new year, many people find themselves committing to be better versions of themselves – eating better, spending less, and working out more. Some of us at 88 are no exception and we’ve been bypassing all the communal candy to prove it. If you’re finding it difficult to get excited about eating healthy or don’t know where to start, you’re not alone and I’m here to lend a helping hand. It’s hard enough to stick to a new diet when your office is filled with leftover holiday gift baskets (we have the best clients) and all-dressed chips (we have the worst cravings), but not knowing what the heck chia seeds are can add insult to injury. So with a passion for health and wellness and no formal dietary education, I will delve into some of the most common and confusing recent health trends to hopefully clear up your most pressing health food questions.

Let me preface this blog post by saying that I’m not suggesting you completely clear out the snack cupboard. I know that it’s the beginning of a new year – and as a result, a ‘new you’ – but let’s not make any rash decisions, okay? I’m just suggesting now might be a good time to include the occasional green juice to help flush out that liver from all the holiday festivities. Maybe even take it slow and start by switching your chocolate covered almond habit to dark chocolate (I’m looking at you, Erin). After all, moderation is key.

So what are all the health nerds obsessed with these days?

Kombucha

Tired of asking ‘WTF is kombucha?’ Well, look no further because I have an answer for you. This fizzy drink is a fermented tea typically made with what is referred to as a mother, culture, or SCOBY. The tea typically ferments for a period of 7 to 10 days and comes in a variety of flavours from several local companies. Due to the fermented nature of the tea, it is high in probiotics and great for gut health.

Healthy cheat: try drinking kombucha once in a while instead of pop. It contains less sugar, is naturally carbonated, and your gut will thank you.

Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast might sound like the weirdest of the bunch, but it’s packed with several important vitamins and minerals like B12, which many Canadians are deficient in. It is an inactive form of yeast and has a unique taste that many people describe as nutty, cheesy, or creamy, which makes it a good addition to cheeseless dishes.

Healthy cheat: use it to add flavour to pasta dishes or in salad dressings.

Turmeric

Steadily increasing in popularity, this bright yellow root is quite the superfood powerhouse. Many people have been exposed to turmeric as a powdered spice commonly used in Indian curry dishes. The main active ingredient, cucurmin, is what gives the spice it’s medicinal properties and is known as a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.

Healthy cheat: add it powdered to homemade curry powder and steep the root with ginger for a refreshing healthy tea.

Kimchi

Not to be confused with Kimoji, kimchi is a Korean fermented cabbage dish known for its probiotic properties. It is made with napa cabbage, Korean radishes, chili powder, garlic, ginger, and lots of salt to help break down those dense vegetables. Due to the fact that kimchi is high in dietary fibre and probiotics, it can be a great condiment to help improve gut health.

Healthy cheat: add it to salads and sandwiches for a tangy healthy bacteria-boosting punch.

Bone Broth

I love a nice warm bowl of soup on a cold winter’s day (from which it seems we’ll never escape). Bone broth has recently been getting a lot of attention due to its supposed superfood qualities. This is due to the fact that traditional bone broth incorporates the more collagenous parts of the carcass (be it beef, turkey or chicken), like joints, and cooks longer so that the bones break down and the broth absorbs more nutrients from the bones and cartilage. For this reason, bone broth is said to be more nutrient-dense than traditional broths.

Healthy cheat: you can now buy powdered bone broth and switch it for your usual Campbell’s veggie or chicken broth.

Activated Charcoal

I might not be the best one to explain this trend because I personally think it’s been taken too far (don’t get me started on the gluten-free trend) but there is a bit of science around the hype. Charcoal is said to bind to the toxins in your body to help with the elimination process, thus making it the go-to ingredient for all the hangover juices we see marketed today. However, this has been blown out of proportion as of late with many users thinking it can help detox your body of the food or alcohol you’ve consumed more than a few hours ago. Many studies prove that charcoal can only help eliminate toxins that have been consumed recently and help to prevent them from entering your bloodstream.

Healthy cheat: grab a goth latte or a black detox lemonade juice the next time you’re hungover instead of reaching for the usual Gatorade.

Adaptogenic Herbs and Mushrooms

These guys are newer to the mainstream health food scene, but have been around for many years. Adaptogenic mushrooms and herbs help your body deal with and adapt to certain common stressors like anxiety, a weak immune system, slower adrenal function, etc. They are very effective in helping your body build up immunity to diseases, viruses and environmental toxins. Different herbs and mushrooms boast different benefits but as a group they allow your body to learn to self-regulate better.

Healthy cheat: add a tablespoon of ashwagandha (a medicinal herb) to your morning smoothie for an extra immune support.

Whether you make it through to 2019 or quit your resolutions before January 16th, I hope this helps you navigate the sometimes hectic world of health food fads!