Healthy weight and mathematics

Maintaining a healthy body weight is a simple matter of mathematics. If your energy intake is higher than your energy output, you’ll gain weight, and if you use more energy than you eat, you’ll lose weight.

Energy in = Energy Out

As simple as that!

Pffft – yeah, right!

Our bodies are burning energy even when we are doing nothing, and because we have not mastered the art of photosynthesis, that energy must come from food. If you eat more food and hence consume more energy than you need, you will store the excess as fatty tissue. It’s not rocket science, even if it is maths!

This not-so-tricky maths gets in the way of things! As is the case with most people, I like eating!  I’d like to be able to eat more and maintain a healthy body weight. To do this, I need to use more energy.

Is there a way I can increase my energy expenditure without noticing it?

Our energy use is divided into three components:

  1. Basal Metabolic Rate or BMR. This is the energy we use merely being alive. It is the amount of energy we use when we are at rest, after just waking up and with an empty belly. It accounts for around 60% of the energy sedentary people use each day. BMR is influenced by gender, age, and body mass. Essentially the bigger you are the more energy you need to keep your body idling. The older you get, the less energy you use. (So if your a little old(er) lady like me you’re not burning up much!)
  2. Thermic Effect of Food or TEF is the extra energy we need to digest and absorb our food.  It takes energy to break down the food in our digestive system and get it into our bloodstream. TEF is a bit like a service fee. The energy in our food needs to be converted into the type of energy our body can use, and this comes at a cost. It turns out that protein needs more energy to be converted into usable energy. TEF accounts for around 10 – 15% of our average daily energy expenditure.
  3. Activity Thermogenesis (AT) is the energy used up in moving around and is further broken into two categories.
      1. Exercise-related activity thermogenesis is the energy we use in deliberate exercise such as going to the gym, running, lifting weights, etc.
      2. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis or NEAT is the incidental energy we use in walking around, picking up the kettle, sitting, standing, talking, shopping, cooking, doing the housework. The stuff we usually don’t change into active wear for!

Energy expenditure

We have the power to control activity thermogenesis. Since it makes up between 25 – 30% of the energy a sedentary person uses, it is the pathway to tipping the balance in favour of weight loss or gain.

Let’s pause for a little more maths.

  1. Every day has 24 hours.
  2. Let’s say you sleep for 8 of those hours where you are running on your BMR.
  3. That leaves 16 hours for you to burn up more energy.
  4. You spend one of your 16 waking hours at the gym (or running/swimming/whatever) and the other 15 hours doing the rest of life.
  5. That means only 6% of the time is used for exercise activity thermogenesis! For most people living ordinary urban lives, we sit on our butts for most of the other 15 hours! That means for 94% of our waking hours, we are using low levels of energy.

 

Thermogensis

Can you increase the amount of energy you burn in those other 15 hours?

The solution is self-evident! You have to increase the amount of energy you expend in all activities! Be more active and less sedentary! Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy!

In real life…not as easy as it sounds.

Life is busy. You can’t spend 5 hours at the gym every day. You have to go to work. You have to get to work, you have to look after your family. You have to DO life. You may not have time to increase your exercise-related activity, but you can increase the amount of energy you expend in non-exercise related activities?

How do you increase NEAT-ness in your life?

Here are a few suggestions. (some more sensible than others!)

  1. Fidget! Fidgeting wastes heaps of energy! Be careful you don’t annoy too many people though.
  2. Don’t sit when you can stand. If you work in an office, get a standing desk.
  3. Don’t stand still if you can fidget or move from side to side or jiggle around on the spot.
  4. Get your smart gadgets to buzz you if you are sitting still for too long.
  5. Walk to the next office to talk to someone rather than ring or email them.
  6. Ditch the remote control. Tape the remote to the TV, so you have to get up to change channels etc.
  7. Don’t sit in front of the telly and do nothing. If you’re going to watch telly – do something! Lie on the floor & do yoga stretches, get some hand weights or resistance bands and do a few (hundred) biceps curls while you’re bingeing on the newest must-watch show.  Alternate arms with legs and do some squats, lunges, hopping, hula hooping, etc.
  8. Don’t drive when you can walk or cycle. Pick a minimum distance and walk it. For instance, only drive if your destination is more than 3 km away.
  9. If you do have to drive, there are ways to do a sneaky car workout! It might not use much extra energy, but it’s better than nothing!
  10. Carry heavy things. Carry heavy things further.
  11. Park the car further away from the entrance when you go to the shops
  12. Get off the bus a stop earlier.
  13. Do 50 quick squats/lunges/calf raises while you’re brushing your teeth.
  14. Crank up the tunes while you’re doing the housework and dance like no-one is watching. If you’re doing the housework, probably nobody is watching! Check out these tips for exercises while cleaning. (some are a bit intense!)
  15. Play outdoors with your children/spouse/friends
  16. Take active holidays.
  17. Go for a hike rather than the movies.
  18. Choose more active leisure pursuits. Play tennis, not trivia. Go bowling.
  19. Choose a more active job! A labourer is going to use a lot more energy than an accountant!
  20. Wear fewer clothes and live in a colder climate! If you need to keep yourself warm, you’ll expend more energy.

The bottom line is, just move MORE and move more often.


Just for the record, sitting is NOT the new smoking. Research shows that the increase in mortality brought about by an excessively sedentary life is around 10%. The increase in mortality due to smoking is approximately 80%. So while both are bad for you, sitting is healthy compared to smoking!

Source:

Levin J.A. Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis. Nutrition Reviews Vol 26 No 1 pp S82-S97

 

 

 

Soup Season: Winter, a time for great soups.

I am getting excited because we have entered soup season! Who doesn’t love a good heart-warming (or is it gut-warming)  soup? I enjoy both creamy and chunky versions.

Soups have so many advantages:

  1. They are a great way of using up those close to expired vegetables lurking in the bottom of your fridge.
  2. They are economical and can make ingredients go a long way
  3. They are usually easy to prepare, but that, of course, will depend on the recipes that you choose.
  4. They are versatile and flexible. How many varieties are there? Google “soup recipes” and you get 672,000,000 hits! No doubt there are lots of double-ups but still, that’s a lot of soup.
  5. They are filling, especially with some nice crusty bread
  6. You can freeze them for later.
  7. You can add in all sorts of good for your gut ingredients.

I make lots of soup in winter. Lots! I always have the image of the Seinfeld episode with the Soup Nazi in my mind as I cook. I hear that fellow yell out “No soup for you!” but change it to “Yes! Soup for You!” A few years ago I even had the idea of doing a new blog based entirely on soup! I still might do that. It was provisionally entitled Sunday Soup Sessions.

Here are a couple of my favourites.

Harira (Moroccan lamb, tomato and lentil soup)

Lots and lots of good things in this soup. I am not sure if it would work so well without the meat.

Lamb Soup
Those Moroccans sure know how to make a good soup!

 

Orange Vegetable Soup

I make up my own recipes and it’s a bit hard to give the precise list of ingredients for these.

A case in point is this pumpkin, sweet potato and carrot soup spiced with ginger and turmeric.

Screen Shot 2020-05-13 at 12.02.31

The ingredients and method could be roughly translated as

Ingredients
  • Pumpkin – as much as you have depending on how much you want to make – cut into cubes
  • Sweet potato (orange variety) –  about half the amount of pumpkin – cut into cubes
  • Carrots – about the same as the sweet potato – cut into chunks
  • Stock and water – I would have used chicken stock but vegetable stock would be fine. How much…well that depends on how many vegetables you are using! At least a litre.
  • Tumeric – powdered or fresh, grated
  • Ginger –  fresh grated
  • Onion – at least 2 – sliced
  • Garlic – 1 tablespoon-ish
  • Olive oil
  • Lime juice to serve.
  • Feta cheese for garnish
Method
  1. Fry the onions and garlic in the oil till soft
  2. Add the turmeric and ginger and saute for 1 – 2 minutes.
  3. Add the veggies
  4. Stir around in the oil to coat and saute for 2 – 3 minutes
  5. Add enough stock to partially cover the veggies
  6. Put the lid on and simmer until the vegetables are tender. (maybe 30 minutes?)
  7. Use a stick blender to blend in the pot, adding more stock/water as needed to get the right consistency. Or transfer really carefully to your jug blender/mouli thingy and blend till smooth.
  8. Adjust seasoning
  9. Serve with lemon or lime juice and garnishes as you like.

Have you got any soup season recipes to share?

 

Bowel cancer and the dreaded colonoscopy.

If you live in Australia, you will get at least one 50th birthday present – guaranteed! Your bowel cancer testing kit will turn up in the mail! I put my first “gift” on the shelf and left it there for the next two years until I got another one at 52. I chucked the first one out and replaced it on the shelf with the new kit. After a few more weeks, I decided that it was probably a good idea to just get it over and done with.

There was no reason to delay, and I am not sure what my aversion to doing it was. I am not the squeamish type, and I KNOW early detection is essential. My tests at 54 and 56 were both negative, but this time round, one of my samples came back positive.

My GP and I discussed my risk factors and decided that I could afford the wait to get a place at the local public hospital rather than paying for a private hospital.  I filed my papers and went on the waiting list. Now 5 months after the results and 2 months since my specialist appointment, I have my date for the “procedure”.

The positive result surprised me. My family has no history of cancer. Plenty of other things like Type 1 diabetes, heart disease, narcolepsy, dementia, haemochromatosis but no cancer!

I have always been a healthy eater, and over the last 2 years have been actively creating a healthy gut by feeding my gut bugs plenty of plant-based food, exercising, reducing my alcohol intake and reducing stress. My gut should be singing with good health!

Given I have yet to have the test, my gut may be very healthy indeed! What follows is a blow by blow real-time account. Don’t be prudish, this is what being older than 50 is all about! I am grateful I live somewhere with good free healthcare!

 

Preparing for your colonoscopy

There is a two-day preparation process. The aim is to clear out your bowel so that the colonoscope can see what’s inside your large intestine with an unobstructed view. The hospital or your doctor will give you some laxatives and tell you when to take them.

Two days before the  procedure

Today is white day. My diet is usually a rainbow of plant-based foods. This made the list of allowable foods very unpalatable and alien. You can only eat white or yellow food. No seeds, no fibre, no colour! Only dairy products, boiled eggs, white fish, boiled chicken, boiled potatoes, stewed apple. Ewwwww!  All washed down with plenty of fluids. As I ate my white rice with boiled eggs, I apologised to my gut bugs. Sorry fellas! You’ll be going hungry too! No fibre left over for you to munch on today! I got some yellow Gatorade in readiness for tomorrow.

At least I’m not hungry!

The day before the procedure.

NO SOLID FOOD today!

Only clear liquids. Tea without milk, coffee without milk, clear apple juice, Gatorade that’s it! I started to feel light-headed by 12:30. MAN! I was hungry!

Since my procedure is set for the morning, my first dose of PicoPrep is scheduled for 2 PM. I took the afternoon off work because I had been told some horror stories about the rapidity of onset. The Picoprep didn’t taste too bad. It was gritty and akin to drinking chalk, but it had little flavour. I sculled it down in one go and sat down to wait.

And I waited!

…. And waited!

As a good scientist, I took notes of my observations. Nothing happened till about 17:30. Two trips to the loo but things seemed “normal”. This is not too bad, I thought to myself. I waited some more and then the shit did hit the fan! Perhaps not the literal fan, but you get my drift!

18:50

19:01

19:03

19:05

Gosh, I feel like I am going to turn inside out.

My second dose of Picoprep is due at 20:00. Could there be anything left? This time it was harder to swallow. The novelty had well and truly worn off. I stopped feeling hungry, and I felt a little shaky.

After midnight it’s Nil by Mouth!

Day of the procedure

I slept better than anticipated, although, I needed to dash to the bathroom a couple of times.

Ten minutes after arrival, I was taken into the admissions area where my blood pressure, temperature, pulse rate and oxygen saturation were checked after answering the usual questions of name, date of birth and why I was there. The nurse and I had a chat about whether or not we had met before because she said I looked familiar.

colonoscopy 2Within 30 minutes, the anesthetist came and inserted a cannula in my hand and asked the same questions again.

Thirty minutes after that, I was taken into the procedure room, and the sedative was given through the cannula and an oxygen mask applied. The next thing I know, I was being shaken gently by the nurse, asking if I was OK, back in the recovery area. I could have gone to the moon and back for all I knew!

No pain, no discomfort, only a little temporary disorientation. Once my vitals were re-checked, I was moved from the bed to a comfy recliner where I was given some food and a cup of tea. My goodness that plain cheese sandwich tasted good!

The doctor who performed the procedure told me he had removed two polyps, and that I had a few diverticula, but nothing really to worry about.  I will meet with the gastroenterologist in three weeks for the follow-up.

colonoscopy 1Another 40 minutes later my brother had dropped me home, and it’s all over.   I’ll do as instructed and take it easy for the rest of the day, no driving, no making important decisions, no cooking(??). So here I am, in front of my computer chatting with you folks!

Playing Dr Google

Of course, I played Dr Google leading up to the event. I found this video from an American source helpful and the Cancer Health NSW site is terrific.

 

This friendly chap tells you how to do the poo test

 

If detected early bowel cancer can be treated in up to 90% of cases. 


Talking about poo and having a flexible tube inside your intestines may not be a sexy subject to talk about, but neither is dying from bowel cancer. If you have access to early detection tools like the one offered in Australia, take it up.

Enjoy your birthday gift!

 

MARCH 2020 UPDATE: I had my follow-up with the gastroenterologist yesterday. During the procedure they removed 4 polyps (not 2). All but one were of no concern. The fourth one was of a type that can become malignant but is VERY slow to develop. I have to go and and have another colonoscopy in three years….so no rush!

Coffee and your waistline.

In modern Australian culture and elsewhere, coffee has reached near god-like status. It’s big business and for some, a life force.

According to many t-shirts, it is imbued with amazing properties.

It keeps some people alive: “I can’t function without my morning coffee.”

It can restore lost speech: “No Coffee – No Talkie.”

It can even prevent murder: Coffee helps me maintain my “never killed anyone streak.”

Screenshot 2019-04-16 10.51.02
A few of the hundreds of coffee themed t-shirts available online

The science of coffee.

To be precise, it’s the caffeine (and other methylxanthines: see the diagram below) present in coffee that does the trick. Caffeine is classed as a heterocyclic nitrogen compound. Its structure is very similar to two of the important building blocks of DNA, adenine and guanine.

Structure of caffeinw
My brother hand drew those diagram!

It is water soluble, a critical property because if it weren’t soluble, you wouldn’t be able to drink it in the first place!  Caffeine has a melting point of 237°C, another important factor because it doesn’t evaporate away under normal processing conditions. It is an alkaline, white powder when in pure form. Chemically, it’s nothing like cocaine or other stimulants except that it also contains a bunch of carbon atoms joined in a complicated ring shape with a few nitrogens and oxygens and double bonds thrown in.

Caffeine and its biological precursors have been reported in over 160 species of plant. It is found in coffee beans, tea leaves, cocoa, cola nuts, guarana, and plants of the Ilex species such as maté.

Because caffeine is water soluble, the way a coffee beverage is prepared has a significant effect on the amount of caffeine in a cup. It’s all about maximising the solubility. Increasing the temperature of the water, increasing the surface area and making the beans more porous will increase the caffeine content in your daily cup. Hence we roast the coffee beans to make them porous (and tasty) then we grind them to massively increase the surface area before we soak them in hot water. Voila!

The caffeine dose can vary from around 50mg up to 150 mg per 250 mL cup.

The pharmacological effects of caffeine

In plants, caffeine is thought to act as an insect deterrent due to its extreme bitterness. Humans found out about its about stimulating effects a long time ago and have harvested and then cultivated caffeine-rich plants for millennia.

Caffeine does indeed have many well researched pharmacological effects, but most cherished is its ability to perk you up. In 1983 I wrote:

“Caffeine is a stimulant and considered the most widely used of self-administered drugs in the form of coffee, tea and cola beverages. Most people have been exposed to the stimulating effect of these substances and the majority of the population consumes pharmacological doses [~100mg] of the drug at regular intervals throughout the day.”

The list of effects is long.

  • Dilation of the blood vessels
  • Increased respiration
  • Increased urine output
  • Increased gastric secretions
  • Relaxation of  smooth muscle tissue
  • Reduced the blood supply to the brain
  • Stimulation of  the central nervous system
  • Increased motor activity and response to sensory stimuli (aka makes you more alert!)
  • Elevation of plasma free fatty acids and glucose. Some research shows that it can assist in weight loss by increasing fat metabolism while exercising.

Caffeine is absorbed rapidly and appears in the blood within 5 minutes of consumption. In most people, it takes about 3.5 hours to clear the blood and be excreted in urine, but in some individuals (like me!) who lack sufficient metabolic enzymes, it can remain active for much longer. Because it is cleared so quickly from the blood, it does not accumulate in the body.

Too much caffeine can lead to headache, tremors, abnormal heart rhythms and irritation of the gut. In addition, we all know about the effect caffeine can have on sleep.  Chronic overconsumption of caffeine results in symptoms that are indistinguishable from anxiety neurosis. It would take about 10 g of pure caffeine to kill you.

Nutritional value of coffee

A cup of Screenshot 2019-04-16 15.08.11black coffee has no nutritional value. It has no fat, no carbohydrates, no protein, no vitamins and only minuscule traces of magnesium. We have to agree the only reason we drink it is because of the caffeine. BUT who drinks coffee black? Not many people! It’s all the stuff we add to coffee that boosts its nutritional status. The data in the table below is taken from Gloria Jean’s website and is fairly typical of the data available.

 

 

Screenshot 2019-04-16 16.06.01

 

The energy value of a whole milk cappuccino is going to cost you between 484 kJ (116 kcal) – 725 kJ (173 kcal) depending on size. For skim milk, you are looking at about half that. Soy milk is a little higher than skim milk for energy.  The milk is going to provide you with protein, fat, calcium and some lactose. If you add sugar, you can add another 64 kJ (16 kcal) per teaspoon.  A large cappuccino could, therefore, represent a fair proportion of your daily energy intake and must be considered if you are avoiding weight gain.  If you go for something fancy, like a full cream caramel latte, you’re talking around 1000 kJ (220 kcal) or the same amount of energy in 3 eggs!

IMG_6735.jpg

 

So, is coffee good for you?

My thesis is too old to give me good advice in regards to the overall health effects of caffeine and coffee.  So a search of the interwebs turns up some interesting information.

The website Coffee & Health states that:

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in a review on the Safety of Caffeine concluded that moderate caffeine consumption, of around 400mg caffeine per day (the equivalent of up to 5 cups of coffee), can be enjoyed as part of a healthy balanced diet and an active lifestyle. Pregnant and breastfeeding women are advised to limit their caffeine intake to 200mg per day.

It even goes so far as to say that caffeine consumption is associated with a reduced rate of mortality. Is this from the coffee itself or from the social aspect of coffee? That’s a whole other kettle of fish. Once again however we are talking about caffeine not the coffee beverage of choice. Sure, caffeine might have no ill effects, but if you pile in the sugar and cream, that’s a different story entirely!

In my own case, if I have more than one cappuccino a day, I end up with a belly full of gas. I know from anecdotal experience I am not the only one who suffers this consequence. As stated above, caffeine stimulates the production of gastric juices which speeds up digestion, milk contains lactose which challenges many adults at the best of times and with the relaxation of smooth muscle, which incidentally is the type of muscle in your intestines… well … well, you know how it’s going to end!

I guess you need to consider whether your personal circumstances can cope with the increased energy consumption of milk based coffee beverages. If it can’t, you might want to consider black coffee or even a splash of milk in a cup of International Roast!

Next week: Is coffee sending the world broke?

 

Is your daily coffee habit making you fat, farty, and broke?

A cappuccino in a green cup.

I sat down with the intention of writing a short piece about coffee and the effect it has on our waistlines and wallets. As I started doing some research and looking at various websites on how many calories there are in various coffee beverages, how much coffee is drunk daily in Australia etc.;  it got me thinking.

Where does this coffee come from? How much do we as a nation, spend? What about worldwide? Are there long term health benefits or does it cause health issues? Is it sustainable? All those disposable coffee cups have got to end up somewhere. Can all those corner cafes be supported? Where would you go to meet friends/on a first date if you don’t want to drink coffee and it wasn’t beer o’clock yet? What about tea? Would we solve all/any the issues if we switched to drinking only tea? Is coffee even worth drinking? Now come on, be honest, do you even LIKE the taste of coffee?

My swirling mind became caught in a spiral of ideas worse than being trapped in a Pinterest Vortex! I decided it was way bigger than one post could handle and it needed to be a series of blog posts. This post serves as an introduction and sets the scene. I will follow it up with another 5 posts over the next few months. (It might even grow from that number!)

Part 1 will be about the Waistline Effect: here I will explore the pharmacological, health and dietary effects of caffeine.

Part 2 looks at the economic effects of coffee on a micro (your household budget) and macro (the global economy) scale.

Part 3 investigates the environmental impact: are we burying our cities under a mountain of disposable cups. Are Keep Cups going to save the day? Are we causing rural poverty in those countries that supply our daily fix?

Part 4: What are the cultural differences in coffee drinking. Is Australian the only place you can buy a decent skim cap? I need your help here. Have you ever been able to buy a decent coffee in another country?

Part 5: Tea v Coffee. Does it make a difference? Plus anything else I haven’t been able to fit into the other posts.

I feel like a bit of a coffee expert, not because I drink lots, but because way back in the day when I was completing my undergraduate degree in Food Technology, I wrote my Honours Thesis on “Caffeine and its Derivatives in Australian Foods and Beverages”.

With nothing more than my trusty portable typewriter and correction tape, I banged out one hundred and thirty pages of meta-analysis and lab results about methylxanthines, the chemical group which includes caffeine and other similar compounds. While some of it is outdated, it remains a good starting point.

On a personal note, I’m a tea drinker. I limit the amount of coffee I buy from a cafe to around 1 – 2 cups a week if that. This decision is based on three factors.

  1. Kilojoule intake. I drink skim milk cappucinos. That’s around 120 kcal or nearly 500 kJ which is approximately 8% of my target daily intake.
  2. Lactose intake – I think I must be a little lactose intolerant because milk-based coffee drinks make my belly grumble unpredictably with embarrassing consequences!
  3. I am stingy. $4 a cup every day that’s nearly $1500 a year!

I hope you’ll enjoy these posts and let me know your favourite cafe in the comments below!

I’m still working on Parts 3 – 5!

 

Clever Guts?

A bowl of yogurt with blueberries and banana

If you listen to the health chatter on the TV news, in magazines and on the internet  you will have heard about the importance of gut bacteria to health.  Gut bacteria seem to be responsible for everything from gastrointestinal health to mental health to reducing high blood pressure.  Modern “western” diets which are typically low in fibre and high in processed foods are being linked to the rise of obesity and Type 2 diabetes because of the deleterious effect they have on gut bacteria.

I have been researching and thinking about  the microbes in my gut for over a year. I started to read the research, then switched to a mostly plant based diet, deliberately increased the  amounts of probiotic and prebiotic foods that I am eating and generally trying to be nice to my gut bugs.

I bought Michael Mosley’s book – The Clever Guts Diet. I have written several other blog posts about it. (Good Mood Food; Eat Food, mostly plants; not too much; and Go with your Gut)

This time, I have put my body (and dignity) forward in the interests of science and bought a uBiome Test kit to check out what is actually living in my gut. It took 3 weeks to get the package from the US and then another 6 weeks to get the results.

The results are very comprehensive and frankly a bit of science-jargon-babble. I am a scientist and I found the data a bit overwhelming and not easy to interpret. I think they could provide a bit more help in unraveling the numbers.

I made this video about the data and my results.

Gut biome

 

So it would seem I am OK but still have a little way to go to have a gut heaven!

 

 

 

 

Make your own Kombucha.

three bottles of kombucha

Kombucha is a refreshing, lightly effervescent drink made by fermenting sweetened black or green tea.

Right now it’s all the rage and there are many varieties of it on the shelf in the fridge section of the supermarket. It is pretty pricey at around $4 – 8 per bottle depending on size. The average price is around $12 per litre. Making your own kombucha is easy and it will cost you less than a dollar to make 2L and about $30 in start-up costs. Your start up costs will depend on whether you have to buy your own SCOBY or if you can source one from a friend and how much you spend on a wide open mouth glass jar.

Kombucha has lots of different reported health benefits particularly related to gut health and the gut microbiome. I like it because it is not alcoholic but still feels like a grown-up’s drink.

Fermentation has been around since before Adam was boy. Fermentation occurs when microorganisms turn the sugars in foods, into something else. In the case of kombucha, sugar is turned into acid (acetic and gluconic acid), carbon dioxide gas which gives it a bit of fizz and a TINY little bit of alcohol.

To make wine the microorganism is yeast. For kombucha, it is a SCOBY (which stands for a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.) You don’t really need to know what bacteria and yeast live together in a happy matrix of slime but if your into that sort of thing have a look at this article (it’s only the abstract but there is enough information).

The kombucha you buy in the shops is highly flavoured and often has extra sugar. It’s really not much better than drinking soft drinks (soda) but homemade kombucha is milder in flavour, has a low kilojoule content and as I said is CHEAP to make.

I make about 2 – 3 L of kombucha each week. Less in winter, mainly because it takes longer to ferment and more in summer when you can turn around a batch in about 5-6 days.

It VERY simple to make. Have a look at my video here.

Your SCOBY may need replacing after a year or so and if the brew smells funny or gets contaminated by black mould don’t drink it and start again! You can get a free ebook from Cultures for Health which is full of great information and gives much more detail than I have here.

 

Kombucha

NOTE ABOUT THE VIDEO: Don’t be too worried about the continuity errors, I am no George Lucas! And don’t worry too much about the fact that I say at least three times don’t use metal utensils and then I use a metal strainer (ACKKK). In this case it was ok because it’s the SCOBY that is sensitive to metal and my SCOBY didn’t touch the metal.

In this video I was using some herbal tea as well, but I think one bad batch killed my SCOBY so I don’t use it anymore. These days I just use green tea.