Foods You Never Knew You Liked: Kombucha

I am writing this post fully aware that I will not convert many of you to my favorite drink. It took me a very long time to try it, and I didn’t like it at first- and I will get to why later. Put I promise, if you stick with me, you’ll discover a new favorite beverage that is not only a treat for your taste buds, but your whole body as well.

Kombucha is, essentially, fermented sweet tea. There is more to it that that, specific cultures of bacteria and full of amino acids and the like, but that’s really all you need to know. It can be flavored with fresh juices, mixed with spirulina, stirred into cocktails, you name it. With a very slight vinegar taste (which, as an avid opposer to the existence of vinegar, I find easy to ignore), this elixir is naturally carbonated and positively excellent for you to consume. Straight from the #1 blog on the subject, here is a list of the wonderdrink’s supposed health benefits:

Probiotics – healthy bacteria


Alkalize the body – balances internal pH


Detoxify the liver

Increase metabolism

Improve digestion 


Rebuild connective tissue – helps with arthritis, gout, asthma, rheumatism


Cancer prevention

Alleviate constipation


Boost energy – helps with chronic fatigue


Reduce blood pressure

Relieve headaches & migraines

Reduce kidney stones


High in antioxidants – destroy free-radicals that cause cancer


High in polyphenols


Improve eyesight


Heal excema – can be applied topically to soften the skin


Prevent artheriosclerosis


Speed healing of ulcers – kills h.pylori on contact


Help clear up candida & yeast infections


Aid healthy cell regeneration


Reduce gray hair


Lower glucose levels – prevents spiking from eating

Yes, some of these are lofty claims, and none of them are backed up by the FDA, so hear me when I say that THIS IS NOT MEDICAL ADVICE and drinking kombucha is not going to cure anything. But I will promise you that you will feel better- maybe in a way that you can’t explain, but you will. If you are a person who suffers from digestive irregularity, this is for you. Tired in the afternoon? This drink has virtually cut out my 2pm sleepies. I get sick less often, have clearer skin, hold less water weight, and have a more balanced appetite!

My favorite brand of store-bought kombucha is GT’s, available at Whole Foods, Wegmans, and many co-ops and health stores. Their Synergy line is very easy to drink and great for ‘whetting the palate’ to kombucha. Personally, I think that the mango flavor is my favorite, followed closely by their Trilogy, a blend of raspberry, lemon, and ginger juices.

It is possible to ‘brew’ your own kombucha at home- in fact, I am in the process right now! More info and pictures when the brew is complete.

Help Me! Detox

One of the most important tools of a health regimen is the knowledge and time to detoxify. I do think that this is important in all aspects of life, but doing a cleanse for your body is something that can’t be approached lightly or without planning. I’ve found some great resources and have been through detoxes a few times now, and I want to share my experiences with you today!

These days, we are completely bombarded with toxins and things that don’t belong in our bodies- from the food we eat to pollution in the air to what we use to clean our homes, its virtually inescapable. Especially during the holidays, its so attractive to try to ‘get away from it all’- well, with a cleanse, you can give your body the break that it has been craving.

While you can go into virtually any store and buy a boxed ‘detox’ or ‘cleanse’ these days, I am a firm believer that the most effective way to cleanse and rebuild your body is by carefully choosing food and placing exercise over a controlled amount of time. My detoxes usually consist of juicing whole fruits and vegetables for one or two meals per day and eating freshly prepared meals for the rest of the day- avoiding dense carbs (breads and pastas), dairy, caffeine, alcohol, and meat. It seems like a lot, but it is amazing how quickly the body adjusts and heals itself in just 3-5 days. It resets the digestive system, cleanses the lymph system and clears mucous membranes, increases energy, and boosts the immune system.

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If you are new to juicing, be sure to read up on how to juice certain fruits and vegetables, and what tastes good together. For example- anything with grapefruit will be very sour! For just starting out, stick with a mostly vegetable based mix, with a fruit or two to your taste. One of my favorites is Carrot, Celery, Cucumber, Spinach, Apple, and Orange. If you don’t have a juicer, you can buy frozen fruits and puree them in a blender or food processor, and throw some spinach in there for good measure (don’t worry, you can’t taste it). As for your other food, stay simple, but remember: spices are a great tool, as many spices have great health benefits. Try to avoid salting food if possible.

This is what a typical day looks like for me during cleanse:

On Rising: Hot water with lemon and a pinch of cayenne (I do this daily- alkalizes the body, stimulates digestion, and aids in detoxification, among other benefits)

Breakfast: Fresh juice, sometimes mixed into a smoothie. Juice what you can, then add in whole things that are hard or unnecessary to juice to a blender- bananas, berries, avocadoes, spinach. I also add in supplemental whole foods- whole raw oats, chia seeds, ground flaxseeds, and powdered cinnamon and ginger. Puree it all together and you have yourself a powershouse!

Exercise: yoga, swimming, pilates, or light running (helps continue cleansing)

Immediately after workout: homemade protein ball for muscle recovery (or, sub banana and natural nut butter- avoid commercial protein bars)

Lunch: Another juice smoothie, or a green salad with fresh vegetables and oil/vinegar dressing, or a homemade vegetable soup

Dinner: Roasted or steamed veggies, fruit salad, vegetable soup, quinoa with veggies, homemade chickpea curry with quinoa, brown rice with spices

Evening: Detox Bath

Before bed: Caffeine-free tea, such as lavender, chamomile, or senna leaf

Throughout the day, I make sure to drink lots of water and several cups of herbal tea. There are special detoxification blends of tea that can further your process. Some people like to use a gentle laxative tea before bed each night to help with cleansing the digestive system the next day. Traditional Medicinals makes a readily available Senna Leaf tea that doesn’t taste terrible and gets the job done- they also have a good Everyday Detox blend.

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My favorite part of the day is bathtime! I have a beautiful, ancient clawfoot tub that I put to good work in this apartment. Here’s my recipe for the best detox bath, swish it all around and stay in as long as possible:

2 cups Epsom salts

At least 1 cup baking soda (more if you want!)

10 drops tea tree oil

5 drops lavender oil

A teaspoon of powdered ginger

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When exiting the tub, be slow and careful- the detox bath can (and does) make you a wee bit lightheaded if you get out too fast. But, that’s how you know its working!

Another thing I like to add in daily are some quick but effective yoga poses. The best and easiest for detoxification are seated spinal twists– sitting on the floor, turn your head over your shoulder and continue to twist your body as far as comfortable, using the opposite hand to the knee to further the stretch. This causes a sort of ‘wring-out’ effect on the major organs- much like you wring out a dishrag- and allows for fresh blood flow. I also like to end my days with a simple, relaxing inversion– lay on the floor, hips to the wall with legs going up the wall, so that your body makes a 90 degree angle. Stay as long as comfortable and enjoy the relaxing effect!

Repeat this, or a personal variation, each day for 3-7 days. Don’t be surprised if, for the first few days, you feel some ill effects– sluggishness, headaches, a touch of nausea, indecisive bowels. This is very normal, and will be heightened depending on how drastic a change the cleanse is from your everyday diet. Cleanses draw out and remove toxins from our bodies- toxins that will make us feel icky until they are gone. By day 3 you will start feeling much, much better! But, remember that even if you can only cleanse for one day, your body will still be healthier than it was if you weren’t cleansing at all!

My Signature Quick Curry Recipe

There is nothing more satisfying, to me, than a piping hot bowl of curry on a winter (or, let’s face it, summer) night. This recipe has been perfected over the last few years, is easily adaptable, and kicks that sluggish winter digestive system into gear with lots of spices and fiber. Very easily doubles and triples for company, and can even be made in the slow-cooker.

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By the way, I didn’t leave out the curry powder. Traditionally, curry is a blend of regional spices- whatever a certain town had a lot of or favored, that’s what went in. This is my favorite blend. I have been known to add in some sweet cinnamon a time or two, but beware- it definitely changes the flavor to a more fall/winteresque stew. Still delicious, though. Come up with your own signature curry spice blend!

2 cans organic garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained

1 medium-sized white onion, diced small

4 cloves of garlic, minced

2 medium-sized tomatoes, diced (or 1 can organic stewed tomatoes)

2 T olive oil

1 T crushed red pepper

2 T cumin

1 T turmeric

1 T ginger

1 teaspoon paprika

½ teaspoon ground red pepper

Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the oil in the bottom of a large sauce pot. Once the oil begins to shimmer, sauté the onions until barely translucent, then top with crushed red pepper to toast and make fragrant. Once the onions are nice and soft, add the garlic until just browned- be careful not to burn it. NOTE: It is important to cook the onions before the garlic; not at the same time, so as not to burn the garlic. This will ruin your curry, and nobody likes that!

As soon as the garlic is cooked and fragrant, stir in the tomatoes. You’ll be ready to do this because you’ll be scared that everything is burning and that there isn’t enough liquid- the tomatoes solve that problem! Stir them in and scrape the bottom of the pan to remove any stuck bits off the bottom. Now, pour in the rest of the spices and thoroughly combine. Let this tomato-onion-garlic-spice mixture simmer for a bit, maybe 5 or ten minutes.

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When you are ready, stir in the garbanzo beans. Let this simmer and soak up flavor for as long as you like, then serve it up nice and hot. At our house, we make homemade whole wheat na’an bread (or get storebought na’an or pita in a pinch) and eat the curry with our hands- way more fun and less dishes to clean up!

Quick and Easy Lunch: Grape and Couscous Salad

Can you believe its Monday already?  I can’t.  I just want to rebel.  Sometimes I get in a real funk on Mondays- but a great way to brighten the day is to fix yourself a yummy, nutritious lunch that you can look forward to all morning!  This is one of my staples.

One of the first easy and healthy lunch recipes that ever caught my eye was this beauty from Real Simple Magazine.  Every month they feature a brown bag lunch recipe, and I’ve been using this one for over two years now!  I just love the clash of the sweet and juice grapes with the salty feta- and the couscous holds everything together just enough to keep you full until dinnertime. The Mediterranean flavors really balance each other well, so try the entire recipe before altering it or leaving something out 🙂

1 cup cooked whole-wheat couscous

¼ cup feta cheese

¼ cup red grapes, sliced in half

¼ cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

1 T olive oil

1 T lemon juice

Salt, Pepper, and Parsley to taste

Stir together the couscous, oil, and lemon juice.  Fold in the cheese, grapes, and walnuts.  Season to your liking and enjoy!

This recipe is great freshly made, and equally satisfying kept in the fridge overnight to eat for lunch the next day (or more!).