I’m a skeptic by nature, and I was raised by scientists, so my inclination is always to see whether something really has benefits or if it’s just the latest fad. So I thought I’d look into a couple of health products with buzz to see what’s legit and what’s a waste of money.
Sometimes mislabeled as a mushroom, kombucha is a colony of bacteria and yeast, which is often added to tea and then left to ferment. Proponents say drinking it helps the immune system, prevents cancer, and improves digestive health. Is this true?
Probably not. Consuming kombucha if you’re healthy doesn’t pose much risk, but science doesn’t support the health benefits. On the other hand, studies show kombucha can cause upset stomachs and allergic reactions. Kombucha tea was pulled from a number of stores a few years ago because the fermentation process continued after bottling, and so the alcohol content was too high. Many people have tried making their own kombucha tea, and you can buy the cultures—a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, or SCOBY—at some health food stores. But home brewing could cause dangerous molds to get into the brew. So drink at your own risk.
Sources: Mother Jones and Mayo Clinic
Regular Gatorade is full of sugar, so let’s put that aside. What about low-calorie or zero-calorie flavored waters with vitamins and electrolytes? Can reaching for a Vitamin Water after a workout really benefit you?
Maybe. Different flavored waters offer different nutrients, so your low-calorie Gatorade has different vitamins than Vitamin Water or Powerade. Check the labels to see what they offer. If you’re exercising more than 60 minutes and sweating a significant amount, replenishing lost nutrients with electrolyte-enhanced water is recommended. In this case, drinking water with electrolytes is better than just drinking plain water. On the other hand, if your workout is less rigorous, lost nutrients will likely be replaced during your next meal, so whether you reach for plain or flavored water is really up to you. (There’s no harm if you’re getting a sugar-free drink, but the extra B-vitamins probably aren’t doing much for you.)
Cayenne Pepper Supplements
When I polled my coworkers about trendy supplements they’d tried, one mentioned someone taking cayenne pepper supplements to boost their metabolism. Does this really work?
Yes, but not for metabolism specifically. Cayenne supplements may help burn fat and decrease hunger. Additionally, cayenne pepper (capsicum) may have a number of other benefits, including treating pain related to arthritis, psoriasis, shingles, and diabetic nerve pain when applied to the skin. When used in the nose, it can help treat headaches and chronic runny noses related to allergies. So this is one product that is worth the hype!
Black water is, well, black but tastes just like regular water. The color comes from the addition of fulvic and humic acids, which are normally found in soil. But does it have any health benefits?
Nope. First neither fulvic or humic acids are required nutrients for humans, and the addition of these to the water offer no nutritional benefits over regular tap water. Eating your veggies provides the same benefits the black water claims. So, while drinking black water is not harmful, it doesn’t really do much for you, either.