Beet kvass hits a lot of health trend marks—it’s plant-based, made from a superfood and fermented. Beet kvass, (pronounced k-vahs or k-wass) is a fermented beet juice that hails from Russia and parts of Eastern Europe, like Ukraine. The name is derived from the Russian word ‘kvas’, which means literally, “to leaven.”1
History of Kvass
Traditionally, kvass was like a barely-alcoholic beer. It was initially made from brown bread soaked in water, with ingredients like raisins or mint added for taste. After a few days of fermentation, it becomes a fizzy drink with a distinct sour flavor.2 Even now, many Eastern European families have their own kvass recipes.
The fermentation process has much more to offer, though. Fermented foods like pickles or sauerkraut provide nutrients from produce during cold, barren winters.3 Because beets are another Russian food staple, they were also used to make kvass. While bread kvass is the original product, Russians have been using beets, pears, and other fruits for nearly as long. Beet kvass may offer the best health benefits, though.
And that’s maybe why is popularity is on the rise on American shores.
Beet kvass isn’t difficult to make. Fermented foods often don’t involve much cooking. Rather, you set the stage and let nature take its course to produce the desired result. This could be appealing for those with little time on their hands.
How Can Beet Kvass Help?
Beet kvass consumption may help support the digestive tract and immune system. As a fermented food, it contains potentially beneficial probiotics, or good bacteria. Our gut microbiome consists of both good and bad bacteria. When the bad bacteria outnumber the good, certain health issues may occur. As discussed much on the ActivatedYou blog, adding probiotics (good bacteria) to your diet helps keep your digestive system balanced.4
And fermented foods, like kimchi, pickles and kombucha, are full of probiotics.
It is the lactobacillus bacterium that actually causes fermentation. These are some of the same family of strains you will see in many probiotic supplements.5
Are fermented foods the “miracle” answer for digestive issues? Scientists suggest regular consumption is necessary, but as demonstrated, there is a lot they can do for you.6
The Beauty of Beets for Health
In addition, you need to consider the signature ingredient: the beet.
Beets have a rather unique lineup of phytonutrients compared to other plants. These include the pigments that give them its color, called betalains. These fight off inflammation and serve as antioxidants. What is so interesting about beets is that this is very different than most vegetables. These primarily have anthocyanins. Combine this with their manganese and vitamin C content, and you have a special nutritional powerhouse on your hands.7
But, the real issue with beet kvass is that there’s no science to back up health claims of healing cancer and such. The only studies on beet kvass involve animals.8
Breaking down Beet Kvass
However, getting more beets in your diet is always a good thing because they are nutrient-rich.9 So, even if beet kvass isn’t a miracle cure-all drink, fermented beet juice has some health benefits.
The high nitrate content of beet juice may help support heart health.10 Also, beet juice is rich in antioxidants, including alpha-lipoic acid. Alpha-lipoic acid has shown potential to help lower glucose levels in some studies.11
Beet juice is good for you… period.
And there could be a lot more of beet’s potential to boost health coming down the pipe in the scientific world. For example, one study examined patients with heart issues taking small serving of concentrated beet juice over a period of time. Almost immediately, participants saw a 13 percent average increase in muscle power.12 Another study showed that beet juice may help enhance circulation in healthy young adults.13
You may want to consider some of the other components of kvass, like sea salt. Sea salt is considered the healthier choice because the trace minerals have not been stripped, as they are with table salt. If you were use organic beets and sea salt—you can rest easy about the quality of your kvass!
Making Your Own Beet Kvass
When it comes to making your own, there’s a lot of room for variety.
Here are a few things to keep in mind, though.14
- Make sure you have a clean half gallon jar before you trim and chop 3-4 beets. Leaving the skin on is a matter of preference.
- Use spring, distilled, or filtered water. (Many believe that using chlorinated water inhibits fermentation)
- It will take at least a few days of fermentation time.
For kvass with additional health benefits, try adding ginger, lemon, or even lemongrass.
Some people choose to include whey. This may help to speed up the fermentation process.
Whether you do so is a matter of choice. Some people include other fermented foods, like sauerkraut or kimchi juice, for the same effect.
Once you’ve put all the components in a well sealed jar, it’s time to play the waiting game. Leave the jar at room temperature for a few days. Check on the kvass daily, until it is fully fermented. When done, transfer it the fridge, and enjoy. This may seem like a lot of time for one drink, fermented or otherwise. Note that one preparation of beet kvass can last as long as 30 days, though.15 With that said, you may want to make larger preparations if you find you enjoy it.
Will it Work For Me?
In theory, beet kvass combines two things that are both very good for you: fermentation and beets. Will it cure your ailments? Probably not—let’s face it… there are no magic bullets. But if you’re eating a well-balanced diet, exercising and supplementing, beet kvass can’t hurt in maintaining good health.