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  • Writer's pictureLaurenWallace

Kvass: A Fermented Beverage with Probiotic and Cancer-Fighting Benefits

By Dr. Josh Axe, DC, DNM, CN

March 11, 2022

Original article and page source found here.

If you haven’t seen kvass at the grocery store, chances are you soon will. Already produced in places like Brooklyn and Pennsylvania, kvass is quickly catching up with kombucha as the hottest probiotic drink.

Kvass is a traditional fermented beverage that has a similar taste to beer, except it’s healthier because it provides probiotics. It’s actually made from stale, sourdough rye bread or beets, meaning it’s cheap and sustainable to make.

In the U.S., kvass is pretty much synonymous with lacto-fermented beet juice or beet brine, since this is the more popular type.

What does kvass taste like? While it’s tart when not flavored, it can be quite refreshing when mixed with fruits (such as raisins and strawberries) and herbs (such as mint). It typically has a tangy, earthy, salty flavor and can be an acquired taste, though many end up craving it due to the nutritional benefits it offers.

In addition to its impressive probiotic content, kvass is considered a tonic for digestion and an excellent thirst quencher. Below we’ll look more closely at its body-wide benefits, plus how to make it yourself at home.

What Is Kvass?

Kvass is a fermented drink that originated in Eastern Europe. It’s still most popular in places such as Ukraine and Russia, but it’s becoming more widely available in the U.S., Australia and other parts of Europe.

It’s sometimes also called “bread soda” or “Russian cola.”

Even though it’s gained attention recently, as probiotic drinks have become a health trend, kvass is anything but new. It was first mentioned in the “Primary Chronicle,” an ancient history book of Slavic people, in the year 996 A.D., meaning it’s more than 1,000 years old.

It’s common to see barrels of kvass on the streets of Moscow in Russia because it’s considered a tonic for digestion, not to mention that it’s hydrating. Some suggest that kvass is safer than drinking water! That’s because fermentation helps lower the pH of water enough to kill some bad bacteria, which means it’s protective when drinking water is questionably contaminated.

Russians have been consuming kvass for centuries. The wealthy made various kinds of kvass using rye bread or pears, raisins, cherries, bilberries and lingonberries. Peter the Great even used it to add fragrance to his steam baths by splashing kvass on hot stones.

No traditional Ukranian home was without its bottle of beet kvass, according to Lubow A. Kylvska, author of “Ukranian Dishes.” Kvass was said to be “handy and ready when a pleasing, sour flavor had to be added to soups and vinaigrettes.”

Folk medicine values beets and beet kvass for their liver-cleansing properties, and beet kvass is widely used in cancer therapy in Europe. It has been reported that beet kvass is an excellent therapy for chronic fatigue syndrome, chemical sensitivities and allergies, and because it is an excellent source of probiotics, it can help with digestive problems.

Is kvass the same as kombucha?

Kombucha is another probiotic drink that has similar benefits and a naturally tart taste, but the two are made with different primary ingredients.

Kombucha is made with tea, sugar and often fruit. It also requires a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) to ferment and tends to be a bit sweeter.

Both drinks are essentially “alive” since they contain active bacteria that support digestion. One advantage that kvass has is that it possesses both benefits of probiotics along with nutrients from the beets.

Is kvass an alcoholic drink?

While kvass is considered a non-alcoholic beverage, containing around 0.5 percent to 1 percent alcohol, the longer it ferments, the more susceptible it is to becoming more alcoholic. It typically doesn’t contain enough alcohol to impair someone’s judgment or cause other side effects, but strong varieties may potentially make people feel as if they’ve consumed a small amount of alcohol.

It is made with yeast?

It depends on the specific type of kvass. Traditionally, it was not made with yeast, but today some types made with stale bread use dry active yeast to help the fermentation process.

The oldest recipes used bread and beets to provide fermentable sugar instead of adding yeast. This is said to result in a better taste than when yeast is used.

Yeast can make the process easier, but it’s not necessary to use. Some people prefer using sourdough starter instead, which may make the taste more mild and pleasant.

Nutrition Facts

Kvass is considered a “functional food” because it offers a wide range of probiotics and nutrients, including vitamin B12, selenium and manganese.

If made with beets, it also contains a good dose of antioxidants, natural nitrates, vitamins A and C, and potassium.

Below is the nutritional background based on a four-ounce serving of kvass made with beets (according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture). Note that nutrition content varies based on the exact ingredients used, as the bread variety offers different nutrients.

One four-ounce (1/2 cup) serving of kvass made with beets contains about:

  • 35 calories

  • 8 grams carbohydrates

  • 1 grams protein

  • 2 grams fiber

  • 6,500 international units of vitamin A (130 percent DV)

  • 4.8 milligrams vitamin C (8 percent DV)

  • 0.4 milligrams iron (2 percent DV)

  • 20 milligrams calcium (2 percent DV)


1. Great Source of Probiotics

Since kvass is considered one of the great probiotic foods, there are many benefits, such as improving intestinal tract health and enhancing the immune system, which makes nutrients more available to the body.

Probiotics in your diet, including from kvass, have been shown to increase gut microflora diversity and support metabolic activity, while also potentially having appetite-reducing effects. Probiotic drinks may also help reduce symptoms of lactose intolerance, including diarrhea, and decrease the prevalence of food allergies.

Formerly, we had plenty of probiotics in our diets from eating fresh foods from good soil and by fermenting our foods to keep them from spoiling. The modern ways of agriculture, refrigeration and preparing food have eliminated probiotic foods for too many Americans.

Not enough probiotics can mean digestive disorders, skin issues, candida, autoimmune disease, and frequent colds and flus.

2. Excellent Liver Cleanser

While many think that alcohol is the only reason for liver problems, disease-causing inflammation is also caused by poor eating choices.

Beets and beet greens are rich in antioxidants and potassium, and as such, they help fight free radical damage that can contribute to the aging process and some diseases.

Like beetroot juice, beet kvass and beets help naturally cleanse the gallbladder, improve bile flow, remove plenty of toxins and promote regularity.

Related: Detox Your Liver: Try My 6-Step Liver Cleanse

3. Perfect Blood Tonic

Beets contain phytonutrients called betalains that are found in the pigment of beets. (They are what causes your hands to stain.) These betalains help create red blood cells, making beet kvass an excellent blood tonic by alkalizing the blood.

Why is this important? When your bloodstream becomes too acidic, it causes inflammation in the body and depletes the body of calcium because it is trying to balance out the pH levels.

One of the best things we can do is consume more alkaline-promoting foods, such as beets and leafy green vegetables.

4. May Help Reduce the Risk of Cancer

Most significant of all, beet kvass may help as a natural cancer treatment because of the combination of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties available.

According to a 2014 report published in the journal Nutrients, beetroot is also considered as a therapeutic treatment for inflammation, and its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties may help reduce the risk of certain types of cancer.

5. Beet Kvass Is Rich in Valuable Nutrients

Because beets are high in vitamin C, beet kvass helps boost your immune system and can help stave off the cold virus.

It’s also very high in manganese, a mineral that is needed for maintenance of healthy bones, plus liver, kidney and pancreatic functions. Beet kvass also contains the B vitamin known as folate, which may help reduce the risk of birth defects.

How to Make

Most brands of commercialized kvass lack many of the benefits associated with the traditional types because they’re low in probiotics. This is why fermenting your own is recommended.

Making homemade kvass takes a little practice, but overall it’s simple and inexpensive to make. The simplest recipes include ingredients like beets, water and salt.

The water and salt create a brine so the beets pickle, and eventually the brine becomes kvass with a slight effervescence. When the beets ferment they naturally produce a bit of bubbles (same with kombucha), so you can expect the finished product to be slightly fizzy.

A few helpful tips:

  • When making kvass, your water needs to be pure and chemical-free. If you use chlorine or chemical-laden water, it will prevent the bad bacteria from forming as well as the good bacteria and will cause the beets to rot. Filtered spring water is best. If you use tap water, make sure you eliminate the chemicals by boiling or by leaving the water out overnight so the chlorine can evaporate.

  • Beets should be organic. If you don’t use organic beets, make sure they are fresh, and peel them to help rid them of possible pesticide residue.

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