Monday, February 3, 2014

Zukay Live Foods Beet KVASS review

One of the big buzz words in nutrition today is antioxidants. You can’t bet your bottom dollar that any triathlete on Facebook, Twitter or the internet has seen at least one article about a study on which superfoods give you the best antioxidant bang for your buck. But, just because it may be deemed healthy by a scientist in California doesn’t mean it’s really meant to be consumed by the masses.

For several reasons, something that’s deemed edible and “nutritious” isn’t always meant to be eaten by sane people. First and foremost, if it’s not appealing, the mainstreamers are going to shy away from it. Who wants to ingest something that looks like it belongs in a pig trough? Secondly, if you pass the eye test, texture is an issue. If you’ve ever seen the amino acid paste that looks like snot or runny oatmeal, but promises to supply you with all the nutrients you need, who’s going to eat if if they don’t have to? Lastly, taste. If you can’t get it down and keep it down, chances are you won’t be coming back for seconds.

When Zukay approached us to try out their Beet and Beet Ginger Kvass drink, we were intrigued and apprehensive. We loved the antioxidant and natural probiotic aspect of the products, but beets are not what you would call tasty. Oh, they have taste, but not a taste that many appreciate. Beets by themselves are unassuming enough to try for a taste, but that’s about as far as you’ll go after trying to find something else to get the taste out of your mouth. In short, beets alone are gross. You may miss out on the superfood aspect, but you probably won’t complain.

We put Zukay to the test to see if we could get beet health benefits and be able to tolerate the product to keep it down. Check out our review below.

Packaging / Shelf Appeal / Marketing

When you get your hands on some Zukay Beet Kvass, the glass bottles are very professionally produced with graphics and manufacturing. They rival any other juice product you would find at your local grocery store.

One issue you may have is finding Zukay locally. When you hit their location finder, you may have to go hundreds of miles to find a distributor to get it in person. Online availability is there, but limited and from our searches, it appeared you would be ordering in bulk. As far as marketing, Zukay has all of the standard tools in the marketing toolbox. Website, Facebook, Twitter and other online social media sites are standard these days and Zukay has them covered. If you hate it when a company has a stale web feed or let the social media go to crap, no fear with Zukay. They are keeping it fresh on the internet.

One item to note was the superb packing of the shipment. We’re not sure if all of the shipments are treated as well, but the samples arrived in bubble wrap in a cooler with cooler bags to keep is fresh until consumers have a chance to get it in the fridge.

Form / Construction

Zukay introduces their beet and beet ginger kvass as the original detox drink.

From their site, “beets are a superfood – and Beet Kvass has long been revered in Eastern Europe for its purported blood and liver-cleansing properties. There’s even a lot of research around the humble beet’s large nitrate content, which have been found to help your body utilize oxygen better (and therefore enable you to workout better).”

The ingredient list includes, water, organic beets, celtic sea salt, hand-batched live active culture, organic raw green stevia.

Looking for low carb or low calorie options? Zukay may be right for you. At 50 calories per serving, you won’t break your diet bank chugging one down. Also sporting 12 grams of carbs per serving, you can stay in your low carb zone, if that’s your game.

Fashion / Appearance

When you break open the beet kvass, upon initial inspection the juice is pretty standard as far as juices go. The color and texture is consistent throughout the drink with no pulp or bits of leftover beets floating around. It’s something we wouldn’t mind sipping on from a purely aesthetics point of view.

When you take a whiff of the bouquet, you realize that yes, this is beet juice. It’s not as pungent as what you would get from a can of beets, but beet juice and beet products have a distinct powerful smell. It snuggles right up to the line of overpowering, but backs off just enough not to have that knee-jerk reaction to push the bottle away from your face.

When you pour it out into your cup, there it is in all of its glory. Truth be told, it took a little bit of psyching up to knock a cup down of the beet kvass. It wasn’t from a lack of interest of visual or aroma appeal, but just bringing back memories of experimenting with beets on our own and failing.

Fit / Function

In full disclosure, we were not going to go run lab tests to establish a baseline, drink the Zukay and then retest to see if any levels changed. We’re not that technical and work on a limited time table.

What we did do was knock down a beet kvass after some tough runs and rides training for Lake Tahoe in the heat of the Kansas City summer. Recovery and hydration is key after 4 to 7 hours in the heat with heat index exceeding 100 degrees. You want the fluids in and the lactic acid and crap out.

Zukay wasn’t a magical elixir giving us new found energy and strength, but if you could feel the effectiveness of antioxidants, then it would be in the hours and days after extreme workouts. Triathletes want to be able to function since most of us have day jobs and families, and after a few days of 100 miles of cycling and 20 miles of running, we need anything we can get to keep upright and off the couch. Incapacitation is not an option.

While using Zukay Ginger Beet Kvass, we felt great the following days after long workouts or high intensity sessions. The legs weren’t heavy from excess lactic acid and we could actually get up off the floor or couch after long periods without having the “old man” aching and cracking syndrome. “Oh my aching back… Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up…”

We tried the beet kvass in several combinations. We tried it by itself, with other juices mixed in, with other fruit flavored recovery options and more. Heck, we even tried it mixed in a fruit smoothie!

Why did we try it combined with other items? Well, it is after all beet juice. It’s not as powerful as beets alone, but with the organic and healthy nature of Zukay, there’s not much added in the way of sugar to sweeten the load up. You’ll know it’s beet juice.

We tried several combos and found some successful options for those that might need some help getting past the initial taste. The beet kvass alone was more and more palatable after each tasting, however. Focusing in the benefits of the beet juice can help you take it in stride. It’s probably 20 times more favorable than drinking raw egg yolks or something like that.

But, after a long hot bike ride, Zukay Ginger Beet Kvass was not exactly something that popped into our minds as a thirst quencher after a few tastings. It took some getting used to, but the potential health upside of drinking beet kvass is well worth it.


Since Zukay isn’t readily available onlines, you will need to do some searching online and we found a 12 pack of 12 oz servings for $56.45 without shipping. At $4.70 per bottle before shipping and tax, that’s better than most protein shakes and other recovery / antioxidant drinks we found. That’s also better than most other single serving portions of beet juice.

Final thoughts

Zukay is an interesting animal. They are after healthy living and clean eating, but we found it hard to find their product to make it feasible to use. Beet juice is beet juice. If one is more palatable than the other, better check the label for sugar content, since that’s the only way you will be able to make it any sweeter. Zukay appears to have a great antioxidant drink that capitalizes on a superfood without over-processing it for consumption. It’s also friendly for those counting carbs and calories. If you can swing the taste of beet juice, and want the superfood characteristics, then Zukay is for you.


* Writer's note - Zukay provided a sample of Beet and Beet Ginger Kvass for this review at no cost and did not influence this review.
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