Have you heard of sauerkraut? It is a German word that means “sour cabbage”. It is made by finely cutting cabbages that are fermented with the help of lactic acid bacteria. There are a lot of health benefits associated with this product. Read on to explore some of them.
History of Sauerkraut
Sauerkraut is a German word even though it did not originate in Germany. This was practiced for the first time in China in the days of the building of the Great Wall of China (1). After that, it came to Europe, where it became an essential part of most cuisines.
Fermented foods are used for centuries, even before frozen foods came. Fermentation helps in increasing the shelf life of cabbage and provides more nutrients as compared to cabbage.
Sauerkraut is known as zuurkool in Netherlands and choucroute in France. It served as the main source of nutrients during winter before refrigeration and frozen foods became common. Sauerkraut prevents scurvy. It was extensively consumed during voyages by Captain James Cook and other sailors.
Nutritional Profile of Sauerkraut
Sauerkraut is rich in many nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. One cup of Sauerkraut (142 grams) provides the following:
There are 27 calories in one cup Sauerkraut
- 0 fat
- 6 grams of carbohydrates
- 4 grams of fiber
- 1 gram of protein
- 41% of the Daily Value of Sodium
- 23% of the Daily Value of Vitamin C
- 15% of the Daily Value of Copper
- 15% of the Daily Value of Vitamin K1
- 12% of Daily Value of Iron
- 11% of the Daily Value of Vitamin B6
- 9% of the Daily Value of Manganese
- 9% of the Daily Value of Folate
- 5% of Daily Value of Potassium
Benefits of Eating Sauerkraut
There are plenty of benefits of eating sauerkraut. Some of them are mentioned below-
1. Helps in Weight Loss
Regular consumption of sauerkraut helps in weight reduction. It happens because sauerkraut is made from cabbage. It is a vegetable that has very low calories and high fiber content. A high fiber diet helps you keep full for a long time. As a result, you eat fewer calories, and your weight is decreased. It is also rich in Probiotics which lead to a trimmed waistline. Certain Probiotics have the ability to break down fats and decrease the bioavailability of fat molecules in the diet. (2)
2. Reduces the Stress Level
What you eat affects both your mood and brain function. There is a connection between gut health and brain function. If your gut is healthy, then your stress level will decrease. The bacteria present in your gut send signals to the brain. They influence the way the brain functions. Sauerkraut is a fermented food product that is loaded with Probiotics. It leads to a healthy gut by increasing the healthy microflora. This can help in the reduction of stress levels and improves brain function. Probiotics in sauerkraut improve memory and reduce autism, anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
3. Rich in Vitamins
As sauerkraut is a fermented food, it means that components like protein and carbohydrates have been broken down into easily digestible compounds. As a result, it is a rich source of vitamin B, C, and K. it is an extremely rich source of dietary fiber and contains many useful minerals like iron, copper, and even potassium.
Our body needs a healthy source of essential minerals and vitamins as they aid in improving metabolic activities. By opting to include sauerkraut in your diet, you will be able to enjoy the intake of all these vitamins and minerals. Furthermore, owing to the fermentation of cabbage, the bioavailability of the nutrients is increased significantly.
4. Makes the Bones Strong
Vitamin K2 plays an essential role in building strong bones. Sauerkraut has high quantities of this bone-forming vitamin.
Vitamin K2 stimulates two proteins that bind to calcium, the most abundant mineral in bones. This process makes the bones grow stronger and healthier. Therefore, vitamin K2 is beneficial to bone health.
The women who take Vitamin K2 supplements regularly have a slower rate of decrease in bone mineral density due to the age factor. Similarly, taking vitamin K2 supplements decreases the risk of spine, hip, and non-spine fractures by 60–81 percent.
5. Acts As Cancer Inhibitor
Doctors and nutritionists have often said that sticking to the right diet can be extremely crucial in dealing with cancer. As per research conducted on the use of sauerkraut, it has been found that it works as a cancer inhibitor.
When cabbage gets fermented to form sauerkraut, it produces a substance known as isothiocyanates. This compound is known to prevent cancer, especially in the colon, breast, and lungs. For example, many research studies have indicated decreasing breast cancer count in women who incorporated a lot of sauerkraut in their diet.
6. Strengthens the Digestive System
If you are suffering from problems of digestion, eating sauerkraut can turn out to be of help. The fact that it is rich in dietary fiber makes it efficient in cleaning the digestive system, and those who suffer from constipation can use sauerkraut to get rid of the problem. It also contains live lactobacilli bacteria which aids in speeding up the natural digestive system. These are essential microorganisms (probiotics) that are critical for the smooth working of the digestive system. They also help to combat inflammation. (3)
Fermented foods are the preferred choice for improving the rate and efficiency of digestion because they make the assimilation of proteins, carbohydrates, and other nutrients much more easy and effective. As a result, the nutritional value of the stuff contained in the food also increases. In addition, the presence of a high amount of lactic acid makes it easy to digest a lot of stuff.
Sauerkraut helps in maintaining the intestinal flora and increases the concentration of antibodies that gives you the power to deal with various intestinal problems.
7. Sauerkraut Is an Immune Booster
When cabbage is fermented, it helps in improving the immunity level. This is because it contains a lot of phytochemicals that strengthen the immunity of your body. The presence of different vitamins, minerals, and useful bacteria makes sauerkraut one of the “must-have products” in your diet. It will empower your body to fight against infections and has a direct impact on immunity levels.
It has been termed as s superfood because of its unending nutritional benefits. Sauerkraut is commonly consumed in Germany and France; however, even those who do not eat a lot of sauerkraut should make it a point to incorporate it into their diet as the benefits will be there for all to see and observe.
8. High in Folate
Adequate folate consumption decreases the risk of heart failure and stroke and age-related hearing loss and gum disease. Sauerkraut and fermented cabbage are high in folate, which is necessary to reduce heart-related risks.
9. One of the Best Fermented Vegetables
Fermented vegetables are always known for their added nutritional benefits. They make absorption of vital and essential minerals and nutrients much easier. It is particularly recommended for those who suffer from indigestion.
Ways to Eat Sauerkraut
There are plenty of ways you can enjoy this healthy, nutritious food product. It is made from cabbage, and you can add it in almost add salty dishes.
- Add on hotdog/burger/tacos
- Add in Reuben sandwiches
- Add 1-2 tablespoons in a cooled soup to keep the Probiotics alive
- Eat as a simple condiment with your meals
- Add on poached eggs
- Add on the avocado toast
- Sprinkle it on a salad
Homemade Sauerkraut Recipe
Sauerkraut is very easy to make at home as it requires very few ingredients. You will find them within 1-2 minutes. Yes, it’s that easy.
Coming towards the ingredients, it only requires cabbage, salt, water, and a jar. You can try different types of cabbage for different tastes. Each cabbage variety gives its own unique flavor and texture. There are two types of cabbage typically used for preparing sauerkraut – Green and Red. The sauerkraut made from red cabbage is healthier as it contains red-purple pigment. This pigment imparts more health benefits as compared to green.
Take 2 cups of shredded cabbage and add 1 ½ cups of water. Mix them and add salt. Put the mixture in an air-tight jar and keep it in a cold shady place for 20 days.
Do not put the jar under direct sunlight as the UV rays might damage the microbes, and it might get too warm. After 20 days, you can eat them and store them in the fridge for future use. It is one of the easy-to-make fermented foods.
Due to the trisaccharide raffinose, which the human small intestine cannot break down, excessive consumption of sauerkraut can cause bloating and flatulence. However, while it can be unpleasant, this does not have a detrimental impact on long-term health.
According to some studies, sauerkraut causes local inflammation. It can also cause diarrhea, gas, bloating, and high blood pressure. (4)
How to Shop for Sauerkraut?
Let’s now see how to buy the best quality of sauerkraut from the market. Not everything you see in the market is nutrient-dense, even if they claim so. Many varieties of sauerkraut in the market are made of vinegar. So, look for a product that is free of vinegar. If vinegar is added to make sauerkraut, it kills the Probiotics. It is then preserved with pasteurization. The heat given during this process may kill all the beneficial bacteria. This type of sauerkraut will not provide 100% health benefits. (5)
Buy the product that states that live and active cultures of bacteria are present in sauerkraut. A lot of people are concerned with the high levels of sodium in processed sauerkraut. A cup of sauerkraut brought from the market contains 900 milligrams of sodium. This can be highly alarming and very dangerous for hypertensive patients. Always check sodium levels before buying it.
A moderate amount of sodium will always be present as it is necessary for the fermentation process. Without salt, the beneficial bacteria will not grow.
Also, check the sugar content in the sauerkraut. There are multiple varieties of sauerkraut available in the market. Hence, always opt for a healthier variety.
Sauerkraut is one the healthiest fermented foods that can be prepared easily at home. It is also available in the market. It provides plenty of benefits – strengthens bones, improves brain health, reduces stress, and is rich in nutrients especially folate. It also contains nutrients that control the spread and risks of cancers.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What are the health benefits of sauerkraut?
Sauerkraut helps to keep the digestive system’s lining safe. A healthy gut lining prevents foreign substances or toxins from entering the body and triggering an immune response.
Is there a good time to eat sauerkraut?
The best time to eat it is early in the morning. Eat 1-2 forkfuls of sauerkraut in morning. As a snack, eat a few fermented carrot sticks or pickles.
What are the consequences of eating sauerkraut?
Sauerkraut was found to cause inflammation locally in the studies, but repeated consumption can cause diarrhea.
- “Sauerkraut” – en.wikipedia.org
- “8 Surprising Benefits of Sauerkraut” – healthline.com
- “The health benefits of sauerkraut” -bbcgoodfood.com
- “Amazing health benefits of sauerkraut” – foodscene.net
- “Don’t Turn up Your Nose at Sauerkraut Because It Has a Ton of Benefits for Your Bod” – wellandgood.com