Lately, I have been asking myself, is sauerkraut good for you? The reality is more complicated than we think, but I will break it down for you here. If you love sauerkraut as much as I do, then this is the perfect article to look at when you have any questions.
First things first, what is sauerkraut?
Sauerkraut is cut and raw cabbage that is fermented through the use of lactic acid bacteria. Because the product is fermented, it has a long shelf life and a very sour taste and smell. This process occurs when the bacteria ferment the sugars that are naturally present in the cabbage.
Fermentation has been part of cooking and preservation techniques for centuries. Sauerkraut is one of the national dishes in Germany, but there are many variations out there these days. You will likely see sauerkraut in other countries, like Russia, Poland, Czech Republic, and France.
Can I make sauerkraut at home?
Everyone can make sauerkraut at home. I love this recipe of fermented sauerkraut with apple and this classic fermented sauerkraut one too. You do need to pay attention to some details, but overall, the process is fun and will turn out delicious!
To begin, you will need to gather some equipment, although not much. Start with your cabbage, salt, crock, or jars. However, if you are able, I recommend this Mason Jar fermentation kit that comes with everything you would need.
First, make sure to clean all the equipment, especially the jars you will be using. You can then slice the cabbage, preferably into quarters, trimming out the core. For best results, you should end up with about eight wedges.
Place your cabbage in a big bowl and sprinkle your salt over it. You will need to move the cabbage around with your hands; it should eventually become watery, almost like coleslaw. This part of the process will take around 10 minutes, and you can also add flavoring, like caraway seeds at this stage.
Get the Jars Ready
Make sure your jars are ready to go and pack the cabbage into each one. Press the cabbage down with your fist and add any other leftover liquid. It is important to weigh down the cabbage because it should be fully submerged beneath the liquid.
After you are done weighing down the cabbage, cover the mouth with a cloth and secure it with twine or a rubber band. This allows the jar to let airflow in and out without letting any insects, dust, or mold in.
Keep pressing your cabbage every so often for about a whole day. In this stage, your cabbage releases the liquid it has leftover, and it rises over the cabbage. If there is not enough liquid, you should add more. Try using one cup of water with about one teaspoon of salt dissolved in it.
At this point, you can begin to ferment your cabbage for three to 10 days. Be sure to hide the sauerkraut from the sun and keep it in a cool room. Check your jars every day and press the cabbage down if you see it floating up. You can also start tasting the cabbage after three days, but you can ferment it as long as you want. Your guide to the process being complete will be how it tastes.
Store your sauerkraut for at least two months outside, or longer in the refrigerator. If you open it, make sure you eat it quickly, or it will start to go bad.
Is sauerkraut good for you? These are the 6 things you need to know!
Fact #1. Sauerkraut contains a ton of nutrients
This fermented food is full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Sauerkraut contains three grams of fiber in just one cup. It also contains calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, iron, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin B6, copper, and manganese.
The fermentation process makes your cabbage full of fiber, which is essential in keeping your gut healthy. Consuming regular fiber can also lead to lower cholesterol levels and better blood glucose management.
Fact #2. This food may reduce inflammation
A research analysis of over 139 publications found that cabbage could reduce inflammation locally. Consuming sauerkraut is particularly good at reducing inflammation in your gut. This study, and others, have shown that sauerkraut has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties due to its phytochemical content.
Essentially, when you eat sauerkraut you give your body a boost in preventing inflammation and oxidative damage that leads to disease, illness, and cell damage. Sauerkraut is considered a superfood because it has enough nutrients, but also health properties to promote better intestinal and overall health.
Fact #3. It also improves your digestion
Since it is high in fiber and also anti-inflammatory, it makes sense that sauerkraut can also improve digestion. Another key factor in sauerkraut is that it is a food high in probiotics.
Probiotic foods contain beneficial bacteria that ferment in your gut and promote better digestion. When you eat sauerkraut, you give your body a defensive boost against toxins and harmful bacteria. However, probiotics can also keep you from experiencing gas, bloating, pain, constipation, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal symptoms.
Your gut is as important as your brain, and other foods, medications, and health issues often affect it. Consuming sauerkraut will help your body maintain a good level of bacteria that can digest food and absorb nutrients more efficiently.
Fact #4. Sauerkraut could strengthen your immunity
Probiotics are also immune-boosting foods, so consuming sauerkraut could keep things balanced in your gut, but also prevent any harmful toxins from reaching the rest of your body.
When you eat probiotic foods, your gut microbiota (healthy bacteria colonies) can also prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and could even boost the production of antibodies.
Even more so, there is some evidence that probiotic foods can prevent other infections in your body, such as a cold, urinary tract infection, or food poisoning.
Fact #5. It may also reduce the risk of cancer
Cabbage is naturally high in antioxidants and phytochemicals. These two compounds can reduce the risk of cancer by blocking excessive cell growth, neutralizing free radicals, and preventing cell mutations.
Furthermore, cabbage fermentation can also create more antioxidant compounds, becoming even stronger at protecting you from developing tumors and cell damage.
Fact #6. Sauerkraut may promote heart health
There is also evidence that sauerkraut can contribute to a healthier heart because it contains high fiber and probiotics. Consuming foods high in these two nutrients can reduce cholesterol levels, which in turn reduces the risk of a heart attack.
When your body can clean out some cholesterol from your blood, it also reduces blood pressure and the possibility of developing blood clots.
Sauerkraut also contains vitamin K2, also called menaquinone. This nutrient is very efficient in preventing calcium deposits from creating a build-up in the arteries. One cup of sauerkraut is high in vitamin K2, which can be a good way to keep your heart healthy.
Are there any downsides to sauerkraut?
While sauerkraut is very good for you, there is no benefit to eating it excessively. A study found that consuming too much could lead to chronic diarrhea. You may also experience mouth sores and allergic reactions when you eat it in excess amounts. Keep in mind that some sauerkraut may be high in sodium, which could negatively affect your health.