Sauerkraut is a type of fermented cabbage. Although it may have originated in China, it is enjoyed in Eastern European cuisine, particularly in Germany.
Fermented cabbage likely came about because fermentation stopped fresh vegetables, which were not available year-round, from spoiling.
For those who haven’t tried it, sauerkraut might sound strange. However, it has some incredible health benefits. Many of them stem directly from the fermentation process, although cabbage is healthy in its own right.
So, just how healthy is sauerkraut? Keep reading to find out.
Fermented foods are generally beneficial. They contain lots of healthy bacteria that are good for the gut, which is why lists of probiotic foods tend to feature the likes of sauerkraut and kimchi.
There are numerous sauerkraut health benefits as a result, beyond simply supporting gut health. Below are some of the key advantages of consuming sauerkraut. It’s worth noting, however, that only unpasteurized sauerkraut contains probiotics; always shop for unpasteurized products.
Sauerkraut is a highly nutritious ingredient. This is partly on account of the cabbage used to make it. It’s ideal for those on a low-fat diet, and it’s also packed with essential nutrients and minerals. With few calories per serving, it’s the perfect side dish.
Here is a breakdown of sauerkraut’s nutritional value, per cup (142g):
- Calories: 27
- Carbs: 6g
- Fat: 0g
- Protein: 1g
- Fiber: 4g
- Copper: 15% of daily value (DV)
- Folate: 9% of DV
- Iron: 12% of DV
- Manganese: 9% of DV
- Potassium: 5% of DV
- Vitamin B6: 11% of DV
- Vitamin C: 23% of DV
- Vitamin K1: 15% of DV
More nutritional benefits are added by the fermentation process, which occurs as microorganisms digest the natural sugars in the cabbage and convert them into CO2 and organic acids.
The resulting probiotic organisms are great for nutrition. Since sauerkraut is vegan, it’s also helpful for meat-free consumers to get a healthy dose of probiotics.
The only unhealthy thing about sauerkraut is its potentially high sodium content. Consumed in moderation, though, it can be a really healthy addition to a balanced diet.
Is Sauerkraut Good for Digestion?
Sauerkraut can be excellent for digestive health. The gut is filled with bacteria called “gut flora”, numbering more than ten times the cells in the body.
Sauerkraut is an excellent source of probiotics as one serving could contain up to 28 types of bacteria.
Probiotic foods may supplement the gut flora, making them useful for digestive health. Sauerkraut, in particular, is an excellent source, as one serving could contain up to 28 types of bacteria.
Alongside its probiotic potential, sauerkraut also contains beneficial enzymes that can break down the nutrients in food. The body can thus make more use of these nutrients. As a result, those interested in gut health should try sauerkraut for digestion.
Can Sauerkraut Help You Lose Weight?
Regular consumption of probiotics like sauerkraut could aid in weight loss. Some research has suggested that probiotics can prevent the absorption of fat from food, although the reasons for this are not yet understood.
A 2014 study found that obese women given a probiotics supplement lost more weight than those given a placebo. However, the researchers observed no difference between the supplement and the placebo in men.
More evidence that sauerkraut benefits weight loss stems from a 2015 study in which participants were intentionally overfed. Those given probiotics in conjunction with overfeeding gained about 50% less body fat than those not using probiotics.
It’s worth noting that specific bacteria strains have different effects. Since the results of these studies are not universal, it’s unclear whether probiotics themselves can promote weight loss or prevent weight gain.
That said, sauerkraut is also high in fiber. Since fiber can keep consumers fuller for longer, it can promote weight loss by reducing calorie intake.
The vitamin K within sauerkraut is essential for bone health. Vitamin K2 activates some of the proteins that bind to calcium, a mineral vital for bone construction. Clinical research has observed that K2 supplements may slow down age-related loss in bone density.
Vitamin K2 in sauerkraut activates some of the proteins that bind to calcium, a mineral vital for bone construction.
It could be possible to use sauerkraut for bone health, but it’s unlikely to work alone. The research on K2 thus far tends to use very high doses, which are not found in sauerkraut. Nevertheless, eating foods containing vitamin K2 is never a bad thing.
Sauerkraut Side Effects
For all its benefits, sauerkraut does have some drawbacks. Firstly, it tends to be high in sodium, which is bad for those attempting to avoid salt. Notably, too much sodium can increase blood pressure.
The side effects of sauerkraut tend to emerge after overconsuming. Eating too much sauerkraut can lead to constipation, bloating, and flatulence. This is a byproduct of eating fermented foods. In some cases, it can also cause diarrhea due to raffinose in the stool.
A review of sauerkraut’s effects on human health noted only diarrhea as a negative side effect. Therefore, those with irritable bowels and digestive issues should avoid sauerkraut or consume it in moderation.
How to Make Probiotic Sauerkraut
Making raw sauerkraut is actually very easy. All you need to do is ferment white cabbage in brine; you will need the raw ingredients and a mason jar. Keep in mind that it takes at least three days to ferment the cabbage, so make a big batch in advance and store it in the fridge for when you need it!
When it comes time to eat the sauerkraut, there are multiple things you can do with it:
- Cook a stock with it
- Add it to soups or stews
- Serve on top of smoked hot dogs
- Add to smoked fish such as haddock or salmon
- Put it on top of eggs
- Mix into a salad
These are just a few ideas – there are many more ways to use it.
Here’s how to make sauerkraut at home:
Makes: 1 jar
Preparation Time: 0H 30MINS
- 3.5 lbs pale green or white cabbage, cored
- 3 tbsp sea salt
- 1 tsp peppercorns
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- Thoroughly wash your hands and any equipment you are using, or you may contaminate the cabbage. Take a large jar or a bowl – something you can fit the cabbage in with a little room at the top – and rinse with boiling water to thoroughly clean.
- Thinly shred the cabbage using either your hands or a food processor. You need really thin strips.
- Massage the salt into the cabbage strips for about 5 minutes. Allow it to rest for five minutes, then repeat. The cabbage should then be sitting in its own brine.
- Stir in the mustard seeds and peppercorns.
- Cover with plastic wrap and press out all of the air bubbles. Grab something heavy to weigh it down – e.g., books or weights – trying to cover as much of the cabbage as possible. The brine should rise to cover the cabbage.
- Cover the bowl or jar with a lid or a cloth, then leave it in a dark place for 3-5 days. However, if you want maximum flavor, leave it for 2-6 weeks.
- Check on the cabbage each day, releasing the gases that build-up and giving it a stir. The fermentation is working if there are bubbles within the cabbage and perhaps some foam on top of the brine. Keep the room temperature cool, as too warm a temperature can cause mold to form.
- When you are ready, transfer the sauerkraut to smaller, sterilized jars and store it in the fridge for up to six months.
Bottom Line on Sauerkraut Benefits
Sauerkraut is an incredibly nutritious and beneficial ingredient. It is popular in German cuisine for a reason, even being awarded the country’s national dish title. Not only does it offer a unique, intense flavor, but it’s also packed with health benefits and is a versatile ingredient.
The most beneficial sauerkraut is the unpasteurized kind, so look for this in stores. Alternatively, make your own at home. You can see the sauerkraut fermenting as small bubbles are released, so when this process begins, start tasting the cabbage until it reaches your desired flavor. Remember, the longer it ferments, the stronger the taste.
What’s your favorite way to enjoy sauerkraut? Let us know in the comments below.