Sauerkraut, a fermented cabbage dish with a rich history, offers more than just a tangy flavor and crisp texture. Sauerkraut, or “sour cabbage,” is a probiotic-packed fermented superfood that has received renewed attention and popularity in recent years, and for good reason. The health benefits of sauerkraut are multi-faceted, ranging from its nutritional value to its friendly bacteria strains that positively affect the immune system, digestion, mood, and even weight loss. Let’s examine the health benefits of sauerkraut and learn how we can make it at home.
The Basics of Sauerkraut
Sauerkraut is German for sour cabbage. The dish gains its distinctive sour taste due to the lactic acid formed during the process. Fermented cabbage may not be at the top of everyone’s list of favorite foods, but there are two big reasons why sauerkraut has remained a popular dish throughout its history.
First, sauerkraut has a long shelf life. Fermentation has been used for a long time as a method to preserve food, and sauerkraut offered an easy way for people to store extra food in case of a time of need.
Second, sauerkraut is full of all the nutrients cabbage contains and then some. In combination with how long people can safely keep it, the nutritional value of sauerkraut enabled people to add a good vegetable to their diet during the winter or to avoid scurvy during long sea voyages.
While we may not desperately need sauerkraut as a source of essential nutrition nowadays, this sour food can still boost your overall health and well-being.
Amazing Health Benefits of Sauerkraut
Its health benefits can be truly transformative. In this article, we delve into the five life-changing health benefits of sauerkraut. From digestion to immune support, discover how this simple food can make a significant impact on your well-being.
Sauerkraut is Nutritious
The nutritional value of sauerkraut is one of its many health benefits. According to the USDA, 1 cup of sauerkraut contains less than 1 g of fat but is packed with 4 g of fiber, 42 mg of calcium, 18 mg of magnesium, 28 g of phosphorus, 241 g of vitamin K, and almost 21 g of vitamin C. Though it is high in sodium, even a small portion can provide great benefits.
Fermented foods like sauerkraut are rich in probiotics, or live microorganisms that include good bacteria and yeasts. These probiotics help to enhance a fermented food’s nutritional qualities, meaning that sauerkraut has more vitamins and nutrients than raw cabbage does before fermentation. Fermentation also makes food more digestible, allowing your body to use the nutrients more effectively.
Boosts Your Immune System
The probiotics in fermented foods can play an important role in keeping us healthy. Did you know that your immune system is closely related to your gut health?
The microorganisms living in our gut, otherwise known as intestinal microbiota, can help prevent infections. Here’s how it works: the gastrointestinal tract has a mucous lining that acts as a barrier against unwanted antigens entering the body. The probiotics found in sauerkraut may aid in colonizing this barrier. They strengthen it, helping to keep pathogens out, thereby promoting a stronger immune system.
Many commercial probiotic supplements contain only a handful of good bacteria strains, but sauerkraut can have up to 28 distinct strains, offering more variety to the microbiota. Since having a healthy and diverse intestinal microbiota is directly related to intestinal health and immune health, sauerkraut is a great choice for promoting wellness.
If you do get sick, the probiotics found in sauerkraut have been shown to shorten the duration of illness. If you need to take antibiotics, sauerkraut can also be an important part of restoring a healthy gut flora, so you can get your immune system back to optimal functioning once again.
Improves Your Digestion
Improved digestion is another of the many health benefits of sauerkraut. Fermented foods contain enzymes that break food down into more easily digestible pieces and lactic acid that helps your body use nutrients more effectively.
What’s more, the fermentation process can remove or detoxify antinutrients that get in the way of digestion, such as lectins, tannins, and phytic acid.
Sauerkraut can ease other digestive problems as well. It can reduce bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea. It’s also been shown to help with inflammatory bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis and Chron’s disease.
Improves Your Mood
The health benefits of sauerkraut don’t stop in the intestinal tract- it can also improve your mood.
Your brain sends signals to your gut, but your gut can also talk to your brain. The regular use of probiotics, such as those found in sauerkraut, has been shown to affect brain activity and improve mental health. A healthy microbiota can help to reduce depression, stress, and anxiety.
Helps You Lose Weight
Sauerkraut is a nutritious, high-fiber, low-calorie food that may help you lose weight. Though better research is needed, studies have suggested that probiotics in food may reduce the amount of fat the body absorbs, increase insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance, reduce inflammation, and regulate appetite.
Additional Health Benefits of Sauerkraut
Sauerkraut can help you in the following ways:
- Increased vitamins: Sauerkraut contains essential vitamins and minerals — like Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Vitamin K, iron, potassium, and manganese, to name a few.
- Improved digestion: The fermentation process makes sauerkraut a great source of probiotics — helpful bacteria that improve digestive function. Probiotics make food more digestible and reduce indigestion and symptoms associated with inflammatory bowel disease.
- Improved immune health: Most of your immune system is found in your digestive tract, so when your guts are healthy, your immune system gets a boost. Your immune system also benefits from the Vitamin C in sauerkraut.
- Reduced inflammation: Healthy guts and a strong immune system can reduce inflammation throughout the body.
- Weight management: Sauerkraut is low in calories and high in fiber, which can help you feel fuller and reduce your overall calorie intake.
All told sauerkraut can help you get more nutrients, fight infection and disease more effectively, and improve your overall wellness. And while sauerkraut does contain a lot of salt, these natural salts in small amounts are also a health benefit of sauerkraut.
Is Sauerkraut Good For You?
Fermenting is a cheap and easy way to preserve food, but it’s also a great way to add additional nutrition to the diet. Sauerkraut is a traditional food that goes back generations, but many people wonder, “Is sauerkraut good for you?”
Sauerkraut contains probiotics and other beneficial compounds that boost health but it also contains a lot of salt like most ferments. Find out what this means for your health below.
Are there Vitamins in Sauerkraut? Nutrient Profile
Sauerkraut contains a number of nutrients that benefit the body according to published articles. The following list displays the percentage of the recommended daily value (RDV) of vitamins in sauerkraut, per cup:
- Cabbage is a natural source of Vitamin K1, providing 15 percent of the daily value (DV).
- Through the fermentation process, some of the Vitamin K1 in cabbage is transformed into Vitamin K2, which plays a crucial role in maintaining bone and dental health.
- Sauerkraut contains 23 percent of the DV for Vitamin C, an essential nutrient that supports the immune system.
- It also offers 11 percent of the DV for Vitamin B6, a key player in the metabolism of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, and in the production of red blood cells and neurotransmitters.
- With 9 percent of the DV for Folate, sauerkraut provides another important nutrient that serves functions similar to Vitamin B6. Folate is particularly significant during periods of rapid growth, such as pregnancy and childhood.
Sauerkraut also contains these minerals:
- Manganese (9 percent DV)
- Iron (12 percent DV)
- Copper (15 percent DV)
- Potassium (5 percent DV)
And if that’s not enough, sauerkraut also contains 4 grams of fiber, which is important for overall health and digestion.
Probiotics in Sauerkraut
The lacto-fermentation process encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria like Lactobacillus, Streptococcus, and Leuconostoc. These probiotics help you better digest the cabbage, help the body absorb the vitamins and minerals from the food, and improve the gut microbiome balance. The above systematic review concludes that probiotics in the diet help improve digestion, can slow or reverse disease, and help support the immune system.
Prebiotics in Sauerkraut
Prebiotics are food for probiotics. They’re starches that can’t be digested in the stomach and instead make it to the intestines to feed the beneficial bacteria there. This helps ensure that beneficial bacteria survive in the lower digestive tract where they are needed. Since 70 percent of the immune system resides in the gut, optimizing gut health is important for overall immune health.
Enzymes in Sauerkraut
Like most fermented food, sauerkraut contains digestive enzymes that help the body digest food better. This means your body can assimilate nutrients better and have less indigestion. Many health experts recommend including fermented foods in the diet for all of the health benefits they can provide.
Is Sauerkraut Healthy? What about the Salt Content?
If you’re wondering if sauerkraut is good for you because of the salt content, you’re not alone. There is a lot of salt in fermented foods. The salt helps prevent bad bacteria from growing while encouraging good bacteria. On average, one cup of sauerkraut contains 40 percent of your recommended daily value of sodium. However, how much salt is in sauerkraut isn’t a concern for most people because:
- Natural salts (like sea salt) aren’t as problematic as table salt. According to a study, natural salts contain trace minerals while refined table salt does not. These trace minerals contribute to foods tasting saltier with lower amounts of salt. The trace minerals also help keep minerals in the body in balance, improving health outcomes.
- Ferments are most often eaten in small amounts (less than 1 cup) so the sodium content is minimal.
- Recent evidence says that salt restriction may actually be harmful. According to a practitioner of integrative and functional medicine, “A low-salt diet may cause serious health consequences and higher overall mortality, especially in the presence of certain chronic health conditions and lifestyle factors.”
Speak with your doctor about whether salt restriction is right for you. If necessary, there are four ways to ferment vegetables without salt. Also, try a no-salt kimchi recipe.
How to Make Sauerkraut in a Jar
Now that you know more about the many health benefits of sauerkraut, it’s time to take advantage of them by learning to make your own at home! It’s easy, fun, and inexpensive to make.
First, finely chop the cabbage and put it in a bowl. Massage the cabbage with clean hands until it softens and releases its natural juices. Next, pack it into a jar, cover it with a saltwater brine, and use a Fermentools system to ensure a smooth fermentation process. After 2-6 weeks, your sauerkraut will be ready to consume and can be moved to cold storage.
See our basic sauerkraut recipe for full details.
In conclusion, sauerkraut proves to be a powerhouse of health benefits that can positively impact your life. Whether you're looking to boost your digestive health, strengthen your immune system, or improve your overall well-being, sauerkraut has much to offer. By incorporating this fermented delight into your diet, you can experience its transformative effects. If you have more questions about sauerkraut and its benefits, refer to the FAQs below.
Sauerkraut is rich in probiotics, which support a healthy gut microbiome. Consuming sauerkraut regularly can aid in digestion, improve nutrient absorption, and alleviate digestive issues.
While sauerkraut itself is low in calories, its probiotics and fiber content can promote a feeling of fullness, potentially assisting in weight management when incorporated into a balanced diet.
There are no strict guidelines, but including a small serving of sauerkraut in your daily meals can be beneficial. Start with a few tablespoons and adjust to your preference.
Sauerkraut's probiotics and vitamin C content contribute to a stronger immune system. The probiotics help balance immune responses, while vitamin C provides an extra defense against illnesses.