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.
Is Sauerkraut Good For You? Health Benefits of Sauerkraut
Studies show that fermented foods can have a positive impact on many functions in the body from heart health to digestion, to mental clarity, according to a 2019 systematic review. These benefits stem from the important health-boosting compounds fermented foods contain:
Are there Vitamins in Sauerkraut? Nutrient Profile
Sauerkraut contains a number of nutrients that benefit the body according to an article on Healthline. The following list displays the percentage of the recommended daily value (RDV) of vitamins in sauerkraut, per cup:
- Vitamin K1 (15 percent DV) – cabbage naturally contains vitamin K1.
- Vitamin K2 (no official DV) – the fermentation process converts some K1 into K2 which is important for bone and teeth health.
- Vitamin C (23 percent DV) – important for the immune system.
- Vitamin B6 (11 percent DV) – a key nutrient in protein, fat, and carbohydrate metabolism and the production of red blood cells and neurotransmitters.
- Folate (9 percent DV) – also important for some of the same functions as B6, folate is incredibly important 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 2010 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 an article by Chris Kresser, 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.
Is Sauerkraut Really Good for You?
For the most part, sauerkraut is good for you! It’s a delicious food that offers many health benefits to the body such as improved digestion, improved nutrient assimilation, and a healthier immune system. The salt content is not necessarily something to be concerned about, but if you are, there are ways to reduce the salt in your ferments and still reap the other benefits of sauerkraut.
Mindy Wood is a writer, wife, mother, and homesteader, living in the beautiful mountains of New Hampshire. She writes at PurposefullySimple.com where she shows people how to live more self reliant and healthy lives by growing their own food and learning other homesteading skills.