8 Amazing Benefits You Get From Sauerkraut!
I was first introduced to sauerkraut in the 1960s at school lunch, and if you’ve ever had that stuff, you’ll know why it took me so long to give it a try! The stuff in school came in cans and tasted like spoiled cabbage! But, the quality of the sauerkraut you can buy, or even better make, is not only tasty, but it’s also very nutritious!
Sauerkraut is a type of fermented cabbage that is believed to have originated in China more than 2,000 years ago. Back then, fermentation was one method used to keep foods from spoiling quickly. Sauerkraut has survived the test of time to become a popular side dish and condiment. It is especially liked in Germany where its name comes originates.
1. Sauerkraut Is Very Nutritious
Sauerkraut contains many nutrients that are needed for optimal health. A one cup serving provides you:
- 27 Calories
- No Fat
- 7 grams of carbs
- 4 grams of fiber
- 1 gram of protein
- 39% of the RDI (recommend daily intake) for sodium
- 35% of the RDI for Vitamin C
- 23% of the RDI for vitamin K
- 12% of the RDI for iron
- 11% of the RDI for manganese
- 9% of the RDI for vitamin B6
- 9% of the RDI for folate
- 7% of the RDI for copper
- 7% of the RDI for potassium
Sauerkraut is so nutritious because it is fermented. The fermentation is the process of microorganisms on the cabbage digesting its natural sugars and converting them into carbon dioxide and organic acids. The fermentation starts when yeast and bacteria that are naturally present on the cabbage, your hands, and in the air come into contact with the sugars in the cabbage. This creates conditions that promote the growth of beneficial probiotics, which are also found in other fermented foods like yogurt and kefir.
The one caution about sauerkraut is the sodium content. You may need to watch this if you’re limiting your sodium intake.
2. Sauerkraut May Improve Your Digestion
Sauerkraut contains probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that act as the first line of defense against toxins and harmful bacteria. They can also improve your digestion and overall health. Probiotics can help improve the bacterial balance in your gut after it’s been disturbed by the use of antibiotics. This can help reduce or prevent antibiotic-provoked diarrhea.
Different probiotic strains may also provide different advantages. You should consume a wide variety of strains to you receive a broader range of health benefits. Research has reported that one serving of sauerkraut may contain up to 28 distinct bacterial strains.
Like most other fermented foods, sauerkraut also contains a variety of enzymes, which help break down nutrients into smaller, more easily digestible molecules.
3. Sauerkraut May Boost Your Immune System
Sauerkraut is a great source of immune-boosting probiotics and nutrients. For starters, the bacteria that populate your gut can have a strong influence on your immune systems. The probiotics found in sauerkraut help to improve the balance of the bacteria in your gut, which keeps your gut lining healthy. Regularly consuming probiotic-rich foods, like sauerkraut, may reduce your risk of developing infections such as the common cold and urinary tract infections.
In addition to being a source of probiotics, sauerkraut is also rich in Vitamin C and iron; both contribute to a healthy immune system. In particular, upping your Vitamin C intake when you have a cold may help you get rid of symptoms quicker.
4. Sauerkraut May Help You Lose Weight
Sauerkraut is a vegetable, and like most vegetables, it is low in calories and high in fiber. High-fiber diets keep you fuller longer, which may help you naturally reduce the number of calories you eat each day. Sauerkraut’s high probiotic content can also contribute to a trimmer waistline.
The exact reasons aren’t fully understood, but scientists believe that probiotics may have the ability to reduce the amount of fat your body absorbs from your diet.
A recent study even suggests that purposely overfed participants given probiotics gained about 50% less body fat than overfed participants given a placebo. This suggests that a probiotic-rich diet may even help prevent weight gain. As always, your results may be different. More research is needed to determine the effectiveness of sauerkraut-specific probiotic strains on weight loss.
5. Sauerkraut Helps Reduce Stress and Maintain Brain Health
If you’re like a lot of people, your mood will affect what you eat, but did you know the reverse is also thought to be true? What you eat can affect your mood and brain function. An increasing number of studies are showing an intimate connection between your gut and brain. Researchers have found that the type of bacteria in your gut may have the ability to send messages to your brain. For instance, fermented, probiotic-rich foods such as sauerkraut contribute to the creation of healthy gut flora, which has been shown to help reduce stress and maintain brain health.
Probiotics have been found to help improve memory and lower symptoms of anxiety, depression, autism, and even obsessive-compulsive disorder.
With all the above, some researchers warn that compounds in sauerkraut may interact with some medications prescribed to treat depression, anxiety disorders, and Parkinson’s disease. If you’re taking these medications, check with your medical professional before adding sauerkraut to your diet.
Sauerkraut May Reduce The Risk Of Certain Cancers
The main ingredient in sauerkraut, cabbage, contains antioxidants and other beneficial plant compounds that may help reduce the risk of certain cancers. Researchers believe these compounds may help reduce DNA damage, prevent cell mutations, and block the excessive cell growth that typically leads to tumor development. The fermentation process of the cabbage may also create particular plant compounds thought to help destroy precancerous cells.
One study, researchers observed that women who ate a lot of cabbage and sauerkraut from their teens into adulthood had a reduced risk of breast cancer. The women consuming more than three servings per week had a 72% lower risk of breast cancer than those who ate less than 1.5 servings per week.
Another recent study in men shows cabbage had similar effects on the risk of prostate cancer.
The number of studies is limited, and not all studies found the same results. More studies are needed before strong conclusions can be made.
7. Sauerkraut May Promote Heart Health
Sauerkraut contains a good amount of fiber and probiotics, both of which may help reduce cholesterol levels. Probiotics, like those found in sauerkraut, may also help lower blood pressure slightly.
Sauerkraut is one of the rare plant sources of menaquinone, more commonly called vitamin K2. This vitamin is believed to help reduce heart disease by preventing calcium deposits from accumulating in the arteries. In one study, regular intake of vitamin-K2-rich foods was linked to a 57% lower risk of dying from heart disease over the 7-10 year study period.
For reference, 1 cup of sauerkraut contains about 6.6 mcg of vitamin K2.
8. Sauerkraut Contributes To Stronger Bones
Sauerkraut contains vitamin K2 (see above), which plays an important role in bone health. Vitamin K2 activates two proteins whose function is to bind calcium, the number one mineral found in bones. This is thought to contribute to stronger, healthier bones. One three-year study in postmenopausal women observed that those taking vitamin K2 supplements experienced a slower age-related loss in bone mineral density. Several other studies have reported that taking vitamin K2 supplements reduced the risk of spine, hip, and non-spine fractures by 60-81%.
It is important to note, some of these studies used supplements to provide very high doses of vitamin K2. Thus, it’s unknown whether the vitamin K2 you’d get from eating sauerkraut alone would provide the same benefits.
What Does It All Mean?
It appears that sauerkraut can help your health in many ways. More research is needed in many areas to determine how much it will help. But, it is a tasty side-dish or condiment that you can enjoy.
When you’re buying it in the store:
- Avoid pasteurized varieties. Pasteurization calls the beneficial probiotics. Refrigerated varieties are less likely to be pasteurized, but check to make sure.
- Avoid preservations. Many store-bought sauerkraut brands contain preservatives, which may lower the probiotic count.
- Avoid added sugars. Sauerkraut should only contain two basic ingredients: cabbage and salt. Some may also add extra vegetables like carrots and garlic but avoid those that add sugar or anything else to the mix.
Instead of buying sauerkraut in a store, making it at home is easy. Follow this link to a Google search for recipes.