8 Surprising benefits of sauerkraut (more how to do it)

Sauerkraut is a type of fermented cabbage with important health benefits.

It is believed to have originated in China more than 2,000 years ago. At that time, fermentation was one of the methods used to prevent food from spoiling quickly (1).

Sauerkraut survived the test of time to become a popular accompaniment and condiment in many cultures. It is especially appreciated in Germany, where its name comes from.

Due to the fermentation it undergoes, sauerkraut offers nutrition and health benefits that go far beyond those of fresh cabbage.

This article describes eight health benefits of sauerkraut, and provides a step-by-step guide on how to make yours.

1. Sauerkraut is very nutritious

Sauerkraut contains many important nutrients for optimal health. One cup (142 grams) provides you (2):

  • Calories: 27

  • Grease: 0 grams

  • Carbohydrates: 7 grams

  • Fiber: 4 grams

  • Protein: 1 gram

  • Sodium: 39% of the RDI

  • Vitamin C: 35% of the RDI

  • Vitamin K: 23% of the RDI

  • Iron: 12% of the RDI

  • Manganese: 11% of the RDI

  • Vitamin B6: 9% of the RDI

  • Folate 9% of the RDI

  • Copper: 7% of the RDI

  • Potassium: 7% of the RDI

Sauerkraut is particularly nutritious because it is fermented.

The fermentation of sauerkraut is the process of microorganisms in cabbage that digest their natural sugars and convert them into carbon dioxide and organic acids.

The fermentation begins when the yeast and the bacteria that are naturally present in the cabbage, their hands and in the air come in contact with the sugars of the cabbage.

The fermentation of sauerkraut creates conditions that promote the growth of beneficial probiotics, which are also found in products such as yogurt and kefir (3).

Probiotics are bacteria that provide powerful health benefits. They also help make foods more digestible, which increases your bowel's ability to absorb the vitamins and minerals they contain (4, 5). This is what makes sauerkraut more nutritious than raw cabbage or coleslaw.

However, unlike cabbage, sauerkraut can be high in sodium. Keep this in mind if you are watching your salt intake.

Summary: Sauerkraut is rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals. Your probiotics also help your body absorb these nutrients more easily.

2. Improve your digestion

It is said that your intestine contains more than 100 trillion microorganisms or "intestinal flora", which is more than 10 times the total number of cells in your body (6).

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 your overall health (4, 7, 8).

Probiotics like those found in sauerkraut can help improve the bacterial balance in your intestine after being disturbed by the use of antibiotics. This can help reduce or prevent diarrhea caused by antibiotics (9, 10, 11).

Research also shows that probiotics help reduce gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea and symptoms related to Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis (12, 13, 14, 15).

Most foods and supplements rich in probiotics contain 5 to 10 billion colony-forming units (CFU) per serving. In comparison, 1 cup of sauerkraut contains about 3 billion CFU (3).

However, according to some non-scientific sources, some types of sauerkraut can contain much higher amounts.

Different probiotic strains can also provide different advantages. Therefore, consuming a wide variety of strains can provide a wider range of health benefits.

In this aspect, the sauerkraut may have the advantage. Research has reported that a portion can contain up to 28 different bacterial strains (16).

Like most other fermented foods, sauerkraut also contains a variety of enzymes, which help break down nutrients into smaller, more easily digestible molecules (4).

Summary: Sauerkraut is a great source of probiotics, which provide many health benefits. It also contains enzymes that help the body absorb nutrients more easily.

3. Strengthens your immune system

Sauerkraut is a rich source of probiotics and nutrients that stimulate the immune system.

For starters, the bacteria that populate your intestine can have a strong influence on your immune system. The probiotics found in sauerkraut help improve the balance of bacteria in your gut, which keeps your intestinal lining healthy.

A stronger intestinal lining helps prevent unwanted substances from leaking into your body and provokes an immune response (17, 18, 19, 20).

Maintaining a healthy intestinal flora also helps prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and can even increase the production of natural antibodies (21, 22, 23, 24).

In addition, regular consumption of foods rich in probiotics such as sauerkraut can reduce your risk of developing infections such as the common cold and urinary tract infections (25, 26, 27, 28).

If you get sick, regularly consuming foods rich in probiotics can help you recover faster and could reduce your chance of needing antibiotics by approximately 33% (27, 28, 29).

In addition to being a rich source of probiotics, sauerkraut is also rich in vitamin C and iron, which contribute to a healthy immune system (30, 31, 32, 33).

In particular, increasing your vitamin C intake when you have the common cold can help you get rid of symptoms more quickly (34, 35).

Summary: Sauerkraut is rich in probiotics, vitamin C and iron, all three contribute to a stronger immune system.

4. It can help you lose weight

Consuming regular sauerkraut can help you lose weight and not get it back.

This is partly because sauerkraut, like most vegetables, is low in calories and high in fiber. Fiber-rich diets keep you full for longer, which can help you naturally reduce the amount of calories you consume each day (36, 37, 38, 39).

The high probiotic content of sauerkraut can also contribute to a shorter waistline.

The exact reasons are not yet fully understood, but scientists believe that probiotics may have the ability to reduce the amount of fat your body absorbs from your diet (40, 41)

Several studies report that participants who received food or supplements rich in probiotics lost more weight than those who received a placebo (42, 43, 44).

A recent study even reports that deliberately overfed participants who received probiotics gained around 50% less body fat than overfed participants who received a placebo. This suggests that a diet rich in probiotics may even help prevent weight gain (45).

However, these results are not universal. In addition, different probiotic strains can have different effects. Therefore, more research is needed to determine the effectiveness of specific probiotic strains of sauerkraut in weight loss (46, 47).

Summary: The low-calorie, high-fiber, and probiotic content of Sauerkraut can help prevent weight gain and promote unwanted body fat loss.

5. Helps reduce stress and maintain brain health

While your mood may affect what you eat, you also believe that the opposite is true. What you eat can affect your mood and brain function.

A growing number of studies are discovering an intimate connection between the intestine and the brain.

They have found that the type of bacteria present in their gut may have the ability to send messages to their brain, influencing the way they function and perceive the world (48, 49, 50).

For example, fermented foods rich in probiotics, such as sauerkraut, contribute to the creation of a healthy intestinal flora, which according to research can help reduce stress and maintain brain health (51, 52, 53, 54).

It has been found that probiotics help improve memory and reduce the symptoms of anxiety, depression, autism and even obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) (49).

Sauerkraut can also maintain brain health by increasing the intestinal absorption of minerals that regulate mood, such as magnesium and zinc (48).

That said, some researchers caution that sauerkraut compounds may interact with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), a type of medication prescribed to treat depression, anxiety disorders, and Parkinson's disease (55, 56).

People who take these medications should consult their doctor before adding sauerkraut to their diet.

Summary: Sauerkraut promotes healthy intestinal flora and can increase the absorption of minerals that regulate the mood of your diet. Both help reduce stress and maintain brain health.

6. Can reduce the risk of certain cancers

Cabbage, the main ingredient in sauerkraut, contains antioxidants and other beneficial compounds for plants that can help reduce the risk of certain types of cancer.

The researchers believe that these compounds can help reduce DNA damage, prevent cell mutations and block excessive cell growth that generally leads to tumor development (56, 57, 58).

The process of fermentation of cabbage can also create particular plant compounds that are believed to help destroy precancerous cells (59, 60).

It is believed that certain carcinogens become cancer-causing after being "activated" by particular enzymes.

Two recent studies suggest that cabbage and sauerkraut juice may help prevent the development of cancer by reducing the production of these carcinogenic activating enzymes (61, 62, 63).

In another study, the researchers observed that women who ate a lot of cabbage and sauerkraut from their teens to adulthood had a reduced risk of breast cancer.

Women who consumed 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 (64).

A recent study in men shows that cabbage had similar effects on the risk of prostate cancer (65).

However, the number of studies is limited and not all studies found the same results. Therefore, more are needed before reaching solid conclusions.

Summary: Sauerkraut contains beneficial plant compounds that can help prevent cancer cells from developing and spreading.

7. Can promote heart health

Sauerkraut can contribute to a healthier heart.

This is because it contains a good amount of fiber and probiotics, which can help reduce cholesterol levels (66, 67, 68, 69).

Probiotics, such as those found in sauerkraut, can also help to slightly lower blood pressure. People seem to achieve the best results when they take at least 10 million CFU per day for more than eight weeks (70).

In addition, sauerkraut is one of the rare plant sources of menaquinone, more commonly known as vitamin K2.

It is believed that vitamin K2 helps reduce heart disease by preventing calcium deposits from accumulating in the arteries (71).

In one study, regular intake of foods rich in vitamin K2 was associated with a 57% lower risk of dying from heart disease during the study period of 7 to 10 years (72).

In another, women reduced their risk of heart disease by 9% for every 10 mcg of vitamin K2 they consumed per day (73).

For reference, 1 cup of sauerkraut contains approximately 6.6 mcg of vitamin K2 (74).

Summary: The content of fiber, probiotics and vitamin K2 in sauerkraut can help reduce cholesterol levels, slight improvements in blood pressure and a lower overall risk of heart disease.

8. Contributes to stronger bones

Sauerkraut contains vitamin K2, which plays an important role in bone health.

More specifically, vitamin K2 activates two proteins whose function is to bind calcium, the main mineral found in bones (75, 76).

It is believed that this contributes to stronger and healthier bones. In fact, several studies have shown that vitamin K2 can benefit bone health.

For example, a three-year study in postmenopausal women found that people who take vitamin K2 supplements experienced a slower age-related loss in bone mineral density (77).

Similarly, several other studies have reported that taking vitamin K2 supplements reduced the risk of spine, hip, and non-spinal fractures by 60-81% (78).

However, some of these studies used supplements to provide very high doses of vitamin K2. Therefore, it is not known if the vitamin K2 that you would get from eating sauerkraut alone would provide the same benefits.

Summary: Sauerkraut contains vitamin K2, a nutrient that promotes healthier and stronger bones.

How to buy Sauerkraut

You can find sauerkraut easily in most supermarkets, but not all types you will find will be the same.

To make sure you get the most out of the sauerkraut bought in the store, try to keep these simple tips in mind:

  • Avoid pasteurized varieties: Commercial sauerkraut is usually pasteurized, a process that kills beneficial probiotics. Chilled varieties are less likely to be pasteurized, but be sure to check the label.

  • Avoid preservatives: Many brands of sauerkraut purchased in the store contain preservatives, which can decrease the probiotic count.

  • Avoid added sugars: Sauerkraut should only contain two basic ingredients: cabbage and salt. Some varieties can also add extra vegetables, but avoid those that add sugar or anything else to the mix.

Alternatively, to make sure you get all the health benefits of sauerkraut, you can do it yourself.

Summary: You will get most of the benefits of shop-bought sauerkraut by opting for unpasteurized varieties that do not contain added sugars or preservatives.

How to make your own sauerkraut

Making sauerkraut is easy, simple and cheap. That is how:

Basic sauerkraut

The ingredients

  • 1 medium green cabbage

  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of non-iodized salt

  • 2-3 carrots, grated (optional)

  • 2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped (optional)

Have a 1-quart (1 liter) bottle ready to hold the sauerkraut, a smaller 4-ounce bottle (120 ml) to press it on, and a kitchen scale to weigh your cabbage mixture.


  1. If you want to add carrots and garlic, start by placing them in a large bowl.

  2. Discard the outer leaves of your cabbage, leaving aside a prettier leaf. Then, cut the cabbage into quarters, leaving the core inside. This facilitates crushing.

  3. Mash the cabbage quarters in the large bowl with the carrot and garlic mixture. Add enough cabbage to bring the total weight to 28 oz (800 grams), which will fit into a 1-quart jar (1 liter).

  4. Add salt and massage the cabbage mixture for a few minutes until the brine begins to accumulate in the bottom of your container.

  5. Place the cabbage mixture in a clean 1-quart (1 liter) container, pressing down to get rid of the air pockets. Pour the remaining brine into the jar. The air in the bottle allows bad bacteria to grow, so make sure the mixture is completely submerged.

  6. Use the cabbage leaf you reserved earlier and cut it to the size of the opening in your jar. Place it in the jar over the mixture to prevent vegetables from floating on the surface.

  7. Place a 4 oz jelly jar without a lid inside the larger jar, on top of the mixture. This will keep the vegetable mixture below the brine during fermentation.

  8. Screw the lid onto your 1-quart jar (1 liter). Press the jelly jar down, keeping the cabbage mixture under the brine. Leave the lid slightly loose, which will allow the gases to escape during the fermentation process.

  9. Keep at room temperature and out of direct sunlight for 1 to 4 weeks.

Keep in mind that the larger the head of cabbage you start with, the sweeter and better your sauerkraut will taste.

If you are impatient to try your creation, you can do so after at least seven days. The longer you allow it to ferment, the stronger the taste will be.

Here are some additional sauerkraut recipes:

  • Beet Sauerkraut

  • Dilly delight of sauerkraut

  • Kimchi-style sauerkraut

Summary: Follow the steps above to make your own cheap and tasty sauerkraut at home.

The bottom line

Sauerkraut is incredibly nutritious and healthy.

It provides probiotics and vitamin K2, both known for their health benefits, as well as many other nutrients.

Eating sauerkraut can help strengthen your immune system, improve your digestion, reduce the risk of certain diseases and even help you lose weight.

To maximize the benefits, try eating some sauerkraut every day.

Reference: https: //www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-sauerkraut


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