You know the old saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away?” Well, we’ve got a new one for you. Replace apple with “a couple of tablespoons of sauerkraut” and NOW we’re onto something!
Sure, we can talk numbers about how sauerkraut delivers on nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin K and fiber. And as a cruciferous veggie, cabbage sure contributes its share of cancer fighting properties. But the thing that really gets our nutrition meter buzzing is the incredible amount of probiotics contained in just a small amount of this fermented goldmine.
In the words of Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, MD, :
“With every mouthful of sauerkraut you’re consuming billions of beneficial microbes which will be killing the pathogens in your gut, driving them out and replenishing the beneficial flora in your digestive tract.”
Music to our ears!
Sauerkraut is made by a process called lacto-fermentation. It all starts with lactobacillus (the same bacteria found in yogurt), which is also found on the surface of cabbage leaves. When the cabbage is shredded, combined with salt, and then submerged in its own brine, the bacteria begin to convert the natural sugars and starches in the cabbage into lactic acid. Lactic acid then acts as a natural preservative that inhibits the growth of any harmful bacteria. As an FYI, naturally fermented sauerkraut does not contain vinegar, but gets its characteristically sour taste directly from the fermentation process.
Cultures around the world have been eating fermented foods for years, from sauerkraut in Germany to kimchi in Korea.
HERE ARE THE BENEFITS IN A NUTSHELL:
- Powerful probiotics: As mentioned above, sauerkraut and other fermented foods contain beneficial bacteria called probiotics. The “good” lactic acid bacteria in sauerkraut help improve immune function and the health of your digestive tract. Probiotics are also being studied for their role in everything from cancer and heart disease to arthritis and weight loss. Sauerkraut also contains large quantities of acetylcholine, which helps lower blood pressure.
- Improve digestion and absorption of your food: The beneficial bacteria that help ferment foods also are responsible for breaking down some of the components of these foods using enzymes people can’t produce on their own. That’s why we often suggest pairing a couple tablespoons of enzyme-rich sauerkraut WITH a meal, which will serve to increase the absorption of nutrients from all the foods you eat, especially protein-rich foods. In addition, sauerkraut can help promote peristalsis, the pulsing waves that move food through the digestive tract promoting regularity.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR:
Don’t expect your stadium hot dog or street vendor schnitzel to be using the right type of sauerkraut. Heat pasteurization destroys enzymes, vitamin C, probiotics and other beneficial properites. You want to look for sauerkraut that is raw and unpasteurized. When purchasing, avoid canned sauerkraut, pasteurized sauerkraut, or fully cooked sauerkraut, whose microorganisms have been killed by extended exposure to high heat.
You will likely need to venture into the health food store to find a decent brand. To keep the beneficial bacteria alive, it will be found in the refrigerated section. Also, be sure you read the label before you make your purchase. You do not want to see the word “pasteurized.” Some of our favorite brands include Bubbies and Wildbrine. Other good brands include Goldmine and Rejuvenate Foods and Karthein’s Organic (in Canada).
Of course, you can also make your own kraut, which is surprisingly easy. More on this in another post!
HOW TO ENJOY:
Easy to incorporate, all it takes is a few tablespoons daily, taken as a side dish with meals or added to salads. Here are some of our favorite ways we love to eat sauerkraut:
- Drop a couple tablespoons into a large leaf of Romaine lettuce that has been filled with a piece of rolled natural turkey breast and some avocado.
- Mix into cooked organic sausage and serve over a bed of sautéed greens.
- Toss into any cold salad for an extra kick and crunch.
- Make a salad dressing – see recipe below.
Krazy for Kraut Salad Dressing
Don’t waste the probiotic rich juice that is leftover in the jar when the sauerkraut is gone. Use it for dressing!
2 tablespoons sauerkraut juice
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2-1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
Add all ingredients to a glass jar with a lid and shake vigorously. Serve over salad.
We want to know: Do you enjoy fermented foods? Are they a part of your daily diet? Let us know!