Sauerkraut is a form of fermented cabbage with a distinctive sour flavor. It is a popular side dish in different global cultures. However, it is more cherished in Germany and remains one of the most famous national dishes. Sauerkraut is also consumed in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, France, the Baltic States, and the United States.
Sauerkraut is raw cabbage that has been shredded and fermented using the lactic acid bacteria found in the vegetable. The process increases the shelf-life, improves the flavor, and enriches the nutritional profile of raw cabbage.
Six Amazing Health Benefits of Sauerkraut
There is often a debate about whether sauerkraut is good for the body or not. Exploring the health benefits of this side dish can help answer this question. To begin with, Lacto-fermentation makes sauerkraut more nutritious than raw cabbage. In particular, the process improves the bioavailability of specific nutrients such as iron. The high content of probiotics, fiber, vitamins, and minerals further makes sauerkraut healthy. These nutritional components account for the various health benefits of this fermented food.
Sauerkraut contributes to better gut health
Subjecting raw cabbage to fermentation when producing sauerkraut leads to an increase in different lactic acid bacteria. These microbes act as probiotics and help increase the beneficial bacteria found in the gut.
A good balance of the gut microbiome contributes to better gut health. It helps eradicate harmful bacteria and the toxins that cause gastrointestinal disorders. The good bacteria in sauerkraut further help improve digestion. As a result, sauerkraut reduces the risk of constipation, diarrhea, and bloating.
Sauerkraut also contains large quantities of probiotics. Current evidence shows that every gram of sauerkraut contains 108 colony-forming units (CFUs) of healthy microorganisms. Therefore, sauerkraut is better than a number of probiotic supplements on the market.
Sauerkraut regularly promotes weight loss
Consuming sauerkraut provides fiber, which plays a critical role in weight management. The high fiber content keeps you satisfied for longer. As a result, it reduces appetite levels and the number of calories consumed at a given time.
In addition, sauerkraut helps with weight loss because it provides fewer calories than raw cabbage. According to USDA, 100 grams of sauerkraut supplies 17 calories, while raw cabbage adds 25 calories to the diet. This makes sauerkraut a better weight-loss meal than raw cabbage.
Unpasteurized sauerkraut also provides an adequate amount of probiotics. As a result, it helps maintain a healthy gut microbiome and suppresses lipid absorption in the small intestines. This makes unpasteurized sauerkraut a good weight-loss solution.
Sauerkraut improves brain and mental health
Sauerkraut also helps promote microbial balance in the gut and boosts mental and brain health. In fact, consuming this food can lead to a better mood. It can also reduce stress by enhancing bidirectional communication in the gut-brain axis. This is possible because a wide range of nerves and neurons in the gut connect directly to the brain. Thus, eating sauerkraut can prevent anxiety and depression. It can also help improve psychiatric outcomes for a few more disorders.
Sauerkraut contributes to a healthier heart
Adding sauerkraut to the diet further helps boost heart health. The fiber and probiotics promote gut microbial balance.
Then, the good gut bacteria release certain chemicals that get absorbed into the bloodstream. These chemicals activate the receptors found in blood vessels, reducing blood pressure. Proper blood pressure control leads to a healthy heart and better cardiovascular outcomes.
At the same time, the probiotics in sauerkraut improve heart health by suppressing lipid absorption. This reduces the total cholesterol concentration in the serum, positively impacting heart health.
Sauerkraut helps prevent cancer
Lacto-fermentation produces compounds with cancer-fighting properties. These chemicals inhibit the growth of cancerous cells in the body. This means that consuming sauerkraut can help in cancer prevention.
Sauerkraut also has a high content of ascorbigen, glucosinolates, and ascorbic acid. These compounds help minimize DNA damage and cell mutations. Thus, they give sauerkraut its protective effects against cancer.
Tips for Making and Eating Sauerkraut
Sauerkraut production should occur at the right fermentation temperature and salt concentration for a better flavor, aroma, texture, and preservability.
Traditionally, sauerkraut production happens at 18°C and proceeds for about a month. The process can occur at a higher temperature and may even reduce the production period. However, producing sauerkraut at a higher temperature leads to poor-quality sauerkraut.
It is advisable to use a 2·5% salt concentration to produce the best quality sauerkraut. It guarantees optimal conditions for lactic acid bacteria and helps produce safe and flavorful sauerkraut.
Precautions and side effects of eating sauerkraut
One should avoid consuming a lot of sauerkraut in one sitting because it can cause bloating and flatulence. Raffinose, a non-digestible trisaccharide found in sauerkraut, is often responsible for stomach problems.
Beyond this, the high sodium content in sauerkraut might have detrimental health effects. It can cause problems for people with hypertension and others with conditions requiring low salt intake.