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What is sauerkraut and is sauerkraut good for you?

Sauerkraut is so popular that an annual Sauerkraut festival is held in Waynesville, Ohio. As of 2017, Waynesville will be hosting its 48th Sauerkraut festival, where visitors can experience different recipes and uses of the fermented cabbage in a variety of dishes.

What is Sauerkraut?

Sauerkraut is, in essence, finely chopped pickled cabbage. What makes it so unique is the fermentation process it undergoes to achieve its distinct flavor. The combination of lactic acid bacterium, along with the natural sugar found in the cabbage, contributes to its unique taste.   

The origin of sauerkraut has yet to be defined. Although largely consumed in Germany, and previously considered to be a food originating in Germany or Eastern Europe, it is theorized that its roots go as far back as ancient Greece and Rome, with the health benefits of sauerkraut being praised in writings by Hippocrates. Despite the somewhat unclear origins of this kind of fermented cabbage, it is still wildly popular in Germany, and considered a staple of German food.

What does Sauerkraut Taste Like?

Sauerkraut yields a sour taste that many compare to that of vinegar. Regardless of whether it is cooked or raw, sauerkraut is will generally have this same tart flavor.

To celebrate the distinctive taste of sauerkraut, Waynesville, Ohio hosts an annual Sauerkraut Festival. This year, in 2017, they are holding their 48th celebration. Here, individuals can take advantage of various dishes that highlight the countless uses for sauerkraut.

Is Sauerkraut Good for You?

The juice in sauerkraut comes from the cabbage itself. The salt added to the shredded cabbage helps to pull the water out, creating a brine that is conducive to lactic acid bacterium growth.2

Yes, sauerkraut is good for you. Fermentation has been revered for centuries. Its ability to preserve foods for an extended period is highly celebrated, especially in developing countries. It maintains large quantities of foods and offers enriched flavors and vitamins.3 In fact, fermented foods have significant health benefits. So, as fermented foods become more popular and mainstream, one question begs to be asked: is sauerkraut healthy? Yes, it is. Aside from its popular and unique taste, it offers many advantageous benefits that make it more than ideal for consumption.

As mentioned prior, sauerkraut is a fermented food. The process by which it is fermented or pickled is similar to how conventional pickles are made. With sauerkraut, cabbage is thinly sliced, covered with salt and left alone to undergo fermentation. The salt draws the liquid from the cabbage which creates conditions conducive to the growth of lactic acid bacterium.2

The production of lactic acid during the fermentation process creates a copious number of good bacteria that are advantageous for our digestive systems.4 These bacteria provide supportive enzymes and healthy microorganisms that help digest food better.

According to research, this same bacterium that can be found in probiotic foods can assist in warding off illnesses.4 A theorized correlation has been found between gut health, inflammation, allergies, and autoimmune disorders.4

However, experts note that commercial sauerkraut tends to lose its healthful benefits after pasteurization. Many suggest making homemade sauerkraut to ensure that the actual benefits of sauerkraut are received.

Does sauerkraut cause gas?

Yes, it has been stated that eating a substantial amount of sauerkraut can cause bloating and subsequently an increase in gas.

Can Sauerkraut go bad?

Although a fermented food, sauerkraut can still spoil. It is best to keep it stored in the refrigerator. Keeping it in the fridge minimizes its exposure to the harmful bacterium that can accelerate its spoiling process.

Sauerkraut nutrition and sauerkraut health benefits

With probiotics, fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K and Iron, sauerkraut is a nutritious food that comes in at only 19 calories per 100g.

Sauerkraut Health Benefits

The benefits of eating sauerkraut are quite profound. They include:

1. Probiotic Properties
2. Cancer Fighting Activity
3. Vitamin C Content
4. Vitamin K Content
5. Fiber Content
6. Iron Content

Continue reading below for a further explanation of each benefit.

Probiotic Properties: One of the most discussed health benefits of sauerkraut is its probiotic content. It improves gut bacteria and encourages the growth of only beneficial microorganisms in the digestive system. Our gut health plays a significant role in the overall health of our bodies. Maintaining a healthy gut flora is crucial to our health, and aids in combating harmful microbes, and even preventing diseases like some cancers.5

Consuming sauerkraut juice is one of the many ways individuals can take advantage of its benefits. The juice also contains the same probiotic benefits found in sauerkraut. Other popular ways to is to reap its benefits are adding sauerkraut to eggs, or as a topper for your favorite cracker.

Cancer Fighting Activity: Research has indicated that the process of making sauerkraut (fermenting the cabbage) adds tremendously to the existing cancer-fighting capabilities in cabbage. In regards to its probiotic nature, the microorganisms produced during fermentation are enriched with properties that may combat mouth, stomach, throat and colorectal cancers. Another beneficial nutrient in sauerkraut is beta-carotene, which has also been identified as a cancer-fighting compound.6

Vitamin C: Vitamin C is recognized as an antioxidant in the body that inhibits oxidization and the production of harmful free-radicals in the body. It has also been revered for its assistance in the production of collagen. Vitamin C also aids in fighting colds, heart diseases, stroke and cancer.7  

Vitamin K: Vitamin K shares a role in bone mineral density and proteins.8 Deficiency of Vitamin K in the diet poses a higher threat of hip fractures.8

Fiber: The list of benefits for fiber is quite extensive. A diet high in fiber decreases the likelihood of diabetes, stroke, heart diseases, and illnesses concerning the stomach, intestines, esophagus and other elements of the digestive system. It also helps reduce the risk of hypertension and obesity. Consuming foods high in fiber may help lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and help with insulin sensitivity in the body.9

Iron: This nutrient is crucial to the body as it encourages the production of the protein hemoglobin, which is a component of red blood cells.10 The role of hemoglobin is to transport oxygen.10

Sauerkraut Nutrition

The sauerkraut nutrition in a typical 100g serving of canned sauerkraut offers:

Protein: 0.91g
Fat: 0.14g
Carbs: 4.28g
Fiber: 2.9g
It also offers 30mg of calcium, 1.47 mg of iron, 14.7mg of Vitamin C, 13 mg of Vitamin K, and 24µg (micrograms) of folate.12

Though full of nutrition, commercial sauerkraut can also be high in sodium. By making sauerkraut at home, you can control the sodium content by using less salt to create the brine.

In the same 100g serving, there are also only 19 calories in sauerkraut. It is important to note that the canned varieties of sauerkraut are higher in salt content and stand at 661 grams of sodium per 100 gram serving, 27% of your daily value. For this very reason, many experts suggest that sauerkraut lovers ferment their own cabbage to receive its health benefits to help limit the high intake of salt.12

Scientific Research Referenced in this Article

  1. Raak, C., Ostermann, T., Boehm, K., & Molsberger, F. (2014). Regular Consumption of Sauerkraut and Its Effect on Human Health: A Bibliometric Analysis. Global Advances in Health and Medicine3(6), 12-18. DOI: 7453/gahmj.2014.038
  2. National Research Council (US) Panel on the Applications of Biotechnology to Traditional Fermented Foods. Applications of Biotechnology to Fermented Foods: Report of an Ad Hoc Panel of the Board on Science and Technology for International Development. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 1992. 5, Lactic Acid Fermentations.Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK234703/
  3. Steinkraus, K. (1994). Nutritional significance of fermented foods. Food Research International27(3), 259-267. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/0963-9969(94)90094-9
  4. Discover the Digestive Benefits of Fermented Foods – Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter Article. (2017). tufts.edu. Retrieved 9 November 2017, from https://www.nutritionletter.tufts.edu/issues/10_2/current-articles/Discover-the-Digestive-Benefits-of-Fermented-Foods_1383-1.htm
  5. Guarner, F., & Malagelada, J. R. (2003). Gut flora in health and disease. The Lancet361(9356), 512-519. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(03)12489-0
  6. Simoloaka, A., & Bhikha, R. (2017). Four Foods That Fight Cancerco.za. Retrieved 9 November 2017, from https://tibb.co.za/articles/Four-foods-that-fight-cancer1.pdf
  7. Naidu, K. (2003). Vitamin C in human health and disease is still a mystery? An overview. Nutrition Journal2(1). http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1475-2891-2-7
  8. Feskanich, D., Weber, P., Willett, W., Rockett, H., Booth, S., & Colditz, G. (2017). Vitamin K intake and hip fractures in women: a prospective studynutrition.org. Retrieved 9 November 2017, from http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/69/1/74.short
  9. James W Anderson, Pat Baird, Richard H Davis, Jr, Stefanie Ferreri, Mary Knudtson, Ashraf Koraym, Valerie Waters, Christine L Williams; Health benefits of dietary fiber,Nutrition Reviews, Volume 67, Issue 4, 1 April 2009, Pages 188–205, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00189.x
  10. Iron in diet: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. (2017). gov. Retrieved 9 November 2017, from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002422.htm
  11. Myoglobin: The Test. (2017). org. Retrieved 9 November 2017, from https://labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/myoglobin/tab/test
  12. Food Composition Databases Show Foods — Sauerkraut, canned, solids and liquids. (2017). nal.usda.gov. Retrieved 9 November 2017, from – View Reference