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Sauerkraut is one of the oldest and most popular fermented foods. Even though sauerkraut is German for "sour cabbage", it actually originated in China thousands of years ago! It’s a very sensible superfood because when the cooler months hit, sauerkraut was a reliable source of nutrients when fresh fruits and veggies were scarce because no one had a refrigerator back then.
(And yes, I've been eating a LOT of sauerkraut here in Austria – it's on pretty much every plate of food when we eat out at restaurants. Follow along with my adventures on Instagram!)
Sauerkraut is one of those foods that's often considered mysterious because many people have no idea how it's made and assume it's a rather complicated process. I used to be intimidated by it (just like I was once intimidated to make my own yogurt !) until I made it for myself. I'm here to bust that myth and tell you how incredibly easy it is!
Once you see the process in my video, you'll realize sauerkraut is the furthest thing from mysterious.
I guess the mystique comes from the fact that it’s quite magical how the bacteria transform raw cabbage into a delicious and tangy kraut that's a superfood for your gut health. Superfoods for gut health benefit your microbiome , which impacts every system in your body from your immunity to your metabolism. Kraut is great for kids, too, and supports their microbiome as well! My daughter Vienna absolutely loves it as a side dish.
I talk about the health benefits of kraut in my video, as well as how to enjoy it, but I've written a more comprehensive summary below.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF SAUERKRAUT
Gut health: Rich in live probiotics that support your whole-body health such as Leuconostoc mesenteroides, Lactobacillus plantarum (this strain is in the kiddie probiotic that I give to Vienna every day), Pediococcus pentosaceus, and Lactobacillus brevis. More recent studies have uncovered even more bacteria than these four strains but it will also depend on a variety of other factors. My sauerkraut may differ from the kraut you make in, say, Hawaii, that's because of the temp in your home, the cabbage you’re using, etc.
But why does this matter? These various strains of probiotics help make foods more digestible and increase your gut’s ability to
The more diverse the bacteria in your gut, the healthier your body, which is why consuming fermented foods is an excellent addition to supporting the health of your microbiome.
Immune health: The probiotics, vitamin C, iron and hundreds of phytonutrients in sauerkraut enhance your immune system. 80% of your immunity resides in your gut so the bacteria that live there can either dampen or enhance your immune system. This is because they maintain the integrity of the intestinal wall. Leaky gut is a perfect example of a condition where the microbes are not doing their job and the tight junctions in the gut have become loose letting food molecules and other bacteria in – this when the immune system gets compromised.
Cancer prevention: Cabbage is considered a cancer prevention superfood because it contains phytonutrients such as glucosinolates that enhance detoxification of certain carcinogenic enzymes and are toxic to many types of cancer cells. In fact, the consumption of cruciferous veggies has been linked in many studies with inhibiting the development of breast cancer. And evidence shows that eating them regularly lowers your risk of developing many different types of cancer. So if you’re not munching on sauerkraut, then make this Turmeric Cauliflower Rice or my Roasted Cauliflower Salad or Walker’s Spicy Brussels Sprouts from first cookbook Joyous Health!
Nutrient-dense: You’ve probably heard me say before that when a food is fermented it becomes biotransformed! That’s fancy for saying it becomes a whole entire new food because bacteria do this magical thing to nutrients in food.
For instance, cabbage has about 30 mg of Vitamin C per cup but when it’s fermented it can have up to 600 mg per cup – incredible right?
Then there’s vitamin K2, which over the last 10 years since I became a nutritionist I’ve seen this nutrient soar to popularity as research has revealed its importance for long-term bone health. This is because it has an ability to assist calcium and other minerals to bind into the bone matrix thereby strengthening bones. Vitamin K2, similar to vitamin D is not in many foods. You'll find it in many animal foods and fermented foods. And, cool fact – it's made by your gut bacteria too!
Here’s the recipe!
The amount of cabbage this recipe makes really depends on the size of the cabbage you start with. As you can see in my video, I started with a very large cabbage and this filled a large mason jar (32 oz/1 quart). I would suggest you have a couple of sizes on hand. You could also do 2 x small 16oz jars. It's up to you!
*Please choose organic, there will be more good bacteria present on the cabbage to help it ferment.
If you’re a sauerkraut virgin, leave your doubts at the door because you can do this - it's so easy!! You’ll be so proud of your kraut once enjoy the fruits of your labour! And if you're excited about making your own ferments, you must try these recipes next:
If you have more questions after watching this video, please comment below and I’d be happy to answer them.