Sauerkraut: Benefits, Nutritional Values, and Uses

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Sauerkraut is a fermented finely sliced cabbage. It is one of the national dishes in Germany. Its name comes from the German word sauerkraut, which means “Sauer”- sour and “kraut”- cabbage. Sauerkraut preparation includes a distinctive Lacto-fermentation process, which helps in giving it a long shelf life and sour taste. About 2000 years ago, the slaves building the Great Wall of China survived solely on cabbage and rice. So, they used to preserve the finely sliced cabbage with rice vine to continue their work in the worst of conditions.

Tartars later brought the sauerkraut to Europe, where Europeans made some changes in the basic recipe. Rather than fermenting the cabbage in the rice vine, they ferment it with salt. As a result, sugar in cabbage converts into lactic acid when the bacteria act upon it.

Data shows that Americans consume approximately 387 pounds of Sauerkraut annually, which means 1.5 pounds per person.

Sauerkraut is full of various healthy nutrients like fibre, probiotics, minerals, vitamin C, vitamin K, iron, manganese, folate, vitamin B6, and many more. It helps improve digestion, boost the immune system, improve skin health, and many more.

How is Sauerkraut Made?

Sauerkraut is made using the pickling process. It helps preserve and increase the shelf life of food by anaerobic fermentation in brine (highly concentrated solution of salt in water) and vinegar. The pickling process for making sauerkraut is called Lacto fermentation.

The cabbage used for sauerkraut is finely sliced (excluding the outer covering) and layered with salt. The cabbage needs to be perfectly covered with salt to support the fermentation process accurately. 

The quantity of salt used in the process is neither less nor very high. That is because it will hinder the expected product outcome. Less salt will soften the cabbage, and the sauerkraut will lack its flavour. On the other hand, high salt content will result in a bitter taste, darker colour, and growth of pink yeast.

After mixing both the ingredients, it is kept in an airtight container for several months at 15 degrees C. 

In the initial stage, anaerobic bacteria (leuconostoc species) act upon the cabbage and produce carbon dioxide and lactic acid. The bacteria further dies when it fails to handle the highly acidic environment. Lactobacillus species replace those bacterial species to manage the high acidic condition better. Therefore, sauerkraut contains more lactobacillus bacteria than yoghurt. It further ferments the remaining sugar in the cabbage and produces more lactic acid. The process continues until the mix reaches a pH level of about 3. That is when the fermentation process stops, and now sauerkraut is ready to be stored.

Nutritional Values of Sauerkraut

100 g of sauerkraut contains:

  • Calories – 24 kcal 
  • Fat – 0 grams 
  • Carbs – 4 g
  • Fibre – 2.5 g 
  • Protein – 1.6 g

Just a forkful of Sauerkraut with your plate of dinner or salad will be enough for getting all its beneficial nutrients. It will aid in digestion and provide other health benefits. But first, give it a quick rinse to wash off its excess salt content.

Try using the unpasteurised form rather than using the pasteurised one. The process of pasteurisation kills all the bacteria present in sauerkraut, including all its probiotics.

Top 8 Health Benefits of Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is full of super health benefits necessary for our bodies in today’s age. 

Today, people face severe health adversities due to deviant lifestyles, unnecessary eating and munching on unhealthy food. However, sauerkraut is a side dish that enhances your diet with its nutritional content. 

Let us look at all the surprising benefits of Sauerkraut.

Helps Combat Inflammation

Sauerkraut is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that help restrain oxidative stress. As a result, it protects against the free radicals in the body. In addition, it contains phytochemicals that ensure the healing of any inflammation in the body. Phytochemicals contain resveratrol, anthocyanins, and curcumin that restrains prostaglandin production. Prostaglandin production is the primary reason behind inflammation.

Sauerkraut also contains enzymes, vitamins, good bacterias, and lactic acid that keeps the gut healthy and inflammation-free.

Boosts Energy and immunity

Iron content in Sauerkraut increases the metabolic rate and blood circulation. As a result, it ensures high energy and an excellent immune system. In addition, the fermentation method for sauerkraut preparation is most significant in preserving a higher amount of iron. That makes sauerkraut an iron-rich food. It helps our body to absorb the maximum amount of iron.

It maintains a healthy gut flora that boosts the antibodies by preventing the growth of harmful bacteria. Therefore, consuming a forkful of sauerkraut daily can prevent various infections like UTI, common cold, etc.

Keeps the heart-healthy

Probiotics, vitamin K, and fibre content in sauerkraut help keep the cardiovascular system healthy. It is beneficial in controlling and lowering the LDL cholesterol level. Vitamin K plays a vital role in regulating calcium in the body and blood clotting. As per research, sauerkraut is one of the rarest plants containing menaquinone in vitamin K2. As a result, it prevents calcium deposits from accumulating in the arteries and helps maintain heart health. 

One cup of sauerkraut contains 6.6 mcg of vitamin K2 content. Study results show a 9% reduction in the risk of heart diseases by consuming ten mcg of Vitamin K2 daily.

Aids Weight Loss

Including sauerkraut in your daily diet can help you maintain and lose weight. Sauerkraut is high in probiotics, fibre and is low in calories. As a result, it keeps you fuller for a longer time, even with a lower calorie intake. Also, soluble fibre helps suppress appetite and keeps the gut bacteria healthy.

Further studies show that some probiotics in sauerkraut help reduce fat absorption through your diet. As a result, it helps you lose weight. Significantly probiotics come as a saviour for those who want to lose fat without compromising the necessary nutritional content.

Brain Health

You may not believe but what you eat directly connects with how you feel. So feeding your stomach with good nutrients can keep you stress-free and happy. For example, fermented food like Sauerkraut, rich in probiotics, may help you manage stress and maintain good brain health.

Probiotics help keep you away from depression, stress, anxiety, autism, and even from some disorders like Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). It also contains some mood-regulating minerals, including zinc and magnesium, that helps maintain good brain health. Magnesium and zinc are significant components that promote high serotonin and dopamine (these are happy hormones) production, which keeps you happy. 

Anticancer Effects

Sauerkraut helps reduce the risk of cancer. Cabbage, the main ingredient of sauerkraut, contains antioxidants and other compounds that reduce the chances of cancer by neutralising the dangerous effects of free radicals in the body.

Compounds present in cabbage helps in reducing cell damage. Cell mutation, excessive cell growth, and DNA damage may develop tumours. Sauerkraut consumption helps in suppressing the precancerous cells from growing.

A study shows that women consuming three servings of sauerkraut per week have a 72% lower cancer risk than other women.

Strong Bones

Sauerkraut contains vitamin K2 that aids in keeping the bones strong. Vitamin K2 activates the two specific proteins that bind to calcium. Thus, it helps maintain bone health and keeps them strong in the long run. It helps activate the formation and mineralisation of proteins engaged in bone development.

As per a study, postmenopausal women taking vitamin K2 experienced lower loss in bone mineral density and reduced fracture rates.

Healthy Skin

Vitamin C, K, and A help keep your skin plump and radiant. Vitamin C helps keep the skin healthy and shiny by increasing collagen production. It fights against the free radicals in the body. Vitamin A helps prevent sun damage by refraining collagen breakdown. 

Sauerkraut is rich in sulfur, which is highly beneficial for preventing skin inflammation. That is because it contains antibacterial properties and it also enhances cell turnover.

Healthy Sauerkraut Recipes

Homemade Sauerkraut

  • Servings – 8
  • Preparation time – 15 mins

Ingredients

  • Cabbage – 1 medium-sized
  • Kosher salt – 1½ tbsp
  • Caraway seeds – 1 tbsp (optional for flavour)

Method

  • Cut eight wedges out of the cabbage and thinly slice it crosswise.
  • Put the thinly sliced cabbage in a bowl and add salt. 
  • Rub the salt in the cabbage for 5-10 mins and add caraway seeds.
  • Put all the mixture into a clean jar, cover the jar with a cloth, and fix it with a rubber band.
  • Keep the jar in a cool and dry place away from sunlight.
  • Check it every 24 hours and press it downwards. Put a small mason jar to weigh it down. 
  • Add 1 cup of water with one teaspoon salt (if needed) afterwards.
  • Leave it for 3 to 10 days at  65 degrees F to 75 degrees F. 
  • After three days, you can check if the sauerkraut is according to your taste. If not, ferment it for more days.

Low Carb Sauerkraut Salad

  • Servings – 3
  • Preparation time – 50 mins

Ingredients

  • Chicken breast – 2 piece 
  • Sauerkraut – ¾ kg
  • Greek yoghurt – 1 tbsp
  • Onion – 1 medium-sized
  • Coconut oil – 1 tbsp
  • Salt and pepper – as per taste 

Method 

  • Take a pan and heat it. Add 1 tbsp oil.
  • Cut onions into small pieces and put in the hot oil.
  • Once the onion is golden brown, add the chicken pieces and cook for 10 mins.
  • Add sauerkraut into the pan once the chicken is half done and simmer for 20-25 mins.
  • Once the chicken and sauerkraut turn soft and cooked, turn the flame off and mix a tbsp of Greek yoghurt.
  • Serve hot.

Sauerkraut Casserole with Chicken

  • Servings – 4
  • Preparation time – 2 hours 40 mins

Ingredients

  • Chicken drumsticks – 3 
  • Onion – ½ medium-sized
  • Garlic – 4-5 cloves
  • Caraway seeds – 1 tsp
  • Bay leaf – 2 pieces 
  • Carrot – half cup
  • Potatoes – 2 medium-sized
  • Mushroom – half cup
  • Prunes – ⅓ cup
  • Salt and pepper – as per taste

Method 

  • Take a pan, put 1 tbsp oil, and heat it in the oven preheated for 170 C. Add garlic, onion, bay leaves, and caraway seeds and cook for 3 minutes.
  • Take the onion mixture out and fry chicken drumsticks from all the sides for 3 mins.
  • Add all the remaining vegetables, prunes, and sauerkraut into the pot, stir well, and cook for 3 minutes.
  • Cover the pot and bake for 2.5 hours. Stir in between the cooking.
  • Take the pot out, take out the mixture on a plate and separate the meat from the bone. 
  • Put it back in the pot, stir well and serve.

Apple sauerkraut stuffing

  • Servings – 10
  • Preparation time – 1½ hours

Ingredients

  • Cubed seeded rye bread – 10 cups 
  • Extra virgin olive oil – 2 tbsp
  • Chopped onions – 2 cups 
  • Chopped apples- 2 cups 
  • Minced Garlic – 2 cloves
  • Chopped parsley – half cup
  • Unsalted butter – 3 tbsp
  • Low sodium broth – 2-3 cups
  • Shredded cheese – ½ cup
  • Sauerkraut – ½ cup
  • Dry pepper – ½ teaspoon

Method 

  • Spread bread over a rimmed baking sheet in a preheated oven 275 degrees F for about 30 mins. Take it out in a dish.
  • Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Then heat a large skillet on medium-high heat, add oil, and heat it. 
  • After that, add onions and apples and cook for 3-5 mins.
  • Lower the heat and cook for 3-5 mins more, add garlic and parsley and cook for a bit. 
  • Take the mixture out and spread it on the bread. Then add melted butter to it. 
  • Add the remaining ingredients, sauerkraut, broth, pepper, and cheese, and mix well. 
  • Coat a baking dish with cooking spray and transfer the mixture into it. 
  • Cover it with a foil ( spray one side of the foil). 
  • Bake for 30 minutes, remove the foil and cook again for 20 minutes. 
  • Serve hot.

Precautions and Things to Remember

Sauerkraut is very beneficial for health. However, everything may have side effects if not consumed correctly. For example, excess consumption of sauerkraut may cause constipation, gases, and bloating. Since sauerkraut can leave a good amount of raffinose in the stool, it can cause diarrhoea.

The appropriate daily consumption of sauerkraut is one spoonful per day. You should have it with your meal to avoid overconsumption. You can even have it first thing in the morning with your breakfast, the most beneficial time to consume sauerkraut.

People with a sensitive stomach should also avoid eating it in large quantities because it can lead to abdominal cramps.

The high salt content in sauerkraut can lead to high blood pressure and renal problems. Therefore, you should consult your doctor before starting with sauerkraut. You can also customise it and add less salt to avoid issues such as high blood pressure.

Conclusion

Sauerkraut is a healthy source of providing beneficial required nutrients to our bodies. You can take advantage of it by including a small amount of sauerkraut in your diet. 

It is highly rich in nutrients like Vitamin C, K, B6, manganese, iron, zinc, folate, protein, and fibre, surprisingly with a low-calorie count that can help you achieve your goal body size. In addition, it has anti-cancer properties and health benefits like boosting immunity. It also helps maintain healthy brain and heart health.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q.What are the benefits of eating sauerkraut?

A. Sauerkraut is healthy for brain and heart health. It helps boost the immune system and also helps in weight loss.

Q.What is the best way to eat sauerkraut?

A. You can consume a forkful of sauerkraut with your diet, and you can also try the recipes mentioned in the article. 

Q. How is sauerkraut made?

A. The process of sauerkraut manufacturing involves fermentation. It is a raw cut cabbage fermented with lactic acid bacteria.

Q. Does sauerkraut go bad?

A. If you refrigerate it, it will stay fresh for up to 4-6 months. However, if it smells terrible and contains a rotten odour, the sauerkraut has gone bad.

Q. What are the side effects of sauerkraut?

A. Excessive consumption of sauerkraut can lead to constipation, bloating, diarrhoea, and high blood pressure.

Q. How often should I eat sauerkraut?

A. You can eat a tablespoon of sauerkraut daily. However, overconsumption may lead to some side effects.

Q. Can I drink sauerkraut juice?

A. Yes, you can drink sauerkraut juice. It also imparts excellent health benefits.

Q. Is it OK to eat sauerkraut every day?

A. Yes, it is okay to eat a tablespoon of sauerkraut daily.

Q. What is the healthiest way to eat sauerkraut?

A. You can consume it as a side dish, along with your plate of food.

Q. What does sauerkraut cure?

A. Sauerkraut helps improve brain and heart health. It helps lose weight and also helps in healing Inflammation.

Q. What is the best time of day to eat sauerkraut?

A. You should consume 1-2 forkfuls of sauerkraut every day in the morning with your breakfast. That is the best time to eat sauerkraut.

Q. Is sauerkraut good for weight loss?

A. Yes, it is low in calories and rich in fibre. It helps maintain a healthy weight and also helps lose weight.

Q. What happens when you eat a lot of sauerkraut?

A. Excessive consumption of sauerkraut can cause diarrhoea, high blood pressure, constipation, etc.

Q. How many calories are in a bowl of sauerkraut?

A. 1 cup (142 grams) of sauerkraut contains 27 calories.

Q. Is there any food value in sauerkraut?

A. Sauerkraut is tremendously rich in powerful nutrients. It contains vitamins C, K and B6. In addition, it is also a rich source of sodium, iron, manganese and potassium.

Q. Is sauerkraut high in carbs?

A. No, sauerkraut is not high in carbs. One serving of sauerkraut contains only 6 grams of carbohydrates, which is safe to consume.

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