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Sauerkraut: That’s why it’s so healthy

by Josephine Andrews
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Sauerkraut is very nutritious and healthy. It provides many different vitamins, stimulates digestion and even helps you lose weight. Read here how healthy sauerkraut is, what ingredients it has and what they do.

How healthy is sauerkraut?

Sauerkraut is fermented white cabbage. This fermentation process makes the already healthy herb even healthier by creating the conditions under which probiotic cultures develop.

These are living bacteria, in this case lactic acid bacteria, to which various health-promoting effects are attributed. Among other things, they should promote the growth of the “good” intestinal bacteria and, by means of certain enzymes, ensure that the intestine can better absorb vitamins and minerals from food.

But: Probiotic cultures are only found in unpasteurized sauerkraut. This is because heating to make food last longer destroys the lactic acid bacteria.

As with many other foods, how healthy sauerkraut is in detail can only be said with reservations. Further research work is usually necessary to ensure the respective effect. But according to the current scientific status, sauerkraut has many positive effects on health, as various studies suggest. Among other things, as follows:

Good for digestion

Sauerkraut has a positive effect on the intestinal flora. If it is healthy, digestion works better. This also means, among other things, that flatulence, constipation or diarrhea occur less frequently – if you are used to a high-fiber diet. Otherwise the opposite occurs.

Certain enzymes in sauerkraut also help break down nutrients into smaller and easier-to-digest molecules.

Symptoms of chronic inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease (diarrhea, nausea, loss of appetite) or ulcerative colitis (bloody-slimy diarrhea) may also be reduced thanks to sauerkraut probiotics.

Supports the immune system

Gut health and general well-being are linked. Accordingly, the lactic acid bacteria contained in sauerkraut strengthen the immune system by keeping the intestinal flora healthy.

The intestinal walls also become stronger, which in turn prevents unwanted substances from penetrating them, entering the body and making it ill. In addition, probiotics like sauerkraut can also help with recovery if you do get sick.

Another ingredient that strengthens the immune system is the vitamin C contained in sauerkraut. Sauerkraut supports the immune system twice over.

Strengthens the heart

Sauerkraut keeps the heart healthy. The probiotic cultures also play their part in this – they are said to reduce blood pressure, among other things. In addition, the fermented cabbage also contains roughage, i.e. indigestible plant fibers that serve as food for the intestinal bacteria.

Fiber and probiotics help reduce cholesterol. High cholesterol makes cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attacks, more likely.

Sauerkraut is also one of the few plant foods that contain vitamin K2. This vitamin is considered a heart protector because it prevents calcium from building up in the arteries and narrowing them.

Reduces the risk of cancer

Sauerkraut probably contains some plant components that reduce the risk of cancer cells forming and multiplying. For example, the cell damage and cell mutation rate of participants in a study was slowed down by the secondary plant substance glucosinolate and the water-soluble vitamin ascorbic acid (vitamin C).

There are also studies that suggest sauerkraut juice helps reduce the risk of cancer. It does this by reducing the likelihood that certain cancer-causing genes will become active and send their disease-causing information into the body (gene expression).

Supports the psyche

Thanks to sauerkraut, the digestive tract can absorb nutrients better. This also applies to minerals such as magnesium or zinc , which regulate mood. An effect that can reduce stress and maintain mental health.

Probiotics may also improve memory and reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Nutrients: what is in sauerkraut?

Sauerkraut tastes sour, but has an alkaline effect. The alkaline diet is a diet that assumes that too many acidic foods upset the acid-base balance and thus promote diseases such as gout or obesity. Some studies suggest that an alkaline diet might be beneficial. However, this has not been scientifically clarified.

One thing is certain: sauerkraut has few calories and fat, but lots of fiber and a high water content. Thanks to its low carbohydrate content, sauerkraut is also suitable for low-carb dishes. Per 100 grams of sauerkraut (drained), fermented cabbage contains:

Sauerkraut provides many different vitamins and minerals. The highlight: The probiotic cultures and enzymes that are also included help the intestine to absorb the valuable ingredients better than would be the case with raw cabbage. 100 grams of sauerkraut have:

  • Natrium: 5 mg
  • Potassium: 329 mg
  • Calcium: 53 mg
  • Phosphor: 76 mg
  • Magnesium: 23 mg
  • Iron: 3.3 mg
  • Vitamin A: 3 µg
  • Vitamin E: 6 mg
  • Vitamin B1: 011 mg
  • Vitamin B2: 0,03 mg
  • Niacin: 0,3 mg
  • Vitamin B6: 0,07 mg
  • Vitamin C: 4 mg
  • Vitamin K: 7,7 µg

Is sauerkraut good for losing weight?

You can lose weight with sauerkraut. Eating sauerkraut regularly can help you lose weight and stay slim. One reason is that sauerkraut is low in calories but high in satiating fiber. This combo keeps total calories low without starving you.

There is even a sauerkraut diet : To lose weight, there is sauerkraut juice in the morning to stimulate digestion, after that every meal also consists largely of sauerkraut.

You can find more information about the sauerkraut diet here.

Another property of sauerkraut also appears to help with weight management: While the mechanism of action is not fully understood, certain probiotic cultures in sauerkraut appear to decrease the amount of fat the body draws from food. As a result, he stores less and you stay slim(er).

Sauerkraut: You should pay attention to that

Sauerkraut has many health benefits. But it can’t do everything. For example, it is not true that sauerkraut lowers blood sugar levels and therefore helps prevent diabetes.

In addition to such myths, there are also some ingredients that you should use with caution or not at all, such as the following:

Sodium

Because salt is added to the cabbage to ferment it, the sodium content of sauerkraut is quite high at five grams per 100 grams. The German Society for Nutrition (DGE), for example, recommends not consuming more than six grams of table salt per day.

A diet with too much sodium increases the likelihood of high blood pressure and thus of cardiovascular diseases such as stroke or heart attack. The body then retains water to dissolve the sodium. This increases blood volume.

When this happens, the heart has to work harder and there is more pressure in the blood vessels. They stiffen, blood pressure rises. The more salt you eat, the more calcium the body excretes through the urine, since the body transports both minerals together. Over a longer period of time, this can lead to a lack of calcium in the blood – and make the bones brittle (osteoporosis).

Histamine

Sauerkraut contains a lot of histamine. This is a compound that is necessary for various functions in the body – such as blood pressure and bowel movements, for example. Histamine is produced by fermentation.

However, some people cannot tolerate it, the body cannot break down the histamine, so it accumulates in the body. They react with symptoms such as dizziness, tiredness, gastrointestinal problems, itching or tachycardia.

digestive problems

If you are not used to high-fiber foods, you may experience flatulence or diarrhea after eating sauerkraut. People who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea should avoid sauerkraut. It is a poorly digestible food that further burdens the already ailing digestive tract.

If those affected have regular constipation (constipation type) due to irritable bowel syndrome, sauerkraut can be useful in moderation as part of a high-fiber diet – but only after consultation with the doctor treating you and by means of very careful approach.

Is sauerkraut suitable during pregnancy?

Fermented foods such as kefir, kombucha or sauerkraut are usually harmless during pregnancy. The iron contained in sauerkraut is even an argument for eating sauerkraut, because a balanced iron level makes premature birth less likely.

The roughage also helps with constipation, which often occurs in expectant mothers, and the folic acid in sauerkraut has a positive effect. Among other things, the fermented cabbage is important for cell division and thus for the healthy development of the growing child.

It is also generally okay to eat sauerkraut when you are breastfeeding. However, since not only the mother but also the baby can get flatulence from breast milk, only small amounts should be used.

On the other hand, pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid even pickled and fermented sauerkraut, as there is always a risk that harmful bacteria will unintentionally settle in the process.

Preparation and shelf life of sauerkraut

Seafarers used to take barrels of sauerkraut with them to protect themselves from scurvy thanks to its vitamin C content. And since sailors traveled a long way in the 18th century, sauerkraut must have a long shelf life, right?

durability

In fact, sauerkraut has a longer shelf life than many of its vegetable counterparts—provided you don’t store it at room temperature. Then fresh sauerkraut will only last a few days. Different in the fridge. At temperatures of around six to seven degrees Celsius, you can easily store fresh sauerkraut for up to four weeks.

Unpasteurized sauerkraut in a jar, i.e. one that has not been heated to kill microorganisms and give it a longer shelf life, can even be enjoyed for up to six months. However, you should store it away from light, the herb does not like the sun and it will go bad faster.

Pasteurized sauerkraut in a jar or can keeps for several years. However, heating also kills the healthy lactic acid bacteria. No matter which packaged version you choose: once opened, be sure to keep the leftovers in the fridge and use them within a few days, otherwise undesirable bacteria can develop.

Sauerkraut can be frozen for up to six months. Wrap it airtight to avoid freezer burn, and don’t refreeze it once it’s been thawed for a few hours – even then, harmful microorganisms could have built up on it.

You can recognize sauerkraut that has gone bad by its extremely sour smell. Sometimes it is also dark in color. Then you should not eat it anymore, otherwise there is a risk of stomach ache, flatulence and diarrhea.

preparation

Fresh sauerkraut tastes delicious unheated, you can put it directly on your plate as a healthy salad. But it is also tasty warm, for example as an accompaniment to Kassler, sausages or puree.

Sauerkraut goes well with root vegetables such as carrots or potatoes as well as apples or pears, all of which take some of the acidity out of the cabbage. Fried bacon cubes also go well with the cabbage.

When it comes to spices, juniper berries, bay leaves or caraway go well together, if you like it more exotic, mix the sauerkraut with curry powder. A meal classic is Schupfnudel with sauerkraut, in the modern kitchen it is also found as a pizza topping or lasagne filling, there are even sauerkraut smoothies! There are no limits to your imagination when preparing sauerkraut.

What is sauerkraut?

Sauerkraut is finely shaved white cabbage to which table salt is added – about 1.5 to 2.5 percent of the cabbage weight. This mixture goes into fermentation vats, is pounded firmly and often refined with various spices.

The fermentation process takes place with as little air supply as possible. On the one hand, the air is pushed out by the pounding, on the other hand, the water, which pulls the salt out of the plant fibers, displaces the air between the cabbage slices. In addition, the vats are fitted with a lid that is additionally weighed down.

The cabbage must be covered entirely with brine for fermentation. This process, in which natural lactic acid bacteria form, is complete when the lactic acid content has reached 1.5 percent. This takes at least four weeks, during which different microorganisms gradually form.

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