Sauerkraut Health Benefits

As sauerkraut is derived from fermentation of cabbage, it is a good source of friendly bacteria, which makes it good for digestion. With vitamin C, folate, iron, and manganese present in sauerkraut, one can definitely say that sauerkraut has the goodness of nutrition.

Sauerkraut is a vegetable dish that is obtained by fermenting cabbage. The fermentation process is carried out by various strains of lactic acid bacteria, that impart it a sour flavor. The two main ingredients of this dish are grated cabbage and salt. A generous amount of salt is mixed with shredded cabbage, which is then stored in an air-tight jar. The salty environment leads to the growth of friendly bacteria that ferment the grated cabbage. As salt is a preservative, sauerkraut remains fresh and does not spoil with age or from harmful pathogens.

Sauerkraut retains all the benefits of cruciferous vegetables. However, what sets sauerkraut apart from other vegetables is that it contains naturally occurring probiotics.

Benefits of Sauerkraut

Aids Digestion
As sauerkraut is obtained through the fermentation process, it contains a great deal of friendly bacteria that help in digestion. In fact, these beneficial bacteria that reside in the colon are absolutely necessary for digestion. They help the body to absorb nutrients from digested food. These naturally occurring compounds can also help to relieve an upset stomach that often occurs due to indigestion. Moreover, adequate presence of ‘good’ bacteria in the intestine prevents proliferation of harmful bacteria that cause infection. So, adding sauerkraut to your diet will not only help to improve your digestion, but also improve your immunity against infection.

The amount of ‘beneficial’ bacteria present in sauerkraut is also higher than those found in yogurt. Also, you may not have to take probiotic supplements or drinks if sauerkraut is an integral part of your diet. Many people have a hard time digesting raw cabbage but sauerkraut is easier to digest.

High in Nutrition
Being a cruciferous vegetable, sauerkraut provides the same goodness of nutrition. This fermented cabbage is an excellent source of vitamin C, known to strengthen the immune system. It is also high in antioxidants that protect the body against free radicals, which are toxic molecules that can trigger extensive cellular damage. It is also a good source of vitamin B6, folate, dietary fiber, and manganese. Fresh cabbage contains vitamin B5 in miniscule amounts, but sauerkraut is found to be an excellent source of this nutrient.

Maintains Healthy Acidity Levels in the Intestine
Overgrowth of harmful microbes has often been attributed to low acidity in the stomach and intestine. Well, this is unlikely to occur if sauerkraut is included in the diet. This is because fermented cabbage is a good source of lactic acid, that supports healthy intestinal acidity, thereby making it difficult for pathogens to survive. Hence, people suffering from candidiasis (yeast infection) are often recommended to eat sauerkraut regularly.

Controls Blood Sugar
Eating sauerkraut is also found to be helpful in maintaining normal blood sugar levels. Thus, this fermented product may contribute in preventing drastic fluctuations in blood sugar, as well as control and reduce the risk of chronic ailments like diabetes and hypoglycemia.

Promotes Good Quality Sleep
Sauerkraut contains acetylcholine that helps to develop healthy sleep patterns. Apart from regulating the wake-sleep cycle, acetylcholine can also aid in improving memory and reducing blood pressure.

Good for the Heart
As cabbage is an important constituent of sauerkraut, it naturally contains flavonoids that exhibit cholesterol-lowering properties. Thus, sauerkraut in the diet will promote healthy cholesterol levels, helping to keep the heart function normal.

May Combat Cancer
A study reported in the 2002 edition of Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry showed that when fermented, cabbage releases isothiocyanates such as sulforaphane. Finnish researchers observed that isothiocyanates were able to shun the growth of cancerous tumors in laboratory animals. Test tube studies also displayed cancer-fighting capabilities of these compounds. Sauerkraut also contains indoles that have shown to impair cancer growth in animals. Although it is not yet clear whether these compounds will produce the same effect on humans, animal studies show promising results and further research may confirm its anti-cancer properties. However, the National Cancer Institute does advocate intake of foods containing isothiocyanates to prevent cancer.

Choosing Sauerkraut
Making sauerkraut at home is very easy, but if you are looking for commercially prepared sauerkraut, you need to choose the right one. Sauerkraut that is available in glass jars can be either pasteurized or unpasteurized. The heating process that forms an integral part of pasteurization robs sauerkraut of its enzymes and other essential nutrients. So, one should always choose the unpasteurized version as it is full of digestive enzymes that support pancreatic function and improve digestion.

Despite being a good source of essential nutrients, sauerkraut is moderately high in salt. So, people with high blood pressure (HBP) should exercise caution when it comes to having sauerkraut. Just a cup of sauerkraut provides a whopping 939 mg of sodium, which accounts for 63% of daily salt consumption for HBP patients. Also, too much intake of sauerkraut can cause excessive growth of ‘good’ bacteria, which may lead to bloating, abdominal cramps, and gas. People with pancreatitis and gastric ulcers are also advised to restrict intake of sauerkraut.