Wellness Encyclopedia: Sauerkraut & Why You Need Fermented Foods

When it comes to wellness essentials, fermented cabbage may not be at the top of your grocery list. Whyever not?

Seriously though, sauerkraut is certainly an acquired taste, but there’s good reason to add this sour food, and others like it, to your refrigerator. As the conversation around the microbiome (and what the microbiome actually is), gut health and the benefits of prebiotics and probiotics skyrockets to new levels, the general public is beginning to understand why we should be tending to the good bugs chilling out inside our systems. Along with taking a daily probiotic, eating plenty of fermented foods could support your system by diversifying the types of bacteria hanging out within, and more diverse bacteria means a well balanced gut, which has been linked to everything from emotional to physical health. Suddenly that sauerkraut is starting to sound pretty tasty, right? Read on to learn more…

What is sauerkraut?

Though the name is German, sauerkraut – or versions of it – has roots in a variety of cultures and can be traced back in some shape or form thousands of years. Like many fermented foods, sauerkraut (literally “sour cabbage”) was originally created as a means of preserving the food – it was simply a happy accident that the process produced beneficial bacteria! Before refrigeration, many foods, like sauerkraut, were fermented to provide nutrition throughout the year, especially the scarce winter months, what people didn’t know is that those foods were not only filling but packed with vitamins and nutrients, too. Sauerkraut is made through a similar process as kimchi, called lactic acid fermentation. Cabbage is finely shredded, layered with salt, and left to do its thing. At the right temperature, airborne bacteria culture on the cabbage leaves and populate; if all goes according to plan, this results in the sour cabbage we all know and should grow to love.

What are the benefits of sauerkraut?

Sauerkraut delivers a one-two punch of health benefits, thanks to the cabbage it’s made from and the process that creates it. Cabbage is naturally packed with fiber, a trait that carries over in sauerkraut.on top of this, sauerkraut is also an incredible source of vitamins K and C and iron, making it an immune function supporter as well.

And while a daily probiotic is great for the gut, naturally fermented foods, like sauerkraut, kombucha, and kefir often contain more variety and stronger strains of beneficial bacteria, especially Lactobacillus plantarum, which could be one of the most beneficial strains. Maintaining optimal gut health through probiotics and fermented foods could support the entire body, including skin health, gut health and mental health.

How to enjoy sauerkraut…

Unfortunately, most store-bought sauerkraut has been pasteurized and treated, meaning most of that good bacteria has perished. The good news is, making your own is incredibly cheap and relatively easy. All you need is a head of cabbage (green or purple — pick your color), some salt, a glass jar and water. Really – that’s it! After a few weeks, you’re good to go. There are plenty of recipes out there — this one is easy to follow and covers all the basics.

 

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