Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Powers of Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is an amazing food and something that everyone should incorporate in their diet. First, sauerkraut is made from cabbage, which I rank as one of the healthiest, and cheapest, vegetables on earth. Cabbage is an all-star when it comes to cancer fighting benefits, because of beneficial compounds called isothiocyanates. When making sauerkraut, cabbage is fermented which results in the breakdown of glucosinolates, which works to enhance the carcinogenic properties, making sauerkraut an even stronger cancer-fighting food. In fact, in a study from 1998, researchers compared the breast cancer incidence in Polish women and Polish women who had immigrated to Michigan. The immigrants were 4-5x more likely to develop cancer compared to the women who had stayed in Poland. The researchers explained the main difference was the amount of cabbage and sauerkraut the women ate; with the women in Poland eating significantly more.

In addition to the antioxidant properties of sauerkraut, like raw cabbage, sauerkraut contains lots of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Furthermore, sauerkraut is a very low calorie food, making it an excellent way to beef up your meals for very few calories. 1 cup of sauerkraut contains about 27 calories, compared to 1 cup of cooked spaghetti at 220 calories! I have clients mix sauerkraut into their salads, pasta dishes, and eggs to not only enhance the nutritional profile, but also to add bulk to their meals as to dilute the calories. Sauerkraut is also a great source of healthy probiotics, so if you aren’t a yogurt eater, this is another way to get beneficial bacteria into your diet. Just be sure not to heat sauerkraut as doing so can kill the healthy probiotics which are a product of the fermentation process. For more info on probiotics, visit my previous blog on the topic.

My recommendation:

Begin incorporating sauerkraut and other fermented foods in your diet on a regular basis. Make sure you buy sauerkraut in the refrigerator section (by the pork and other meats) in bags which say “barrel aged” or in the can – but look at the ingredients to make sure cabbage, water, and salt are the only ingredients going into canned sauerkraut. If there is any vinegar or acid added most likely the product is not actually fermented and won’t contain the healthy components discussed above. I always recommend rinsing the sauerkraut to rid it of excess sodium. Also, try making your own! It’s not that difficult and can be a fun science experiment.  You can easily find recipes on the internet to make counter top fermented sauerkraut. Kimchi, a Korean fermented cabbage product, is very healthy too, though tends to be higher in sodium and very spicy, so not great for those with reflux or ulcers. So I urge you to try to incorporate more sauerkraut, and cabbage, into your diet- just don’t pair it with things like sausage, hot dogs, brats, and other harmful processed meats :/.


1. Eeva-Liisa Ryhanen, Ph.D., research manager, MTT Agrifood Research Finland, Jokioinen, Finland; Yeong Ju, Ph.D., researcher, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; Leonard Bjeldanes, Ph.D., professor, food toxicology, University of California, Berkeley; Oct. 23, 2002, Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry