To better understand the Health Benefits of Sauerkraut, you need to begin with understanding the principles behind the creation of the dish. Sauerkraut is a dish made of finely cut cabbage that is fermented using bacteria and it has a long history, dating as far back as to the Roman Empire. Some sources, however, mention that the dish has a long tie to the Chinese people, before being brought to Europe during the reign of Roman Empire.
Whichever it is, it is clear that sauerkraut is a type of food staple human has long been well-acquainted with. Although perhaps in the past, people chose to create and eat sauerkraut for its long shelf time rather than its nutritional benefits. The process in which sauerkraut is made renders the dish even more nutritional and bears even greater bioavailability of nutrients—all which may not be present in the cabbage itself before being made into the dish.
Sauerkraut involves pickling the cut (or chopped, shredded; variations in processing the leaves may occur according to one’s preference or customary tradition) cabbage leaves. The process is similar to the making of pickled cucumbers or kimchi, in which there is no heat involved. This results in lactic acid fermentation caused by a wide species of lactic bacteria, including but not limited to Pediococcus, Lactobacillus, and Leuconostoc.
The bacteria then ferment the sugar content of the cabbage in the process, which, naturally, makes for the dish’s signature sour taste. This is also the source of the dish’s long shelf life. The production process assembles sauerkraut benefits for those who consume it as introduction of good bacteria culture to the digestive tract can improve the natural condition of the intestine.
Generally speaking, when it comes to producing sauerkraut, the processed cabbage leaves are cured using salt. Salt is added to the cut cabbage leaves and fermentation should immediately begin. A completely fermented portion of sauerkraut can last several months provided that it is kept in a container that is airtight. The suitable storage temperature should be at 15° Celsius (or approximately at 60° Fahrenheit). Pasteurization and refrigeration are not necessarily required in storing sauerkraut but doing either would of course increase the dish’s shelf life and the Health Benefits of Sauerkraut. Introducing bacteria to the chopped cabbage leaves intentionally is also unnecessary. All the species of bacteria required in making sauerkraut is either already present on them or is naturally introduced air-borne during the fermentation period.
Lactobacilli grow and culture on the surface of the leaves naturally but yeast may also be introduced to the dish. Yeast growth is hence inevitable but when the temperature is higher than what is recommended, then the growth would be uncontrollable, resulting in sauerkraut that is soft and bears unpleasant tastes. Sauerkraut that is cured in a proper manner should be able to develop an environment that is acidic enough to defend against and prevent Clostridium botulinum growth. Increased growth of said bacteria species in sauerkraut could lead to botulism when consumed. This obviously would negate sauerkraut benefits in the end. So, carefulness, cleanliness, and correct way of storing cured cabbage leaves are, without a doubt, keys to getting the best sauerkraut ever that works best for you as well.
Health Benefits of Sauerkraut can be derived from two aspects. First, it is processed through fermentation, making it a good source of probiotics. Second, cabbage itself—being its primary ingredient—is rich in dietary fibers, making it one of the perfect choices to improve the health of digestive tract in your stomach. A 100 gram of cabbage contains about 2.5 gram of dietary fibers. It is also a type of vegetable that has good keeping quality, even on its own. Without being processed and when kept in even a place that has poor storage quality, cabbage can still be good for consumption, provided that it has not been stored that way for more than 4 months. The bacteria present in the dish give best results when introduced to your digestive tract.
Fermentation of sauerkraut occurs in three stages. Collectively, all the three stages are called population dynamics.
- Anaerobic bacteria culture in the first stage and initiate the fermentation process. Enterobacter and Kleibsella create an environment that promotes the growth of next batch of bacteria.
- Second stage begins the moment the environment is simply too for any bacteria other than the Leuconostoc spp. and Leuconostocmesenteroides to grow—which continue on fermenting the cabbage leaves in their presence.
- Lactobacillus plantarum and Lactobacillsbrevis take over the fermentation process by processing remaining sugar contents in the environment. As a result, said environment’s pH level drops even lower.
Health Benefits of Sauerkraut manifest from these stages due to the diverse introduction of bacteria species into the dish.
During the first seven days after preparation, the Weissella bacteria species is found to be the most prevalent colony in the environment. This suggests that the bacteria of this species may have been the one that triggers initial fermentation. Other beneficial microbes that promote sauerkraut benefits such as Pediococcuspentosaceus and Lactobacillus brevis do not even appear until after 14 days following preparation. As a side note, P. pentosaceus is a good gut flora component that improves digestion while L. brevis is known to give human immune system a boost when ingested. The first and second fermentation stages that occur in the making of sauerkraut are eliminated when a new portion of it is added to the old one. The prevalent of Lactobacillus plantarum is so wide that the first two steps are bypassed, which makes for a very sour sauerkraut product.
As mentioned before, the Health Benefits of Sauerkraut are primarily derived from its high dietary fiber contents and rich advantageous microbes. But those are only a few of what the dish has in store for you. Sauerkraut contains enough protein that should make up for protein requirement in your daily diet. Sauerkraut is also one of the best sources of various ranges of minerals. Research finds that sauerkraut may contribute a number of minerals that you need such as calcium, magnesium, sodium, copper, manganese, and iron. It is also abundant in vitamins: many ranges of B vitamins, vitamin K, vitamin C, and vitamin A. needless to say, despite its many spectrums of benefits, you should consume it in moderation as sodium may impact on your heart condition.
Supercharging your bodily energy production is one of the sauerkraut benefits to expect. Cabbage is already high in iron on its own and making sauerkraut out of it does not at all compromise that nutritional value. Iron is important for the body to help with producing more red blood cells. More red blood cells being produced equals 1) increased metabolic process and 2) improve blood circulation. These aspects lead to an increase in better oxygenation of both cells and organs. As a result, energy will be generated more thoroughly and you eventually feel more energetic after ingesting sauerkraut. The dish’s ability to increase red blood cell production also contributes to treating anemia. Anemia is caused by lack of iron in the body and naturally, upping iron intake is the key to curing it.
As explained over and over again at the beginning, Health Benefits of Sauerkraut include improving the health of digestive tract. You have come to understand just how rich in fiber sauerkraut is but you may not understand how it works to facilitate digestive health. Dietary fibers are not digestible at all for human intestines. Rather, they will clump together in digestive tract, collecting the other processed food components as they pass through the intestines. As the fibers are moving the stuff through the bowels, they gather more remains until they reach the final end of digestive tract, ready for evacuation. In this sense, sauerkraut helps ease excretion and in the process, it prevents other possible worst scenarios from developing further: colon cancer or gastric ulcers.
Being rich in fiber, it is easy to relegate sauerkraut benefits to only beneficial for your gut. And indeed, most of you perhaps consume sauerkraut for this very purpose. But did you know that sauerkraut is also a good food for the heart? You would not think it is important in this way but the same fibers that boost bowel movement are also capable of giving you a chance to fight off heart-related diseases. See, the dietary fiber is well-known for its ability to bind tightly to cholesterol and fats. When you ingest it, not only will it latch to the remains of food but also rob the fats of their chance to stick to your artery walls. Same with food remains, fiber from sauerkraut will drag those fats and cholesterols out of your body, keeping your natural fat and cholesterol composition in check.
Sauerkraut is also observed to display a considerable amount of carotenes and vitamin A. Therefore, the Health Benefits of Sauerkraut also comprise its ability to maintain skin and eye health. Both vitamin A and carotenes are potent antioxidants; they remove free radicals—naturally occurring byproducts of metabolic activities of cells. Free radicals are dangerous in that they can trigger mutation in cells. Sauerkraut’s high dose of vitamin A thus prevents cataract formation and other ocular degenerative conditions. Vitamin A also helps slow wrinkle formation on the skin down. Blemishes disappear in the process. Carotenes are capable of helping collagen production thus skin integrity is maintained. All in all, consuming sauerkraut may lead to you skin looking younger and healthier in the end.
Vitamin C is oftentimes lauded as the super-vitamin mainly due in large part to its ability to help maintain your stamina. It just so happens that a portion of sauerkraut contains 35% of the vitamin C you are suggested to take in daily basis. How exactly does this count as one of sauerkraut benefits? Let’s see; vitamin C is linked to increased production of white blood cells. It also contributes to promoting both cellular repair and regeneration. This is where the dish can help you: it boosts your immune system to fight off health threats and supports your body in its integrity. Collagen formation also involves vitamin C so much and collagen is regarded as a basic component that makes up your body, including bones, muscles, and skin.
Health Benefits of Sauerkraut are also found in its ability to alleviate inflammation. Minerals and vitamins are important to lessen the bad effects of bodily inflammation. Sauerkraut offers them all in spades and those should be enough for your body to cope with inflammation. However, minerals and vitamins are not the only ones the dish has in store for you. Sauerkraut displays a significant amount of phytonutrient antioxidants content, too. The organic compounds found in sauerkraut not only work against anti-free radicals but also as anti-inflammatory agents. As an example of this case, for a long time, sauerkraut has been regarded as home remedy to treat canker sores. Try rinsing your mouth for 30 seconds with sauerkraut juice. Alternatively, you can take a wad off a plate of sauerkraut directly over affected areas. Leave it there for a minute.
As it contains a lot of antioxidant components, clinical research has been attempted to find out if anticancer is also one of sauerkraut benefits. Granted, it is still an ongoing research that takes time to deliver exact results. But signs have been positive about this aspect. On paper, antioxidant levels found in sauerkraut logically should be enough to tackle free radicals that can trigger cancerous cell formation. A 2002 research in Finland found the presence of isothiocyanates in sauerkraut, which was observed to have been able to prevent cancer cells from growing in test tube. A 2010 study in Poland showed that sauerkraut juice contains enzymes with detoxifying effects that may prevent cancer cell formation.
A single serving of sauerkraut contains 23% of daily recommended intake of vitamin K. This is one of Health Benefits of Sauerkraut that you should not miss out as vitamin K is important in maintaining bones’ integrity and overall strength. Vitamin K helps increase the production of certain protein needed in bone mineralization.