The Best Probiotic - Home-Made Sauerkraut
|MORE THAN JUST CABBAGE|
Some of the health benefits of sauerkraut include its ability to increase your digestive health, boost your circulation, protect your heart health, provide you with quick energy, stimulate your immune system, strengthen your bones, reduce your overall cholesterol levels, eliminate inflammation, protect against certain cancer, and even improve your vision and skin health.
Although as a child, you may not have liked the taste or smell of sauerkraut (I know I didn’t), this slightly unique form of finely cut cabbage can be a major source of health benefits for you! Basically, sauerkraut is cabbage that has been fermented, which is where the distinct sour taste comes from. It is popularly used as a side dish or even as a condiment in certain cultures, which can be added to sausage or hot dogs. Fermented foods are commonly found in cultures throughout the world, but sauerkraut is one that has managed to find a global market, and is popular throughout Europe, Asia, and America.
Historical records point to its origin being somewhere in China, having been brought to Europe at some point during the Roman Empire. Pickled or fermented foods like sauerkraut were very valuable in the era before refrigeration, as it allowed food to stay fresh during long journeys. Many people now associate sauerkraut with Eastern European countries and Germany, which does feature it heavily in certain cultural dishes, but it is truly an international favorite. The fermentation process of sauerkraut is similar to the process of making kimchi or pickles, meaning that heat is not applied during the process, as this will kill the bacteria that makes the fermentation process possible. Besides being a delicious addition to a number of meals, sauerkraut also makes for a health addition to any diet. Let’s take a look at some of the nutritional elements that make this “sour cabbage” so important!
Nutritional Value of Sauerkraut
Sauerkraut contains high levels of dietary fibre, as well as significant levels of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, and various B vitamins. Furthermore, it is a good source of iron, manganese, copper, sodium, magnesium, and calcium, in addition to contributing a moderate amount of protein to your diet.
Health Benefits of Sauerkraut
The high levels of iron found in cabbage (sauerkraut) can be very beneficial for the body in a variety of ways. First of all, iron helps to contribute to energy production, as it increases the body’s metabolism and also boosts circulation, which increases oxygenation of organs and cells. This increased blood flow is a result of more RBC, of which iron is a key component. High iron levels helps prevent anemia (iron deficiency) and the side effects associated with that condition (headaches, fatigue, cognitive impairment).
Cabbage is famed for its high fibre content, which is well known as one of the key points in any diet for the benefit of digestive health. Sauerkraut obviously shares this benefit, and can help to move food through the bowels, eliminating constipation, bloating, cramping, and excessive gas along the way. By regulating your digestive and excretory system, you can also prevent more serious conditions, like gastric ulcers and even colon cancer.
Fibre may be commonly consumed for digestive health, but it is also very important for the health of your heart. Fibre is able to scrape off dangerous cholesterol from the walls of arteries and blood vessels by binding with the fats and cholesterol and removing them from the body. Therefore, less cholesterol enters the bloodstream and your overall cholesterol level is balanced. This can prevent atherosclerosis, heart attacks, strokes, and a variety of other cardiovascular issues.
Eye and Skin Health:
Sauerkraut also contains quite a few carotenes and a significant amount of vitamin A. This essential vitamin acts as an antioxidant, as do the carotenes, and eliminate free radicals from the body’s systems, which are the dangerous byproducts of cellular metabolism that can cause healthy cells to mutate. Sauerkraut has been linked to improved eye health, as vitamin A reduces the chances of macular degeneration and cataract formation. Furthermore, in terms of the skin, vitamin A helps to maintain the integrity of your skin, slowing down the appearance of wrinkles, eliminate blemishes, and generally keeping your skin looking young and healthy, thanks to the free-radical neutralizing powers of sauerkraut!
Immune System Booster:
As most people know, when you’re feeling under the weather, have some orange juice, as it’s such a rich source of vitamin C. Well, a single serving of sauerkraut has 35% of your daily recommended intake of vitamin C, which is one of the most important elements of our immune system. Vitamin C stimulates the production of white blood cells and increases cellular regeneration and repair, while also playing a key role in the formation of collagen, a foundational component for almost every part of our body, including organs, blood vessels, skin, hair, muscles, and bones.
If the many vitamins and minerals present in sauerkraut weren’t enough, there are also certain organic compounds found in this cabbage variant that work as anti-inflammatory agents. Phytonutrient antioxidants contained in sauerkraut can double as anti-inflammatory agents, reducing the pain and discomfort of joints, muscles, or other inflamed areas.
Although research is still underway to reveal the exact impact of sauerkraut on cancerous cells, the presence of antioxidant compounds in sauerkraut (as with all cruciferous vegetables) means that free radicals can be eliminated, which are one of the main causes behind cancerous cell formation.
The wide range of minerals found in sauerkraut make it ideal for building strong bones and preventing osteoporosis. The high level of vitamin K (23% of daily recommended intake in a single serving), which is a somewhat uncommon mineral, is particularly important for maintaining the integrity and strength of your bones, as vitamin K produces the proteins that regulate bone mineralization!
Final Word of Warning:
Despite all of these health benefits, sauerkraut is very high in sodium, which can be a dangerous dietary addition to people suffering from various cardiovascular and renal diseases. Speak to your doctor about an appropriate level of sauerkraut consumption if you suffer from these types of health concerns.
How To Make Sauerkraut
Watch this Open Source Video to see a step by step explanation and demonstration of making sauerkraut.
Things to Note When Making Sauerkraut
- Sauerkraut is exceptionally easy to make: add salt to chopped (or grated cabbage), squeeze the cabbage and cover with a weight.
- You can place a large (heavy duty) plastic bag filled with water (tie a knot in it) on top of a upside down plate on top of the cabbage.
A few things to note on the salt.
- Salt helps pull liquid from the cabbage.
- You can ferment cabbage without salt but it tends to be less sour and it’s shelf-life will be reduced.
- Too much salt will prohibit fermentation altogether.
- The more salt you have, the slower the ferment will take. The opposite is, of course, true as well.
- Many people don’t measure their salt and just taste it as a guideline. We recommend measuring so that your results are somewhat repeatable.
- Don't use iodised table salt.
- In the first few days of the ferment, your product may taste overly salted. This will mellow as the ferment continues and more liquid is created in your fermenting vessel/bowl. Make sure it's glass.
- Many people learning to ferment add too much salt and inhibit or prevent fermentation. Too much will stop fermentation – too little will not cause harm.
- 2 teaspoons per 450g for ferments smaller than 2kg and it’s easier to scale that way.
- From our experience, more than this is not required and can simply slow or stop the process.
- For larger amounts a good salt a maximum ratio to use is 2.5 - 3 tablespoons per 2.25kg cabbage is recommended.
- For more precision, you can make a 3.5 - 5% brine. It’s a bit tricky as one adds the salt to the cabbage before adding the water so the technique starts with a bit of guessing: for every litre (1,000 ml) of water you anticipate adding to the ferment, add 35-50 grams of non-iodized salt to the cabbage. Crunch the cabbage and let it rest in the salt for 12-24 hours and cover it with the amount of water had planned to use. If u need more water - measure it and add more salt.