Super Sauerkraut: A Shortcut to Gut Health
This deliciously crunchy, mildly tart foodstuff punches with the heavyweights of optimum nutrition. But the uninformed could be forgiven for being put off by the harsh-sounding name, translating literally as ‘sour cabbage’ from old German. So, let’s get informed!
What is Sauerkraut?
Simply, finely shredded cabbage mixed with salt and tamped down. But thanks to fermentation – the time-honoured preserving method that also gives us alcohol – the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts.
Fermentation is a biological turbo-boost for cabbage. It requires a carbohydrate source – the cabbage – and bacteria. Salt and squashing draw out water with help from osmosis, pushing out oxygen and creating an anaerobic environment that happens to be favourable for the thriving of bacteria naturally present on the cabbage. Over a period of weeks, these bacteria convert sugars in the leaves to organic acids, warding off harmful microorganisms and providing lovely conditions for a variety of lactic acid bacteria, which also go by the reverent moniker ‘probiotics’.
Why you Should be Eating It
Well, it’s delicious. But let’s return to those bacteria. The ‘pro’ refers to the fact that these microorganisms are beneficial to humans. It has been found that probiotics can:
- Aid digestion.
- Help get the most out of what you eat – making nutrients more bioavailable.
- Enhance your immune system.
- Colonise digestive tracts. This means they set up shop, multiplying in our bodies and continuing their good works there, including making conditions more favourable for other healthy bacteria.
Perhaps you know all this, and you already take a probiotic supplement. Just for a little context, one analysis found that a serving of sauerkraut had trillions of bacteria. Probiotics at a whole new potency. And if that weren’t enough to convince you, a serving of sauerkraut also packs:
- dietary fibre
- vitamin A
- vitamin C
- vitamin K
- B vitamins
- only 45 calories per serving
What supplement can promise that bang for your buck?
Not all sauerkraut is created equal. Some jars of cabbage have skipped fermentation and try to replicate the tang of the original with vinegar. Others are pasteurised, seeing off many of the benefits of the live product. Home-fermented sauerkraut can be great, but there are risks of contamination by not-so-friendly bacteria, or air breaches that allow vinegar formation resulting in an unpleasant flavour. For optimum benefits, look for raw, organic unpasteurised sauerkraut; keep it refrigerated and never double dip!
How do I Sauerkraut?
First and foremost: please do not cook your sauerkraut. The live enzymes and probiotics will live no more if they get too hot. Otherwise, go fermental!
- Use it as a condiment. The tartness and comfortingly crisp texture makes it a perfect partner for many savoury dishes.
- Jazz up a salad with a couple of tablespoons or use a jar as the base of something more kimchi-esque.
- Stuff some sushi with it for bitesize bursts of flavour.
- The secret to a great sandwich is variety in flavour and texture, so spread away!
- Add a spoonful to a smoothie for extra goodness.
Check our recipes for more inspiration. If you’re looking for reliably flavourful and nutritious sauerkraut, look no further!