Sauerkraut—literally “sour cabbage” in Deutsch-speak—is a super food packed with nutrition and is especially loved in Germany and eastern European countries.
One cup of sauerkraut (approximately 150 g) contains 32 calories, 4 grams of fiber, 35% Percent Daily Value (DV) of needed Vitamin C, 12%DV iron plus vitamin B6, folate, calcium, potassium, and copper.
If that weren’t enough, untreated sauerkraut supplies potentially beneficial lactic acid bacteria because of the fermentation. Other healthy components of sauerkraut are: isothiocyanates and indole-3-carbinol, which are thought to reduce the risk for certain types of cancer; and flavonoids which may benefit in heart disease.
In other words, we should all be eating saurkraut.
Salt added to the shredded cabbage controls the fermentation process. While several bacteria emerge, the most common lactic acid bacterium present in the final product is Lactobacillus plantarum. But alas, most retail versions have been pasteurized which destroys the bacteria. See, the live bacteria cause expansion which causes cans and jars to burst. In addition, the addition of a preservative called sodium benzoate also destroys bacteria. Consumers looking for live lactic acid bacteria should parse food labels, looking for that preservative as well as ascertaining if live bacteria are added after pasteurization, a method of adding healthy bacteria back to the cabbage.
Canned sauerkraut therefore will not hold live bacteria. What’s more, heating kills bacteria. But even that doesn’t decimate all the probiotic benefits. Byproducts are also healthful.
Farmer’s markets often sell fresh sauerkraut. Unpasteurized, that is. These retain billions of lactic acid bacteria.
Or you can easily concoct your own batch of saurkraut. Salt and shredded cabbage thrown in a big receptacle–wood or glass preferred– compressed, and allowed to ferment for weeks or months is the simplest of recipes.
Be aware though that sauerkraut offers up a substantial dose of sodium, a no-no for people watching their salt intake. One trick is to wash it well and eat it on days when your overall sodium intake is low.
Traditional recipes pair sauerkraut with lean pork and apples. But other pairings are available across the internet. There are dozens of creative ways to sneak this powerful vegetable into your diet. Chocolate sauerkraut cake anyone?