Sauerkraut: 8 Top Health Benefits, Nutrition, And Side Effects

Written by Sindhu Koganti

How many of you know that sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) is a highly nutritious food with several health benefits? Most people believe that it originated in China more than 2000 years ago. The probiotics in sauerkraut restore the health of your gut flora and promote your overall health. Sauerkraut helps improve digestion, promotes weight loss, supports the immune system, enhances brain health, and reduces the risk of cancer. In this article, we explore the health benefits of sauerkraut, its nutrition profile, how to make it, and its potential side effects. Keep reading.

What Is Sauerkraut?

Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage. It has a pungent odor with a strong, sour flavor. It has a rich nutritional profile and is used to make salads, sandwiches, and toppings for hot dogs. Raw cabbage is fermented by lactobacillus strains that produce useful probiotics (live bacteria). These make sauerkraut beneficial and allow it to stay fresh for longer.

The live bacteria in sauerkraut offer several health benefits. We have discussed the same below.

8 Potential Health Benefits Of Sauerkraut

1. May Improve Digestion

Fermented food items contain live bacteria that are essential for your digestive health. The probiotics (live microorganisms) in sauerkraut can balance gut flora and help prevent and treat antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD). In one study, probiotics showed their efficacy in the prevention of diarrhea, a common adverse effect of antibiotic use. Probiotics also provide protection against inflammatory bowel diseases and gastrointestinal infections. Probiotics have also shown their efficacy in treating constipation, diarrhea caused by cancer treatment, and IBS.

Regular intake of Lacto-fermented sauerkraut helps reduce the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Daily consumption of sauerkraut has a positive impact on the gastrointestinal tract of many patients. As per the U.S. Department of Agriculture, North Carolina sauerkraut contains 28 distinct bacterial strains that help in the breakdown of your food into small molecules, which are easy to digest.

2. May Promote Weight Loss

As per one study, the healthy gut flora, including the Lactobacillus species, were found most effective in the treatment of obesity. Sauerkraut is also high in fiber and may promote satiety (feeling of fullness). This can help you reduce your food intake per day. Certain Lactobacillus species like Lactobacillus gasseri SBT2055 have been shown to suppress lipid absorption, prevent excess fat in the abdomen, and promote fecal fat excretion in humans.

As per one study, individuals who received probiotics showed a reduction in their body weight. Probiotic supplementation was also found to prevent weight gain.

3. May Support The Immune System

Probiotics can enhance the barrier function of epithelial cells and keep all harmful bacteria or pathogens at bay. They can also reduce the duration of illnesses like acute respiratory infections in healthy children and adults. Sauerkraut contains good bacteria that help keep your digestive system healthy. As per one study, the lactic acid bacteria in sauerkraut can trigger the expression of immune cells in the body.

Sauerkraut is rich in vitamins and minerals like vitamin C and iron that boost the immune system. Vitamin C prevents tissue damage and protects the immune cells against reactive oxygen species (ROS). A study conducted by the Pennsylvania State University on older adults found that adequate amounts of iron are essential for a healthy immune system.

4. May Enhance Brain Health

Fermented foods like sauerkraut have the ability to enhance memory. In studies, Lactobacillus species were found to alleviate anxiety levels, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and improved memory. Probiotics in fermented foods can improve cognitive function and enhance mental health. Sauerkraut also contains vitamins C and B12, folic acid, zinc, and magnesium that act against depression and related symptoms.

5. May Reduce Cancer Risk

As per one study, sauerkraut contains ascorbic acid, ascorbigen, and glucosinolate that may decrease DNA mutations and hinder the growth of tumor cells. A high intake of white cabbage can reduce the risk of certain cancers, like that of the prostate, breast, lungs, and pancreas. Another study conducted by the University of Medical Sciences, Poland, on rats, found that sauerkraut juice can suppress the expression of genes responsible for cancer. S-methyl methionine, a vitamin in sauerkraut, can reduce the risk of cancer in the stomach.

6. May Support Bone Strength

Vitamin K is essential for bone health and affects calcium balance in a positive way in bone metabolism. Sauerkraut contains both forms of vitamin K (vitamin K1 and vitamin K2) that are essential for bone health. Another study conducted on postmenopausal women showed that a low dose of vitamin K2 supplements decreases age-related decline in bone strength. Certain bacterial strains such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium have the ability to increase bone density. Probiotics also help reduce the inflammation in the case of rheumatoid arthritis.

7. May Improve Heart Health

Gut flora or microbiota has an impact on cardiovascular disease. Altered gut bacteria can result in heart disease. A study conducted on individuals with diabetes and coronary heart disease found that probiotic supplementation for 12 weeks had beneficial effects on their HDL-cholesterol levels. Long-term oral administration of probiotics can reduce serum cholesterol levels. A study conducted by Jilin University, China, on mice, found that naturally-fermented Chinese sauerkraut exhibits probiotic benefits that have the potential of lowering cholesterol. The vitamin K2 (menaquinone) in sauerkraut can inhibit the deposition of minerals on the walls of your arteries and veins, thereby reducing the risk of coronary heart disease.

8. May Support Skin Health

Oral and topical application of probiotics could be effective in treating certain inflammatory skin conditions. In one study, probiotics showed their efficacy in treating skin conditions like acne and atopic dermatitis. However, more studies are warranted to understand the effects of probiotics on skin health.

Sauerkraut has a wide range of vitamins and minerals. Check out the nutrition profile of sauerkraut in the next section.

Nutrition Profile Of Sauerkraut

As per the U.S. Department Of Agriculture, 100 grams of sauerkraut contain:

  • Calories: 19 kcal
  • Protein: 0.91 g
  • Fat: 0.14 g
  • Carbohydrate: 4.28 g
  • Fiber: 2.9 g
  • Calcium: 30 mg
  • Iron: 1.47 mg
  • Magnesium: 13 mg
  • Potassium: 170 mg
  • Sodium: 661 mg
  • Vitamin C: 14.7 mg
  • Vitamin K: 13 mcg

Sauerkraut fermentation provides an environment favorable to the growth of beneficial bacteria (probiotics), which makes sauerkraut nutrient-rich and easily digestible. But how do you prepare sauerkraut in your kitchen?

How To Prepare Sauerkraut?

You can prepare sauerkraut easily at your home with only two ingredients.

What You Need

  • Medium-sized green cabbage – 1
  • Salt – 1 tablespoon

Process

  1. Shred fresh cabbage into slices.
  2. Add salt and massage into the chopped cabbage in a bowl for a few minutes.
  3. Let it sit for some time, until saltwater starts accumulating at the bottom.
  4. Transfer the cabbage mixture after 10 minutes into a clean jar (1 liter) along with the saltwater.
  5. Make sure the cabbage mixture is completely submerged. Remove any air gaps to avoid the growth of harmful bacteria.
  6. Place a small jar with water inside the larger jar, on top of the mixture, to weigh it down. This will hold the cabbage mixture below the saltwater during fermentation.
  7. Cover the jar carefully and press the cabbage down in a timely manner to keep the mixture below the brine.
  8. Leave the jar lid slightly loose. This will allow gases to escape during the fermentation process.
  9. Let this sit at room temperature and away from direct sunlight.
  10. The longer you wait, the tastier your sauerkraut will be.
  11. Store your sauerkraut in the refrigerator after the fermentation process.

This is how easily you can prepare sauerkraut in your kitchen. But how do you eat sauerkraut? Let’s look at some recipes in the following section.

How To Eat Sauerkraut?

You can add sauerkraut simply to your diet and enjoy this probiotic fermented food.

1. Reuben Sandwich

What Do You Need

  • Sauerkraut – 1 cup
  • Butter – 2 tablespoons
  • Swiss cheese – 8 slices
  • Sliced corned beef – 8 slices
  • Thousand Island dressing – ½ cup

Process

  1. Preheat the skillet on medium heat.
  2. Lightly butter one side of the bread and cover the other side with the Thousand Island dressing.
  3. On 4 bread slices, layer 1 slice of Swiss cheese, 2 slices of corned beef, 1/4 cup sauerkraut, and the second slice of Swiss cheese.
  4. Top with the remaining bread slices, with the buttered sides out.
  5. Grill the sandwiches on both sides until they turn golden brown.

2. Seattle Cream Cheese Dogs

What Do You Need

  • Sauerkraut – 1 cup
  • Butter – ¼ cup
  • Sweet onion – 1
  • Cream cheese – 1 pack (4 ounces)
  • Hot dogs – 4
  • Hot dog buns – 4
  • Mustard – Optional

Process

  1. Preheat the skillet on medium heat.
  2. Add onions and cook slowly until they have softened and turned deep brown. This may take about 15 minutes.
  3. Warm the cream cheese over low heat until it turns soft.
  4. Grill hot dogs until well browned.
  5. To assemble cheese dogs, spread the warm cream cheese on a toasted hot dog bun.
  6. Add hot dog or sausage, top with onions, mustard, and sauerkraut.

3. Sauerkraut Salad

What Do You Need

  • Drained sauerkraut – 1 quart
  • Chopped celery – 2 stalks
  • Chopped carrot – 1 large
  • Chopped onion – 1
  • Green bell pepper – 1
  • Mustard seeds – 1 teaspoon
  • White sugar – 1 ½ cups
  • Diced pimento peppers – 1 (4 ounces)
  • Vegetable oil – 1 cup
  • Cider vinegar – ½ cup

Process

  1. Mix sauerkraut, celery, green bell pepper, onion, carrot, pimientos, and mustard seeds in a bowl.
  2. Set aside this mixture for some time.
  3. In a small saucepan, mix sugar, oil, and vinegar.
  4. Bring to a boil and remove from heat.
  5. Pour sugar mixture over salad, cover, and leave it in the refrigerator for 2 days before serving.

4. Sauerkraut Balls

What Do You Need

  • Drained and minced sauerkraut – 2 cups
  • Finely chopped corned beef – 1 cup
  • Unsalted butter – 3 tablespoons
  • Finely chopped onion – 1
  • Crushed garlic – ½ a clove
  • Finely chopped cooked ham – 1 cup
  • Beef broth – ½ cup
  • All-purpose flour – 2 ½ tablespoons
  • Chopped fresh parsley – 1 tablespoon
  • Beef broth – ½ cup
  • Milk – 2 cups
  • Egg – 1
  • Oil for frying – 1 quart
  • Fine dry bread crumbs – 4 cups

Process

  1. Melt butter over medium-low heat in a large skillet.
  2. Add onion and cook until softened.
  3. Stir in ham, corned beef, and garlic.
  4. Stir in 6 tablespoons of flour and cook mixture over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes.
  5. Add and stir in sauerkraut, parsley, and broth.
  6. Cook the mixture until thickened and paste-like.
  7. Spread the mixture on a platter and chill for at least 3 hours.
  8. Heat oil in a deep-fryer to 375o F (190o C).
  9. In a bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, and 2 ½ cups of flour.
  10. Shape the sauerkraut mixture into balls, dip them into the egg mixture, and roll them in the bread crumbs.
  11. Fry balls for 2 to 3 minutes or until they turn golden brown.

Picking the right variant of sauerkraut ensures you enjoy the maximum benefits. The following tips can help.

Tips For Buying Sauerkraut

  • Always check the labels for any unpasteurized sauerkraut varieties. Look for words like unpasteurized or kept refrigerated. Lactic acid is a preservative, so additional pasteurization is not needed.
  • If it is pasteurized, look for a method that uses low heat (because high heat kills probiotics).
  • There should only be two ingredients in sauerkraut (cabbage and salt). Some additional seasonings like garlic or carrot would also do.
  • Avoid varieties with preservatives and added sugars.
  • Choose the brand that specifically has the Lactobacillus strain.

The rich nutritional profile of sauerkraut offers many health benefits. But how much sauerkraut can one take? How much is too much? Check out in the next section.

How Much Sauerkraut Is Too Much?

Regular intake of 7 grams to 10 grams of sauerkraut in small doses is recommended for people with gastrointestinal problems. Anything beyond this may lead to gas and bloating. However, limited data is available in this regard.

Consumption of sauerkraut in limited quantities is generally considered safe. But it may cause some side effects if consumed in excess amounts.

Are There Any Side Effects?

Intake of higher doses of sauerkraut may cause some side effects. As per one study, the high histamine content in sauerkraut might contribute to allergic reactions. Also, sauerkraut has a high salt content that may increase blood pressure and elevate risk of cardiovascular disease in some individuals. However, limited data is available in this regard.

Conclusion

Sauerkraut is a nutrient-dense fermented food item with many health benefits. From improving your digestion to enhancing skin health, this probiotic food offers several health benefits. Start adding sauerkraut to your diet to enjoy its benefits. However, a high intake of sauerkraut may cause allergies and an increase in blood pressure. Hence, those with any preexisting medical conditions are advised to consult their doctor prior to consumption.

Sources

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

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Sindhu Koganti is a Biotechnology graduate and has been in the writing field for over 4 years now. She specializes in writing on Health and Wellness. She has hands-on experience in writing articles and press releases on Life Sciences and Healthcare, Food and Beverages, and Chemicals and Materials. When she’s not writing, she loves watching movies and listening to music. She also enjoys traveling.