The health benefits of sauerkraut include its ability to enhance digestive health, increase blood circulation, protect heart health, provide energy, stimulate the immune system, strengthen bones, reduce the overall cholesterol levels, eliminate inflammation, protect against certain cancers, and even improve vision and skin health.
Although as a child, you may not have liked the taste or smell of sauerkraut, this 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 that is added to sausage or hot dogs in certain cultures. 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 existence of 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, where it is heavily used in certain cultural dishes, but it truly is 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 possible. Besides being a delicious addition to a number of meals, sauerkraut also makes for a healthy 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 fiber, as well as significant levels of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, and various B vitamins. 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
Sauerkraut gives plenty of health benefits to those who consume it. Let’s have a detailed look at them.
The high levels of iron found in cabbage (sauerkraut) can be very beneficial to the body in a number of ways. First of all, iron contributes to energy production, as it increases the body’s metabolism and also manages the blood 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 help prevent anemia (iron deficiency) and the side effects associated with that condition (headaches, fatigue, and cognitive impairment).
Better Digestive Health
Cabbage is famed for its high fiber content, which is well-known as one of the key points in any diet for the benefit of digestive health. Sauerkraut shares the same benefit and can help to move food through the bowels, thereby eliminating constipation, bloating, cramping, and excessive gas along the way. By regulating the digestive and excretory system, it can also prevent serious conditions, like gastric ulcers and even colon cancer.
Sauerkraut is also very important for the health of your heart. It is a lacto-fermented food and hence, has probiotics, which can help in lowering the LDL cholesterol. Therefore, your overall cholesterol level is balanced. This can prevent atherosclerosis, heart attacks, strokes, and a variety of other cardiovascular issues.
Eye & Skin Care
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 eliminates free radicals from the body’s systems. These free radicals 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 in it reduces the chances of macular degeneration and cataract formation. Furthermore, vitamin A helps to maintain the integrity of your skin, slowing down the appearance of wrinkles, eliminating blemishes, and generally keeping your skin looking young and healthy.
As most people know, when they feel under the weather, they prefer some orange juice, as it is a rich source of vitamin C. A single serving of sauerkraut has 35% of your daily recommended intake of vitamin C, which is one of the most important elements of the immune system.
Vitamin C stimulates the production of white blood cells and increases cellular regeneration and repair. It also plays 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 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 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 noted as one of the main causes of cancerous cell formation.
The wide range of minerals found in sauerkraut makes it ideal for building strong bones and preventing osteoporosis. The high level of vitamin K (23% of daily recommended intake in a single serving) is important for maintaining the integrity and strength of your bones, as vitamin K produces the proteins that regulate bone mineralization.
Word of Caution: 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.