Sauerkraut: A Complete Probiotic

Did You Know… that the best way to protect your digestive health—and therefore your overall immunity and well-being—may be an extremely humble food item?

Inside your gut—all 20 feet of it—are 100 trillion microorganisms, a highly evolved biome of bacteria and yeast that supports your immune system, protects against inflammation and infection, and even produces vitamins and other nutrients.  Unfortunately, not all of these microbes are the same.  Some are beneficial bacteria that keep our digestive systems and bodies in balance, but others are harmful bacteria that lead to digestive ailments, autoimmune diseases, and even mental disorders if left unchecked!

These health-compromising gut bugs have spawned a multi-billion dollar probiotics industry that pumps out supplements promising to reinvent your gut flora and cure your digestive issues.  The problem with these probiotic supplements, however, is that the billions of live acidophilus organisms they contain aren’t good through the expiration date.  The majority of probiotic supplements just can’t survive the shipping and lengthy storage and are dead before they ever reach your GI tract!

Fortunately, live strains of bacteria (probiotics) are found in many different types of fermented foods, like kefir, yogurt, onions, and a favorite American condiment—sauerkraut!

The Probiotic Power of Sauerkraut 

According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC), approximately 60 to 70 million people suffer from a digestive disorder.  Perhaps one reason for all the digestive complaints is that the typical American diet is extremely low in fermented foods (apart from cheap beer and boxed wine).  East and Southeast Asians eat natto (fermented soy) and kimchi (fermented cabbage), while people from India and the Middle East indulge with fermented pickles and yogurts.  It’s time to take our cue from these cultures and up our intake of fermented foods.  Sauerkraut is an easy option to start with!

Sauerkraut, also called sour cabbage, is typically used as a topping on hot dogs.  While this condiment may be tasty, it’s not the form of sauerkraut that’s going to cultivate healthy gut flora.  Trade in the commercial jar of sauerkraut that’s preserved in vinegar for the less processed and properly fermented sauerkraut that’s crunchy, tangy, and fresh.

Home grown, lacto-fermented sauerkraut is rich in live lactobacilli, beneficial microbes, and enzymes. The fermentation process keeps these nutrients readily bioavailable and easily absorbed by your body. Sauerkraut is also infused with…

  • Vitamins C, B, and K
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Fiber
  • Folate
  • Iron
  • Copper
  • Potassium
  • Manganese

Research studies have shown that sauerkraut even possesses anti-cancer properties. The Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry published a 2002 study on fermented sauerkraut and its effect on cancer cell growth. Results showed that sauerkraut fermentation inhibited cancer cell growth in both test tube and animal studies.

In Europe, fermented sauerkraut is celebrated as an effective ulcer treatment. It’s highly concentrated in vitamin U (S-Methylmethionine), a nutrient known to help heal ulcers.

Sauerkraut has a unique flavor that doesn’t sit well with everyone’s taste buds. If you’re not keen on sauerkraut, then supplement with other raw, lacto-fermented vegetables, like pickles, cucumbers, or eggplant.