Discover the 5 Benefits of Sauerkraut.
Sauerkraut, a form of fermented cabbage, has been popular throughout Central Europe for hundreds of years. Sauerkraut combines one of the healthiest foods there is (cabbage) with one of the most beneficial and time-honored food preparation methods ever used (fermentation).
According to the Institute for Integrative Medicine at the University of Witten in Germany, sauerkraut is one of the most common and oldest ways of preserving cabbage and can be traced as an important food source to the 4th century BC. c.
What is special about vegetables and fermented foods. Fermentation simply refers to an ancient technique and method of persistence that naturally alters the chemistry of food.
Like cultured dairy products like yogurt and kefir, the fermentation process of sauerkraut produces beneficial probiotics that are now linked to improvements in immune, cognitive, digestive, and endocrine function.
People have been using fermentation to preserve valuable vegetables and other perishable foods for long periods without the use of modern refrigerators, freezers, or canning machines.
Fermentation is the metabolic process of converting carbohydrates, such as sugars, into alcohols and carbon dioxide, or organic acids.
It requires the presence of a carbohydrate source (such as milk or vegetables, which contain sugar molecules) plus yeast, bacteria, or both.
Yeast and bacterial microorganisms are responsible for converting glucose (sugar) into healthy bacteria strains that populate the intestinal environment and help regulate many bodily functions.
Microbial fermentation occurs when bacteria or yeast organisms are deprived of oxygen (which is why fermentation was first described as “airless breathing” by the early French microbiologists who discovered the science behind the process).
The type of fermentation that makes most foods “probiotic” (rich in beneficial bacteria) is called lactic acid fermentation. Lactic acid is a natural preservative that inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria.
First of all, the live and active probiotics in sauerkraut have beneficial effects on the health of your digestive tract and therefore the rest of your body as well.
This is because a large part of your immune system lives in your gut and is managed by bacterial organisms, what you can think of as “gut bugs” that live within your gut flora.
Microbial imbalances have been associated with increased risks of various diseases, but fortunately obtaining beneficial microorganisms from probiotic foods has repeatedly shown health benefits in clinical settings.
After eating foods like sauerkraut that provide probiotics, these intestinal bugs lodge in the lining and folds of the intestinal walls, where they communicate with the brain via the vagus nerve. They also act as your first line of defense against various harmful bacteria or toxins that enter your body.
Some beneficial probiotic bacteria found in sauerkraut and other cultivated vegetables are more or less permanent residents because they form long-lasting colonies. Others come and go more quickly, but still have significant anti-inflammatory effects.
As described in a 2009 report published in The Indian Journal of Medical Microbiology, “Use of antibiotics, immunosuppressive therapy, and irradiation, among other means of treatment, can cause alterations in gut composition and affect GIT flora.
Therefore, the introduction of beneficial bacterial species in the gastrointestinal tract may be a very attractive option to restore the microbial balance and prevent disease.”
A 2006 report published in The Journal of Applied Microbiology states that the probiotic benefits of cultured foods include:
•Reduction of general inflammation (both inside and outside the gastrointestinal tract)
•Improvement of digestive disorders such as leaky gut syndrome, ulcerative colitis, IBS, and pouchitis
•Better nutrient absorption
•Prevention and treatment of diarrhea
•Prevention and reduction of symptoms of food allergies, including lactose intolerance, allergy to dairy proteins, and others
•Improvement of high blood pressure
•Cancer risk reduction
•Relief of arthritis inflammation (rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile chronic arthritis)
•Reduction of eczema symptoms
•Protection against H. pylori infection
•Better immune response in HIV/AIDS patients
•Improved vaginal health and prevention of bacterial infections such as UTIs and bacterial vaginosis
•Natural Remedy for Liver/Brain Disease Hepatic Encephalopathy
This is due to probiotics’ direct and indirect influences on various organ systems, especially the rate at which your body produces inflammation and controls hormone production.
The “good bacteria” and other organisms that live inside your gut could also be considered an organ in their own right, as they are critically important to the health of your brain, hormones, heart, lungs, liver, and digestive organs (and after all contains most of your immune system).
Sauerkraut is very low in calories, but as you can see, it’s an anti-inflammatory food packed with benefits.
In addition to having probiotics to offer, sauerkraut is a good source of antioxidants and dietary fiber, thanks to its main ingredient: cabbage.
Even eating a small amount daily—just several tablespoons—provides a great source of nutrients, including vitamin K, vitamin C, calcium, potassium, phosphorous, and, of course, probiotics.
As a bonus, the proliferation of microorganisms in fermented vegetables improves their digestibility and increases the absorption of their various nutrients.
One of the reasons you might stick to a smaller portion? It’s a bit high in sodium (with about 20 percent of your needs in each ½-cup serving) considering sea salt is one of the main ingredients.
A half-cup serving of sauerkraut (about 75 grams) has about:
•0 grams of fat
•4 grams of fiber
•3 grams of carbohydrates
•1 gram of sugar
•1 gram of protein
•496 milligrams of sodium
•11 milligrams of vitamin C (17 percent DV)
•10 micrograms of vitamin K (8 percent DV)
•1 milligram of iron (6 percent DV)
•1 milligram of manganese (6 percent DV)
•1 milligram of vitamin B6 (6 percent DV)
•17 micrograms of folic acid (5 percent DV)
•Provides probiotics that help improve digestion
•Improves immune function
•Reduces inflammation and allergies
•Supports cognitive health and mood
•Provides cancer-fighting antioxidants
The microorganisms present in sauerkraut, including those of the Lactobacillus genus of bacteria, essentially “feed” the good bacteria in the gut, which improves digestive health.
Research shows that within sauerkraut, Lactobacillus Plantarum is the predominant LAB bacteria strain that is born during the fermentation phase.
We still have a lot to learn about the exact types of beneficial bacteria that grow in cultured foods, but for the first time, a 2003 report published in the Journal of Applied Environmental Microbiology demonstrated the complex ecology present in sauerkraut fermentations.
Because they can help decrease the presence of toxins, inflammation, and harmful bacteria that live inside your digestive tract, probiotic bacteria are beneficial for reducing symptoms like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and constipation (yes, they help with bowel movements!) !), Diarrhea, bloating sensitive foods and digestive disorders.
We often hear that probiotic yogurt is one of the best foods for better digestion and disease prevention, but non-dairy cultured foods like sauerkraut have the same effects.
In the process, sauerkraut and other fermented foods help you better absorb nutrients from the food you’re eating, go to the bathroom regularly, and even help control your appetite, thanks to their effects on hormones.
Although most people don’t realize it, the gut is the organ that contains most of your immune system, and the probiotics in sauerkraut play an important role in regulating gut health. Beneficial bacteria can educate, activate and support the immune system.
Recent scientific research has supported the important role of probiotics as part of a healthy diet that can provide a safe, cost-effective, and natural approach that adds a barrier against many types of microbial infection.
Research has shown that probiotics can be effective in fighting diarrhea, antibiotic resistance, Clostridium difficile colitis, various infections, inflammatory bowel disease, constipation, and even cancer.
Lactobacillus rhamnosus strains are beneficial for intestinal immunity and can increase the number of IgA and other immunoglobulins in the intestinal mucosa.
Autoimmunity, one of the main causes of inflammation, is a state in which the body attacks its tissues because it suspects that it is being damaged by an external “invader”, whether it is a food to which it is sensitive or allergic, toxins from household and beauty products, air, water, etc. of bad quality.
The beneficial probiotics in sauerkraut help increase and regulate NK cells, nicknamed “natural killer cells,” which control the body’s inflammatory pathways and fight infections or food allergies.
This, in turn, can lower your risk of developing just about every chronic disease out there, from heart disease to cancer.
It’s not hard to imagine how our brains and digestive systems are connected: think about the last time you felt “sick to your stomach” or the butterflies in your belly got flustered.
Researchers are still learning about the fascinating and intimate relationship between your gut and brain, especially how this relationship is bidirectional, or a “two-way street.”
It’s not just that your mood can affect your digestion, but it turns out that the health of your digestive system can also affect your nervous system, brain function, and moods!
All of this is possible because of the vagus nerve, one of 12 cranial nerves that help form the primary channel of information between nerve cells in your gut nervous system and your central nervous system in the brain.
Communication through the vagus nerve is affected by the various populations of bacteria in the intestine.
Depending on what type of bacteria is present in different proportions within your gut, different chemical messages can be activated that affect your ability to learn, remember, and classify information.
Probiotics are one of the natural remedies for mood disturbance, such as depression. In multiple human trials, supplementation with probiotic foods such as sauerkraut led to improved mood and reduced symptoms of depression, making it a valuable adjunctive (add-on) therapy for depression.
In animals, probiotics like sauerkraut have even been found to reduce some anxiety symptoms and improve markers of autism.
In addition to the numerous benefits that sauerkraut probiotics offer, its main ingredient cabbage also has a lot to offer. Cabbage is a disease-fighting vegetable of its own.
Cabbage is among a group of antioxidant-rich foods and cruciferous vegetables known to be powerful cancer-fighting foods.
One reason cabbage and other cruciferous foods have protective effects is because they supply various antioxidants and dietary fiber. Cabbage has phytonutrients, including isothiocyanates and indoles.
In laboratory settings, these have shown protection against cancer cell formation and have positive effects on reducing inflammation.
Sulforaphane, a particularly potent member of the isothiocyanate family, is capable of increasing the body’s production of Phase II enzymes that can help fight free radical damage.
This compound is found in cabbage, although it is even more prevalent in broccoli sprouts.
Although most sauerkraut is made from white or green cabbage, some varieties also use red cabbage. Red cabbage has its class of special antioxidant properties called anthocyanins.
These flavonoid phytonutrients, which give blueberries and wine their intense colors, have strong antioxidant activities that help fight cardiovascular disease, cancer, and cognitive disorders.
Sauerkraut is native to Eastern Europe, especially in places like Germany, Poland, and Russia, where cabbage is considered a staple ingredient, even the “quintessential vegetable.”
Sauerkraut, which means “sour cabbage” in German, first arrived in the United States in the 1700s. It has been said that immigrants who came to America at this time on ships carried sauerkraut with them on their long voyages because the fermentation process could preserve copious amounts of harvested cabbage and also provide important nutrients.
While fermentation may seem like a complicated process, it is something that has been practiced for thousands of years in one form or another by nearly every ancient population on Earth.
Fermented foods prevent them from spoiling quickly, which is why it has been a proven method of consuming vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes available for thousands of years around the world.
For example, beneficial kefir is a cultured dairy product first created in Eastern Europe thousands of years ago, miso and natto are fermented soy products from Japan, and kimchi is a traditional fermented Korean staple dish.
Fermentation is also used to make all kinds of yogurts that have “live and active cultures” and in the production of beer, wine, and some sourdough bread as well (where yeast converts sugar to carbon dioxide).
Some records show that ancient Chinese populations were types of pickled cabbage (fermentation) more than 2,000 years ago.
The type of sauerkraut you want to buy is the kind that has been prepared traditionally and refrigerated to preserve “active, live cultures.” These types can be found in health food stores and now in some larger grocery stores in the refrigerated section, not in jars or jars at room temperature.
Keep in mind that many commercial food manufacturers have attempted to standardize the fermentation process to produce larger amounts of cultured food in less time.
The result is that many mass-produced foods that were traditionally fermented (like sauerkraut, pickles, or olives, for example) are now just treated with large amounts of sodium and chemicals and then canned.
This type of product might be labeled “sauerkraut,” but it hasn’t gone through the proper process to develop probiotics.
In some cases, cultured foods are also pasteurized to remove potentially harmful bacteria, killing the probiotics we want in the process.
Only true fermentation, without pasteurization, gives you the amazing probiotic enzymes, like lactobacillus for example, that have the benefits mentioned above.
Making sauerkraut is one of the most basic fermentation processes out there, so it’s a great place to start if you’re new to making your cultured foods.
All you need to make sauerkraut (or any fermented vegetable) is simply the vegetable (in this case cabbage), water, salt, and some patience. I have a homemade sauerkraut recipe if you are ready to try it.
Lacto-fermented vegetables increase in flavor with more time, according to fermentation experts.
Some traditional preparation methods call for the sauerkraut to rest for at least six months to become fully mature and beneficial; however, many people ferment theirs for only one to two weeks with success.
One of the best things about Lacto-fermented vegetable seasonings is that they will stay fresh and “alive” when stored in a cold place like the refrigerator for several months, instead of going bad in a week as fresh vegetables do.
Sauerkraut is a fermented food, packed with beneficial probiotics to offer health improvements not only to your gut, but to your immune system, mind, and beyond. Fermented foods like sauerkraut may even help your body prevent cancer.
It’s been around for a long time, and the best way to use sauerkraut is to make your own or purchase high-quality refrigerated varieties. Try fermented cabbage made from different cabbages to find the type you like best.
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