Health Benefits of Sauerkraut

The word sauerkraut translates in English to “sour cabbage”. It’s used to describe a naturally fermented form of the vegetable — a traditional German food.

The fermentation process keeps bacteria from growing on the cabbage, which allows sauerkraut to stay fresh longer than unfermented cabbage.

Sauerkraut has a pungent odor and a strong, sour flavor. In the United States, it is perhaps best  known for its use on Reuben sandwiches.

Health Benefits

Because sauerkraut is made from cabbage, it has many of the expected health benefits of your average leafy green. However, the fermentation process adds health benefits that are unique to sauerkraut. Let’s take a look at what adding this food to your diet can do for your body. 

Improve Digestion

One serving of sauerkraut has two grams of fiber — a nutrient known to aid with digestion. For people with constipation, fiber increases the weight and size of their stool and softens it, making it easier to pass. For people with diarrhea, fiber can absorb excess water and solidify their stool. 

However, it’s not just sauerkraut’s fiber content that makes this food so good for digestion. Sauerkraut is also packed with probiotics that can improve your overall gut health. This combination makes sauerkraut an excellent food to aid with digestion. 

Promote Weight Loss

Obesity affects more than 40% of American adults and is associated with increased risks of heart disease, digestive problems, and type 2 diabetes.

There are multiple reasons sauerkraut may help with weight loss. For one thing, sauerkraut is low in calories and high in fiber, which can help you feel full longer. This can help reduce the amount of food you eat in a day without leaving you feeling hungry. 

The probiotics in sauerkraut may also decrease fat absorption. These studies are still in the preliminary stages, and the results have yet to be replicated in humans. However, these early studies are promising and point to probiotics being key to weight loss. 

Nutrition

In addition to its other benefits, sauerkraut is a source of several key nutrients, including: 

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Nutrients per Serving

A half-cup serving of canned sauerkraut contains:

  • Calories: 16
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Cholesterol: 0 milligrams
  • Sodium: 219 milligrams
  • Carbohydrates: 3 grams
  • Fiber: 2 grams
  • Sugar: 1 gram
  • Protein: 1 gram

Portion Sizes

Sauerkraut is filled with vitamins and nutrients. Because it’s low in calories and fat, it can be tempting to load up on sauerkraut, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. However, as with most foods, moderation is key to making sauerkraut part of a healthy diet. 

Sauerkraut is packed with sodium, with one serving containing 9% of your recommended daily allowance. Most American diets have too much sodium in them already, and incorporating high-sodium servings of sauerkraut into your day won’t help. Too much sodium in your diet can lead to increased risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and congestive heart failure.

To prevent these issues, limit yourself to one portion of sauerkraut per day and avoid processed foods to keep your sodium levels low. 

How to Eat Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut can be purchased canned or jarred in most grocery stores. It’s generally used as a condiment to add a unique flavor to foods, but can also be eaten as a side dish or healthy snack. 

Some ideas for using sauerkraut include: 

  • On a sandwich
  • On a hotdog
  • As a dip for chips
  • On avocado toast
  • In deviled eggs
  • On to a burrito
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on September 18, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Biotechnology Research International: “Fermented Fruits and Vegetables of Asia: A Potential Source of Probiotics.” 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Adult Obesity Facts.” 

Elsevier: “Optimising Foods for Satiety.”

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon.

Foods: “Microbial Community Analysis of Sauerkraut Fermentation Reveals a Stable and Rapidly Established Community.”

Lipids in Health and Disease: “Lactobacillus gasseri SBT2055 suppresses fatty acid release through enlargement of fat emulsion size in vitro and promotes fecal fat excretion in healthy Japanese subjects.”

Mayo Clinic: “Dietary fiber: essential for a healthy diet.” 

Mayo Clinic: “Obesity.”

Mayo Clinic: “Sodium: How to tame your salt habit.”

University of Minnesota Extension: “How to Make Your Own Sauerkraut.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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