There are a lot of reasons to love raw sauerkraut, not the least of which is it's tangy, bold flavor. While I grew up loving kraut on a hotdog now and then, it was always out of a can and on top of a highly processed log of questionable meat piled into a gluten-laden bun. Sigh. The bright side here is that I've re-ignited my love affair with sauerkraut in a fantastically healthy way and I get to share that with all of you.
Some of the health benefits of eating raw sauerkraut:
The label on my jar of Farmhouse Culture raw jalapeño kraut sauerkraut reveals that just a single 1/4 cup serving contains 10% of the RDA for Vitamin A and 25% of the RDA for Vitamin C.
Though we know that the RDA for most nutrients tends to be pretty low as compared to what the ODA (optimal daily allowance) would be for a nutritious diet, it's noteworthy nonetheless.
“Restoring beneficial bacteria and a healthy mucosal lining in the gut” is another benefit of eating raw sauerkraut and can aid in the treatment and healing of GERD, according to Chris Kresser, L.Ac.
Chris even considers raw sauerkraut to be one of his top healthiest foods to eat overall. There is a lot to learn on the topic of having healthy gut (small intestine, for the most part) function as well as an in-tact mucosal lining and if you're interested in more information, I recommend reading my post “Is Your Gut Leaky?,” Chris's post, “9 Steps to Perfect Health – #5: Heal Your Gut,” and an excerpt from Robb Wolf's book “The Paleo Solution” on how grains contribute to a leaky gut. If you have access to the full text of scientific studies, you can do some searching around on Google Scholar and/or Pubmed for “leaky gut and probiotics” to turn up some great information. This post on PaleOZ.com is also a fantastic resource with more information on why raw sauerkraut is a food you need to be eating.
It's a common misconception that eating adequate fiber is the only way to enhance digestive function.
While eating fiber certainly helps the motility of our elimination (more on this below), it's not the only piece of the puzzle. For those who may not be taking probiotics in pill form – those who are working on healing protocols for seriously impaired intestinal permeability or following up a round of antibiotics – raw sauerkraut or other raw fermented vegetables are a great addition to the diet. The combination of probiotic presence in our guts along with fermentable fibers helps us to keep our elimination functioning properly. I recommend raw sauerkraut as a booster food to most of my clients and have had fantastic response from them with regards to not only improved elimination but also regarding the enjoyment of a new food in their regular routines.
Once again, according to Chris Kresser of The Healthy Skeptic here are some great tips on how to keep your gut healthy:
How to maintain and restore a healthy gut
The most obvious first step in maintaining a healthy gut is to avoid all of the things I listed above that destroy gut flora and damage the intestinal barrier. But of course that’s not always possible, especially in the case of chronic stress and infections. Nor did we have any control over whether we were breast-fed or whether our mothers had healthy guts when they gave birth to us.
If you’ve been exposed to some of these factors, there are still steps you can take to restore your gut flora:
- Remove all food toxins from your diet
- Eat plenty of fermentable fibers (starches like sweet potato, yam, yucca, etc.)
- Eat fermented foods like kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, kim chi, etc., and/or take a high-quality, multi-species probiotic
- Treat any intestinal pathogens (such as parasites) that may be present
- Take steps to manage your stress
Buying fresh, raw sauerkraut can be a bit pricey, so if you have the time but not the money, I recommend making your own at home and each serving will then literally cost just pennies. The ingredients in the most simple version of a raw sauerkraut recipe (this one is from wildfermentation.com) are only cabbage and sea salt. The process by which you make the fermented vegetable dish is where the challenge may lie for most of us (I know I tried it once and decided it was worth the $5-8 per jar I spend to save myself the hassle at this point in time). That said, if you can and want to do it, I highly recommend making your own as it's extremely cost-effective and you can also create flavors and variations to your liking. Your friends and neighbors will likely start asking if you'll be willing to share a jar with them!
To make homemade raw sauerkraut you'll need some specific equipment:
- Ceramic crock or food-grade plastic bucket, one-gallon capacity or greater
- Plate that fits inside crock or bucket
- One-gallon jug filled with water (or a scrubbed and boiled rock)
- Cloth cover (like a pillowcase or towel)
- A kraut pounder!
I made a video introducing you to this healthy, dairy-free probiotic food not long ago. Check it out:
Enjoy & be well!
BS, Certified Nutrition Educator, C.H.E.K. Holistic Lifestyle Coach
San Francisco Nutritionist & Paleo Nutritionist serving the Bay Area and beyond via phone & Skype consultations.