Sauerkraut is a type of fermented cabbage that has a variety of health benefits. Its tart, vinegary flavor garners large numbers of fans and enemies. Very few people feel ambivalent about this dish. However, love it or hate it, sauerkraut packs a serious healthy punch when prepared correctly.


History

The word sauerkraut means “sour cabbage” in German. However, most historians believe that this dish actually was brought to Germany and Europe at large by Genghis Kahn after he plundered China. It quickly became a popular seafaring dish because it did not need refrigeration and could help prevent scurvy. Today sauerkraut comes in a variety of conventional and gourmet forms.

Types

Sauerkraut is always made of cabbage, but you can ferment and flavor it with a wide variety of fruits and other spices and flavorings. Apple sauerkraut, turnip sauerkraut, wine sauerkraut and herb and garlic sauerkraut are just a few of the popular varieties. Of course, there is always the plain classic sauerkraut if you are looking for a good hotdog topping.

Misconceptions

Probably because it is so often paired with hot dogs and other types of junk food, sauerkraut is not generally viewed as being particularly good for you. At best people tend to think that it will not hurt them to eat it. However, it is the accompanying foods that are bad for your health, not the sauerkraut. In fact sauerkraut is a great source of vitamins and minerals.


Theories/Speculation

Korean scientists have even found preliminary evidence that sauerkraut can prolong your life. While the study was too small to be conclusive, the group found that chickens who ate kimchi, a korean cabbage dish much like sauerkraut, had far lower mortality rates than those that received their usual feed. More research is necessary, but the implications are certainly exciting.

Benefits

Sauerkraut is a great source of iron, vitamin K and vitamin C, which is another reason it was popular on seafaring vessels. It also helps the good bacteria in your body stay healthy and, in turn, keep you healthy. It is a great food for people taking antibiotics to eat because the medicine kills both good and bad bacteria. Sauerkraut also makes a good main or side dish, depending on how it is seasoned and what is served alongside.

Warning

If you ferment your own sauerkraut, be sure to review FDA guidelines for fermentation and storage. While it is not likely that anything harmful will be able to grow in your cabbage and vinegar combination, the FDA does recommend high amounts of salt be added to help with the preservative process. If you elect not to use as much salt as is recommended, then you may need to take other preservative measures when fermenting sauerkraut.

References and Resources

Learn How to Make Your Own Sauerkraut.