In recent years the power of fermentation for health has drawn a lot of attention. For good reason, fermented foods like sauerkraut are an excellent way to include essential vitamins and minerals in your diet. But what make fermented foods particularly beneficial are the probiotics – the living bacteria that are an essential to our digestive health.
Sauerkraut is a fermented food consisting primarily of cabbage that provides both a healthy nutritional profile as well as the probiotics that we need. Sauerkraut has also been around for a very long time. Believed to originate in ancient China, sauerkraut was likely introduced into Europe during the early Roman era but quickly spread to many other regions.
In Medieval Europe, cabbage was cultivated mainly in monastic gardens. In the 12th century, Hildegard of Bingen recommended sauerkraut as a digestive, and blood / skin-purifying agent. Later, in the 15th century sauerkraut was referred to as “Gumboskrut” or “Gumbostkrut” in Germany. Once a week people observed a “Gumbosttag”, or a fasting day of “Gumboskrut”.
Fermented foods like sauerkraut were a valuable staple, particularly in winter months, as a means to store nutrients like vitamin C that were not as readily available. Fermentation is an effective way to preserve foods, which is likely why sauerkraut spread quickly and remains to be a popular dish in many regions throughout the world.
While we tend to associate sauerkraut with Germany and other eastern European countries like Poland, sauerkraut is a truly global food that can be a part of any number of tasty dishes, from home cooking to gourmet feasts.
Though it generally does not conjure romantic images, sauerkraut is naturally rich in nutrients that make it a powerful food for health and wellness. Sauerkraut contains high levels of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, and several B vitamins. It is also a good source of minerals like iron, manganese, copper, sodium, magnesium, and calcium. There is also a moderate amount of protein.
Sauerkraut is rich in lactic acid bacteria, which may provide several benefits including: improved nutritional value of food, control of intestinal infections, improved digestion of lactose, control of some types of cancer, and control of serum cholesterol levels.
Cabbage, the primary ingredient in sauerkraut, is well-known for its high fiber content. Dietary fiber is one of the most beneficial components of digestive health. The high fiber content of sauerkraut aids in digestive health in several important ways. Fiber is the principle food sustaining healthy bacteria levels in your digestive system. Fiber is also important for healthy blood glucose and cholesterol regulation.
If you’d like to try your hand at making your own fresh sauerkraut, here’s our recipe for a homemade Hildegard inspired German Sauerkraut.