LIFESTYLE

What Is Sauerkraut?: Health Benefits And Recipes For The Fashionable Fermented Food

26/01/2015 15:00 GMT | Updated 27/01/2015 09:59 GMT

Chances are, at some point in your existence, you'll come across the wonders of sauerkraut - whether that's at the German Christmas market or perhaps in the world foods section of your local supermarket.

While eating fermented cabbage might not sound that appetising, this sour-tasting veggie dish can be surprisingly good for you - with health benefits ranging from improved digestion to stimulating your immune system.

All in all, sauerkraut is worth getting to know. Here's the lowdown on the Eastern European favourite...

fermented sauerkraut

What Is It?

Sauerkraut is finely chopped cabbage, which has been fermented and is yellow-beige in colour. As a result of the fermenting process, it tastes somewhat sour and has a crisp texture.

Sauerkraut is a popular side dish (or even condiment in some cultures) for foods such as hot dogs and sausages.

Despite common associations of the cabbage dish with Germany, sauerkraut reportedly stems from China.

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Health Benefits

"Laboratory studies show that isotiocyanates, the antioxidant chemicals in fermented cabbage, or sauerkraut, can inhibit the growth of cancer cells," says Tipper Lewis, head herbalist at Neal’s Yard Remedies.

"Cabbage naturally contains the friendly bacterium Lactobacilli plantarum," she adds.

"Fermenting promotes the growth of this organism, which can help balance intenstinal flora. It can also help improve the general health of the digestive track."

It's important to note that heat kills the live bacteria, so if you cook or buy pasteurised sauerkraut, you won't benefit from its probiotics.

As well as busting cancer and providing fiber, sauerkraut is rich in vitamins C and K, both of which are needed for building strong bones.

Additionally, fermented cabbage is packed with plenty of iron meaning it can help boost energy levels and your immune system.

Despite its numerous health benefits, there's one downside. The fermenting process makes sauerkraut is high in sodium - meaning you should definitely limit the amount you eat (especially if you suffer from any cardiovascular or renal diseases).

How To Eat It

Many people consume sauerkraut as a side dish with sausages or hot dogs. But it can also be added to sandwiches or bagels as a substitute for lettuce.

Additionally, sauerkraut can be used in soups, casseroles and even on pizza!

The amazing thing about sauerkraut is that it can be easily created at home. If you'd like to give it a try, then follow this recipe and let us know how you get on.

Cabbage Recipes